San Antonio, Graveyard Queen and Prickly Pear Margaritas

IMG_1568¡Hola!

I’m just back from the RWA conference in San Antonio and had a great time visiting with some of my writer friends. Prickly Pear margaritas at Boudros on the River Walk was the first order of business. The drink, I’ll be honest, was a little sweet for my taste, but the color is just so lusious!  So I had two. :)

I’ve always loved San Antonio. I know the River Walk is crowded and touristy, but I still think it’s beautiful, so shady and verdant. And no matter how many times I visit the Alamo, I always have a moment. It’s one of those places that touches me deeply. There is a feeling that something lingers. Not ghostly, perhaps, but definitely spiritual.

On Friday night, I had dinner with my editor. We spent some time catching up and then the conversation turned to The Graveyard Queen. The good news is we are both still very excited about this series so full speed ahead with the next three books. Or as I think of them, the next trilogy. Because they really are of a piece with their own story arc, character growth and so forth.

Now here is the update that I promised you a few weeks ago:  The Visitor will be released next April!

If feels so good to be back on the schedule, back on track and writing regularly. Dates are always subject to change, but that’s where we stand at the moment. In the meantime, I’ll be doing an online prequel–The Order–which will set up the fourth book (The Visitor) and launch the trilogy.  I may even write the prequel from Devlin’s POV because I think it would be interesting (to say the least) to get inside his head. No firm date when this will be out, but I’m thinking around February or March.

Oh!  And the (tentative) title for the fifth book is…………….The Sinner.  Hopefully, it will be out around October, 2015, just in time for Halloween! :O

IMG_1569We’ve decided to temporarily (only temporarily) put the young adult series on hold while I write the next two Graveyard Queen books. So a long time until the first one, but the next two should follow fairly quickly. As I mentioned before, the new covers have a completely different look, but are sharp and evocative in their own right. Look for the unveiling on my website around the first of the year.

And speaking of websites, thank you all so much for your tips and suggestions. I’m going to try to use all of them because they are that great. One of the suggestions was to have an interactive section on the site where we could all upload our favorite cemetery photos. I have to say, I love, love, LOVE this idea and am talking to my web designer about the best way to go about it. So anytime you see a lovely graveyard or an interesting headstone or monument, please  snap a shot for me (and Amelia) if you’re so inclined. :)

Awesome Feedback

Just wanted to say a quick thanks for the feedback about my website update.  You all are awesome!  Wow!  So many great ideas!  You have no idea how helpful this is.  I can’t wait to start adding content.

“Oh, I’ve got the prettiest readers. I’ve got the nicest readers. That’s what I tell everybody. I say I’ve got the sweetest readers in the world.” (™ The Bad Seed). :p

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The View From My Garden

gardenHello everyone! Here is a view of my garden on this fine, fine day in Houston.

It’s a bit warm, but I don’t mind. Summer is my favorite time of year. I’m inside working right now, but later, when it cools off, I’ll go out and read by the pool for a while, maybe even dip my toes in if I’m so inclined.

Anyway, now that I’m back writing full time, I’ll be updating my website in September. I’m not getting a new site as I still enjoy the design and color scheme of my current one. Instead, my web designer and I have talked about adding some new pages and/or sections. In other words, more content.

That’s where you come in.

What kind of information do you generally like to find on an author’s website? I know I need to work on my Romantic Suspense section.  Some of the titles are missing, others out of sequence and I’d like to add the covers, along with a printable booklist.

But in terms of The Graveyard Queen section–is there any additional information you’d like to be privy to about the series and/or the characters? A behind the scenes sort of thing?

What about the About section?   Should I tell you where I went to school or would you rather hear about my three adorable kitty-cats named Ed, HI and Lola. (Bonus points if you know the inspiration for the first two, extra points if you know the third, which is much harder. Hint—all three where inspired by movie characters).

How much is too much when it comes to an author’s bio page?

ED and HILola2 One of the changes I plan to make is adding a new blog—tentatively titled The Oddities—where I can post, among other things, serials. Basically, these will be short story-length fiction broken into small chapters (with cliffhangers) that will run weekly or bi-weekly for a month at a time.

