Spotlight on a Southern Romance: CIVIL HEARTS

I’m happy to welcome multi-published, award-winning author Claire Gem. Today, Claire shares the inspiration behind her latest release, Civil Hearts.

Here’s Claire!

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not a native Southerner (i.e., born in the Southeastern United States). True, I lived over a third of my life there, but twenty-three years of that was in Florida, which I’ve been told doesn’t count. The two years I spent living in Texas were some of the most enjoyable years of my life, and if I had my druthers, I’d probably still be there. I also lived in western North Carolina for a year, which is probably the most beautiful country I will ever see.

But I’m a Yankee, folks. I was born in New York State.

So how did I come to write a love story set in an abandoned antebellum mansion in the rural South? Well, because I had an emotional connection to the place. And, in fact, I was there.

In the 1990s, we lived in Florida, and some very good friends moved to the Montgomery, Alabama area. We visited them, and fell in love with the beautiful countryside, friendly people, and low cost of living. For a short time, we considered moving our family there. We even went so far as to tour a number of houses that were on the market at the time.

One of these houses was a dead ringer for the Belle Bride, the home featured in my latest release, CIVIL HEARTS.

The house was empty and had been for a long time. It was, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. That’s why it was cheap, i.e., within our limited budget. It probably hadn’t changed much since it had been built in the mid to late 19th century, except for the addition of modern lighting and plumbing.

It was enchanting. It looked like a time-worn, mini-Tara.

As we toured that lofty ceilinged, musty smelling home, I had the strangest sensation. The house was unoccupied, but I had the distinct feeling the fact was an illusion. There was someone, or someone, there.

We didn’t move to Alabama, and it’s been twenty years since that home tour. I’d forgotten completely about it. Until I had a dream a few months ago, about that same abandoned, mini-mansion . . . only this time, there was a Confederate soldier pounding on the front door.

Civil Hearts was born.

I always try to incorporate some serious, real-life issues into my stories, because I want to touch the hearts of my readers. In Civil Hearts, my heroine is a widow whose husband died from brain cancer, and she carries the emotional scars of having witnessed his rapid decline. My hero is an epileptic, one whose seizures mimic those my heroine’s husband suffered before he died. One whose condition has already cost him one marriage.

But he can’t deny his attraction to the New York City girl who’s just moved into town.

My heroine is a Yankee. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of a Confederate soldier.

You can find out more about Civil Hearts on the Amazon page here: https://amzn.to/2qP17G9

Blurb

A Haunted Voices Novel by Claire Gem

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.

Trailer

Ms. Gem has skillfully crossed several genres—romance, paranormal, women’s fiction—to produce a well-crafted story that tugs at the heartstrings. I fell in love with both protagonists, Liv Larson and Heath Barrow, and couldn’t read fast enough to find out what awaited them. The alternating POVs delineate the two voices and provide insight into the characters’ emotions as they struggle with past demons and their growing attraction for each other.

The paranormal elements are expertly woven into the fabric of the storyline. At times, I believed I could actually hear the haunting voices and cries of the soldier and his beloved. The ghost animals add to the ambiance.

I recommend setting aside uninterrupted blocks of reading time. You won’t be able to put this book down.

Bio

Strong Women, Starting Over
~Redefining Romance~

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of six 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.

Claire is available for seminars & media interviews & loves to travel for book promotional events.

Media Links

Website | Claire Gem Blog | Haunted Pathways Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


The Art of Reinvention

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have multi-published, award-winning author Claire Gem sharing her leap into a spectacular second act.

Here’s Claire!

The day I turned fifty years old, I had what could be described as the perfect life. I was healthy and happily married to the same man since I was twenty. My kids were all healthy, successful adults. I’d recently landed a fantastic job at Tufts University in the field I’d been working in all my life – scientific research – and was making more money than I ever dreamed. My 35-hour workweek was Monday through Friday, no weekends or holidays. I was the manager and had free reign to redesign the department any way I saw fit.

Still, something was missing.

It took me the next four years—and many thousands of dollars—to find out what that something was. I wanted to be a writer. It was an activity I’d always enjoyed, but I’d never taken the time to develop the skill. Being the scientific, logical thinker that I was, I decided I needed to go back for a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. I needed to learn “the right way” to become a writer.