These will be tons of fun for me because I can do whatever I want. Ghosts, witches, serial killers—sky’s the limit. But I’m wondering, is this anything you all would be interested in reading?

Of course, my books will always be my priority.  This is just a little something I’d like to work on in my spare time.

Your thoughts?

And do you have any favorite websites that you’d recommend I study for inspiration?

Alaina and Amanda’s Excellent Adventure

Off we go!

To Jefferson, a tiny historical town in east Texas near the Louisiana border. A picturesque hamlet that also happens to be one of the most haunted places in the state. Or so we’ve been told. Alaina drives and I navigate, which explains why we’re lost before ever leaving Houston. :( Another wrong turn in Nacogdoches and we somehow find ourselves in Tyler. :(

We remain undaunted! and arrive in Jefferson mid-afternoon. I’ve seen the sign for Jefferson many, many times on my way to Arkansas, but never stopped to explore. It really is a quaint little town with shady streets, antique shops and homes dating back to the 1800s.

We settle into the Jefferson Hotel, in Room 20, a purported ‘hot spot’ for paranormal activity. I’m struck by the iron beds placed end-to-end rather than side-by-side. A rather creepy arrangement but that’s why we’re here. Naturally, I choose the bed nearest the door.

We have a late lunch/early dinner, walk around a bit and then head back to the hotel where we sit out on the balcony people-watching and chitchatting about our various works in progress. I don’t know if it’s the atmosphere or the company or a little of both, but suddenly I’m inundated with new story ideas and that hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. All these interesting vibes are worth the price of admission and we still have our first night to spend in a haunted hotel!

A little tired from the trip, we turn in early after sprinkling a few trinkets around the room to invite the ghosties to come out and play. Alaina’s idea, I assure you. The next morning, everything is as we left them and I’m both disappointed and relieved. Mostly relieved but I keep this to myself.

We check out, load up the car and head for Caddo Lake, the only natural lake in Texas (for real), and an even smaller town called Uncertain. If that name alone doesn’t spark at least a dozen ideas then I have no business calling myself a writer.

But there is also atmosphere here. Atmosphere for days. Picture a murky bayou with long tunnels of cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. A place so primordial as to raise goose bumps along the spine as one glides past unfurling water lilies, sunning turtles and ancient tree skeletons blackened by lightning strikes. Some of the opening sequences of True Blood were filmed here and I’m thrilled to recognize the little stilted cabin known as Dick and Charlies’s Tea Room. So, yes, there is atmosphere, my friends.

After our most exceptional pontoon voyage, we drive back into town for an afternoon of more touristy activities including a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic district. Once again, ideas come at me fast and furious. Beautiful old houses conjure new ghost stories.  A cleverly named museum stirs a time travel tale. Seriously, I have enough ideas for a couple of short stories and a brand new series and it’s only Saturday afternoon!

A little while later, we check into The Excelsior House, which has been a working hotel since the 1850s. It was here, in the Jay Gould Room, that Steven Spielberg was so shaken by strange goings-on, he awakened his crew and insisted that everyone relocate to a hotel in nearby Marshall. Sometime afterward, he wrote Poltergeist. I invite you to draw your own conclusions. O_O

The room itself is beautiful—large and ornately decorated with two comfy beds, the infamous rocking chair and gorgeous antiques. An upstairs balcony looks down on a shady courtyard and in the distance, a church steeple peeks through a lush canopy of live oaks. A welcome respite for weary travelers.

Later, after nachos and drinks, we settle in for the night. Alaina falls asleep early, but emboldened by the margaritas, I watch a scary movie on the Sci-Fi channel. I do hear a few strange noises during the night, but nothing too alarming and so I roll over and go back to sleep. A ghostbuster I’m not, turns out.

The next morning, we savor a leisurely breakfast of eggs, sausage and hash browns, check out of the hotel, tour another museum and head for home, a couple of happy campers. We’ve had such a good time on our first haunted hotel excursion that we vow to do it at least every couple of months. We haven’t yet decided on our next destination so we welcome suggestions!

We’re also planning to set stories in every place we visit. Alaina, who is an extraordinarily talented writer and gifted musician (I really hate her sometimes), may even do some book-length fiction, but for now The Graveyard Queen and my young adult series remain my priorities. I’ll content myself with writing short stories and on-line serials for a new blog I’m launching in the fall. Stay tuned for further details on that. And for more Alaina and Amanda’s Excellent Adventures.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

Click on thumbnails for larger image.

Haunted Vacation

This summer I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time—taking a haunted hotel trip with a very good friend, who also happens to be a writer.  If all goes as planned, we’ll visit a different haunted hotel every other month, eventually branching out from Texas into Arkansas (Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs), Louisiana and who knows where else?  Since we’re both writers, we’ll want to chronicle our adventures via social networking so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Our first stop is Jefferson, Texas, a historical town in East Texas that was once an important river port.  Jefferson is home to not one, but two haunted hotels—the Jefferson Hotel and Excelsior House.

JeffersonHotelbyNicolasHendersonOur first night will be spent in the Jefferson Hotel, which dates back to the 1800s and was one a cotton warehouse.  Ghost stories abound here, tales of glowing orbs, phantom figures, strange knocking and the inexplicable opening and closing of closet doors.  We’ve chosen a room that seems to be a hotspot for paranormal activity.  We shall see what happens.

 

 

ExcelsiorHousebyCharlieChapman75For Night Two, we’ll be moving over to Excelsior House, where Steven Spielberg and crew stayed during the filming of The Sugarland Express.  Steven was given the historical Jay Gould room and something happened during the night that frightened him so badly, he awakened the whole crew and insisted they all move to a hotel twenty miles away.  Shortly after this experience, he wrote Poltergeist.  My friend and I are booked into—you guessed it—the Jay Gould room.

 

Caddo LakeIf all of this weren’t enough excitement, the area is also home to the mysterious and hauntingly beautiful Caddo Lake.  Picture murky channels dotted with water lilies and draped with Spanish moss, an area so primeval as to make the hair at the back of your neck stand on end.  The Curse of the Swamp Creature was filmed in nearby Uncertain, Texas, and, yeah, I’ve already got my own swamp creature story cooking. :)

 

In addition to our daily musings, you can be sure our ghostly adventures will find their way into future books, short stories, serials and novellas.  All I can say is, stay tuned!

 

Photo Credits:  Sookie Stackhouse, Charlie Chapman, and Nicholas Henderson

Graveyard Queen News

graveyardqueenGood Morning!  I’m hoping to have a Graveyard Queen update in the next few weeks. I’ve had a peek at the cover for The Visitor and it’s really, really cool. The design has completely changed from the first three books, which I think is good since there’s been such a gap. And personally, I get a little confused as to whether or not I’ve read a book in a series when the covers are all so similar. So although I adore the covers for The Restorer, The Kingdom and The Prophet, I welcome this ‘fresh start’ for Amelia.

Stay tuned for further updates!

BTW, The Graveyard Queen has a Spanish fan page.  Please go ‘like’ if you’re so inclined. :)  https://www.facebook.com/lareinadelcementerio

 

 

Bridges

When I was little, I had a recurring dream about an old truss bridge that spanned the White River in Newport, Arkansas.  The scenario and even the structure itself would sometimes change, but the terror I felt in crossing that bridge was always the same.  I still have a thing about bridges and overpasses and often have to fight back panic as I approach the incline.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with a lot of changes, some of which I’ve brought upon myself.  I’m winding up a remodel of my office and when I began looking for photographs to hang on the wall, I found myself drawn to bridges.  I think this might be a good thing.  Because what is a bridge if not a transition?

 

An Update and an Apology

So many of you have been writing to ask when the next installment of The Graveyard Queen will be out and the best answer I can give you right now is…probably next year.  I know, I know.  That’s way too long.  The truth is, the book should have already been out along with the other two titles in the series.  The delay falls entirely on me.