Now, don’t get me wrong: The time I spent earning my degree at Lesley University was enlightening, enriching, and motivating. But honestly? I don’t think I had to spend an exorbitant amount of money to “validate” my writing talent. I’d already gotten that validation, almost forty years earlier, when I was in the seventh grade. I just hadn’t believed in that advice, or in myself, enough.

My English teacher, Nancy Prather, taught heavy on the essay skills and was equally scorned by all her students. That included me, until the day she called me up to her desk waving my latest essay like a flag, a serious expression on her face. I was terrified.

“Miss DelNegro,” she began, and none too quietly. “You have produced a rather impressive piece of writing here for a girl your age.”

I blinked. The way she said it—almost accusingly, I wondered . . . was that a good thing, or a bad one?

Miss Prather saw the confusion that was apparently written all over my face. “What I’m saying, my girl, is that you have a natural talent for writing.” She thrust the paper at me and issued a stern command. “No matter what you choose to do with your life, remember this: You are a writer. Don’t let this natural ability go to waste.”

Oh, if only I’d believed her. Turns out my writing ability was not only a talent, but also critical to my state of balance, of well-being. To be fulfilled, and completely happy, I had to be writing.

Still, at fifty years old with not a single piece of published writing to my credit, I needed additional validation: those three little letters—MFA—behind my name. And I’m sure those letters did catch the attention of the editors to whom I submitted over the next few years. But I still had enough rejection letters to paper my office before my first novel, Phantom Traces, was accepted by SoulMate Publishing in 2013. That was five novels, two short stories in anthologies, a memoir, a writer’s resource book, and numerous literary awards ago.

Today, at sixty, I still work by day in scientific research. But my dream—to be a full-time writer—is right around the corner. Yes, it’s been a hard-earned dream. Dedication and focus. Many midnight hours and long weekends at the keyboard. But I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Is fifty too old to reinvent your life? Is sixty? Hell, no. Does it seem crazy to some of my family, friends, and colleagues that I yearn to leave the security of a dream job to become a writer? Sure does. But the ones who truly know me see that I am now what I was not ten years ago. Complete.

And I will say it to the world, as well as to Nancy Prather, wherever she is now: I was born to be a writer. I am a writer.

It’s never too late to reinvent yourself into what you were born to be. Everyone has a secret passion. A gift. Figure out what yours is, and don’t let anything stand in your way. Go for it.

Bio

Strong Women, Starting Over
~Redefining Romance~

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.

Claire is available for seminars & media interviews & loves to travel for book promotional events.

Where to find Claire…

Website | Blog 1 | Blog 2 | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Youtube Channel

Joanne here!

Claire, I’m in awe of your achievements. Thanks for sharing your inspiring reinvention story.


Chatting with My Sisters

I’m visiting two authors from the Sisterhood of Suspense: Marian Lanouette and Claire Gem. We are a group of 15 suspense authors who like to share our love of this genre with readers and writers. Today, I’m chatting about my writing journey and Too Many Women in the Room.

Drop by their blogs and enter the giveaway. You could win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Marian’s blog

Claire’s blog


Spotlight on Claire Gem

I’m thrilled to feature Claire Gem’s writing journey and her books: Phantom Traces and Hearts Uncloched.

Here’s Claire!

clairegemWriting isn’t a hobby for me, nor merely a career dream. Crafting stories, and all that go with them, is a passion. And the reason why I don’t need to be on an anti-depressant medication.

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher, Nancy Prather, gave the class a creative writing assignment. I don’t even remember now what I wrote about. But I can tell you this: when Ms. Prather handed out the papers and I discovered I’d scored an A+, a tiny spark ignited in my chest. When she stopped me on my way out of class to say, “You have real talent. I hope you’ll pursue your writing,” that spark burst into flames.

Flames that simmered low and slow throughout the next forty years. There simply wasn’t time in my life to seriously pursue a writing career until about eight years ago, when I turned fifty. The kids were grown, my “day-job” (which has nothing to do with writing) was firmly established, and I finally had the time to make up stuff.

And so I did.

The process of sending out those first queries was as painful, and as frightening, as childbirth—maybe more. Yet not as excruciating as the rejection letters. The first fifty of them.