I’m a very private person and I rarely talk about anything beyond my writing life on social networking sites, but you all have been so kind and patient and have hung in there with me for so long, I need and want to give you an explanation.  And if I’ve neglected to respond to an email, blog or Facebook comment, I sincerely apologize.

Last April I lost my husband suddenly and unexpectedly.  Needless to say, my children and I were shocked and utterly devastated.  In the ensuing months, not only did I have to deal with the loss, I also had to become involved in my husband’s business.  The fate of the company and its employees rested squarely on my shoulders.  Eventually, I found a wonderful buyer, all jobs are safe and the legacy continues, but the stress, as you can imagine, took a toll on my creativity.

I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago entitled “Back to Writing.”  It hasn’t been as easy as I’d hoped it would be.  My mind is still a bit too cluttered, my heart still heavy, but each day gets a little easier.  My son and daughter and I spent ten days in Los Angeles over the holidays, and when I got home, for the first time in months, I felt ready and maybe even a little excited to find my new normal.  It’s what my husband would have wanted for sure.  He was my biggest supporter and I can say without a doubt that I would never have become a writer without him.

Let me tell you a little about him.  He was tall, dark and handsome, the embodiment of my every hero.  A successful businessman, an extraordinarily gifted artist and a brilliant father.  He was funny, smart, fearless and cool.  In short, the perfect companion.  These days, I’m trying to learn to celebrate what I had rather than mourn what I lost.  Because until last spring, I lived a truly charmed existence.  For thirty-eight years—most of my adult life—I got to live with the most interesting person I’ve ever known.

Just wanted you all to know.

 

A man and his art:

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Back to writing…

I’m not an autumn person.   There is always something a little sad about the end of summer.  :( I do love Halloween, though. :)

So I’m finally back to writing full time as of this week, but it’s taking much longer than I anticipated to get back into a routine.  Right now I’m trying to once again immerse myself in Amelia’s graveyard kingdom.  I’m so close to finishing the fourth book, and yet the end still seems so far away.  But I’ll get there.  One page at a time, one day at a time.  Amelia’s life has taken an unexpected turn (as has mine).  She’s coming to discover that there is more to her gift than she ever dreamed.

I was an Asher by birth, a legacy that came with great wealth and corruption, but Papa’s people were simple mountainfolk.  It was from the Grays that I had inherited my dark gift.  Caulbearers, we were sometimes called.  Those of us born with a veil.  It happened every generation or so.

But as more of Papa’s secrets came to light, I was starting to suspect that my legacy ran far deeper than the ability to see spirits.  I had been born dead to a dead mother.  My grandmother, Tilly had pulled me back from the other side by cutting away the veil of membrane covering my face and forcing air into my premature lungs, and now I sometimes felt that I belonged to neither world.  I was a living ghost, a wanderer who had not yet found her purpose or place.  But every new discovery, every broken rule brought me closer to my destiny. 

If only I could peer through the keyholes of my eyes and know the future, perhaps I could somehow change my course.  But how did one fight preordination?  How did one combat fate?

 It was a question I pondered often in the dead of night as ghosts drifted by my window.

Dead of Night

Dead of Night

My name (tiny though it may be) next to Charlaine Harris’s.  OMG!

From bestselling author Charlaine Harris and rising star Amanda Stevens come two otherworldly tales sure to haunt readers well after the last page is turned.

Dancers in the Dark

#1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris

Layla Rue Le May is no ordinary dancer—her partner, Sean McClendon, is a three-hundred-year-old redheaded vampire. When Layla Rue acquires a stalker, she’s forced to face the music…and wonder if this will finally be her last dance.

The Devil’s Footprints

Award-winning author Amanda Stevens

Years after her sister’s unsolved murder, Sarah DeLaune is haunted by the mysteries of her past when two mutilated bodies are found near Sarah’s New Orleans home, the crime scene desecrated by cloven footprints. Sarah has always believed that her sister was killed by a man named Ashe Cain. But no one else has ever seen Ashe. Until now.

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