But I am not a quitter. I can do this, I thought. If not talented, then persistent, and stubborn as hell. I’d finished my third, unsold manuscript when I let a friend who loves romance novels take my draft of PHANTOM TRACES with her on vacation. She came back raving about how much she loved the story, and wondering why I hadn’t been offered a contract on it. Three days later, I was.

Soul Mate Publishing signed me for Phantom Traces three years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Since then, I’ve secured another contract for a contemporary romance with a different publisher. But I have one tiny, little flaw as an author: I’m a control freak. Which is why I chose to go Indie on my latest release, HEARTS UNLOCHED.

I was lucky enough to find an awesome copy editor/proofreader, Joyce Mochrie. I had my same beta reader take the manuscript on vacation (she loved this one even more than the first!). My sister is a graphic artist, as well as a published author in her own right, and she designed my unbelievable cover. All the pieces are in place. I feel like a 747 jet sitting on the end of a runway, one whose pilot just got the go-ahead for take-off.

So buckle your seat belts, readers. Here we go!

heartsunlcohed

Blurb

A psychic interior designer reluctantly agrees to renovate a sexy investor’s abandoned hotel on a lake rumored to have once been the mob’s body dumping ground.

Interior designer Kate Bardach loves her single girl’s lifestyle—living in Manhattan and spending weekends at her lake house. She’s passionate about her career, reinventing old buildings. But there are some projects she can’t take on because of the spirits trapped there. Kate is psychic—she sees dead people.

Marco Lareci is one of Wall Street’s most successful investment brokers who’s achieved all of his life’s goals—except for finding his soulmate.

His latest project, an abandoned resort on Loch Sheldrake, needs a savvy designer to transform the crumbling complex into a boutique hotel. When Marco meets Kate, he can’t believe his luck. She’s the perfect match for his business and his heart.

Marco’s body excites Kate even more than does his renovation project. But the haunting there, a bonafide poltergeist, affects her on an intensely personal level. Kate’s aunt disappeared from the place fifty years ago.

Will the spirit doom Kate and Marco’s love, or drive them closer together?

buynow

PHANTOM TRACES_505x825 (2)A history professor in a tweed jacket, a cheeky Goth chick, and a pipe-smoking, book-hurling ghost. Put them all together in an antiquated library and, well…

Professor Jack Wood’s silver-streaked hair definitely ages him, and he can thank Killer Dawn for that. He won’t be falling into the love trap again anytime real soon. But this new librarian has him curious, with her head-to-toe black Goth garb, piercings, and a defiant attitude to match. Definitely not his type of girl, but still…

Abigail Stryker’s got her work cut out for her. The last two librarians didn’t last a month before airborne books chased them off. But Abby’s determined to make her new life a go-and to stay as far away from older men as possible. Once was enough. Might be tough to do when the library’s best patron is none other than dreamy-eyed Jack Wood. And it seems the eccentric ghost may have taken a shine to her as well.

Available in eBook, Paperback, & Audiobook

buynow

Bio

Claire Gem turns the paranormal genre on its ear by combining the elements of gothic horror, mystery/thriller, and contemporary romance into a genre she calls New Gothic.

Claire loves ghost stories, and has done her homework when it comes to exploring the world of paranormal phenomena. She holds her certificate in Parapsychology from Duke University’s Rhine Institute of Paranormal Studies. Her obsession with cemeteries, a severe case of taphophilia, has served her well—some of her best stories were born while exploring an old graveyard. She also loves abandoned places—asylums, crumbling hotels, places far out in the woods where only the fairies dare to venture.

Although she most definitely believes in ghosts, she doesn’t suffer from nightmares. They are simply midnight musings for her next gothic novel.

Where to find Claire…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Pinterest

Happy Release Day!


10 Most Haunted Places in the World

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Claire Gem to the Power of 10 series. Today, Claire shares her favorite scary delights.

Here’s Claire!

I’m thrilled to blog today with Joanne Guidoccio for the Power of Ten Series. Since I write romances w/a ghostly twist, I thought it fitting to spread the vibes here, and give you a list of ten of the most notoriously haunted places in the world.

fear

1. Screaming Tunnel in Ontario, Canada. This creepy, arched stone way tunnel runs underneath railroad lines, those connecting Niagara Falls to Toronto and New York City. The legend goes that if you enter the tunnel at midnight armed with a match, you’d best bring along a healthy dose of courage. The match will go out and a girl’s screams will surround you, echoing in the dark.

2. Going off to college? Want to add a little spice to the adventure? Ohio University is your destination. Located in Athens, Ohio, the campus is surrounded by five cemeteries in a perfect pentagram pattern, and the administration building sits right at the center. Jefferson Hall is famous for ghost sightings.

3. How about a trip abroad? Edinburgh, Scotland offers a spectacular medieval castle where ghosts still linger, trapped in prison cells. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Mary’s King Close, once a busy street, has fallen into disuse since spirits claimed it as their own. Victims of the plague were quarantined here, and eventually entombed as well. Edinburgh offers a little variety in apparitions too, including ghostly dogs and a headless drummer.

4. Next we’ll take a trip down under to Whepstead House in Wellington Point, Queensland. Numerous ghosts inhabit this old building, which served as a private hospital for decades. Not everyone was discharged, including a boy with a withered leg who haunts the staircase, and an elderly gentleman sporting a suit and bowler hat.

5. The Forbidden City in Beijing, China, is not only home to the Palace Museum, but also a steady stream of ghosts who parade in groups: sometimes ladies, other times eunuchs.

6. Now on to Germany, where we’ll visit Wolfsegg Castle in Bavaria. This 14th century structure is home to a ghostly “White Woman” who still inhabits the ancient stone walls.

7. Wikipedia claims that Renyle House Hotel in Galway, Ireland is “haunted by former anonymous remaining guests.” Hmm. Wonder how many ghosts actually rise above the identification status of anonymous?

8. Let’s head to South Africa next to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. The Dutch East India Company inhabited this 17th C. battlement, where soldiers still pace the towers, including one who ended his own life there, hanging himself in the bell tower.

9. The last two hauntings describe my favorite settings for my ghostly novels: libraries and mental asylums. One of the most famous is right here in the U.S. – Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana. A classic Gothic Victorian, the library has been the focus of numerous paranormal investigations, all trying to snap a shot of The Grey Lady. Ghost cams are actually set up throughout the building, and you can hope for a glimpse of her yourself here: http://www.willardghost.com

10. Our final destination is the site of my next ghostly romance, Spirits of the Heart. Talcott Hall is now abandoned, enclosed by chain link fence on the grounds of the defunct Middletown Psychiatric Hospital in Middletown, N.Y. Although there are no documented ghost sightings I could locate, this video shows the building in all its ghoulish glory: http://bit.ly/1HkO6TU Is Talcott Hall haunted? You’ll have to wait to find out in Spirits of the Heart, coming later this year.

Trailer

Blurb

phantomtracesA hunky history professor in a tweed jacket, a cheeky Goth chick, and a pipe-smoking, book-hurling ghost. Put them all together in an antiquated library and, well…

Professor Jack Wood’s silver-streaked hair definitely ages him, and he can thank Killer Dawn for that. He won’t be falling into the love trap again anytime real soon. But this new librarian has him curious, with her head-to-toe black Goth garb, piercings, and a defiant attitude to match. Definitely not his type of girl, but still…

Abigail Stryker’s got her work cut out for her. The last two librarians didn’t last a month before airborne books chased them off. But Abby’s determined to make her new life a go – and to stay as far away from older men as possible. Once was enough. Might be tough to do when the library’s best patron is none other than dreamy-eyed Jack Wood. And it seems the eccentric ghost may have taken a shine to her as well.

buynow

Bio

claire gemClaire Gem writes contemporary romance with a ghostly twist. An avid reader and passionate researcher, she’s a fan of strong but sensitive heroes, spunky, sexy heroines, and a ghost story worth a few goose bumps. She loves creating characters so real, readers miss them when they get to The End.

After achieving her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Claire settled in central Massachusetts with her husband of 36 years (yes, happily-ever-after really does exist). Always fascinated by the paranormal, she holds a Certificate in Paranormal Studies from Duke University’s Rhine’s Research Center.

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

Where to find Claire…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest