The Town that Vanished.

Husband, Kiddo, and I went camping on this holiday weekend like millions of Americans do. We love camping, and have camped from the waterfalls at the west side of Illinois to the Smoky Mountains to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I'm always on the lookout for history, so when we figured out we were headed to the northwestern side of Illinois, I did what I do -- I googled.

And I discovered Millville.

Millville was a town in the middle of what is now Apple River Canyon State Park. It was a bustling mill town and prospered thanks to its location on the Chicago to Galena stagecoach route, but then the railroad came by four miles north -- and then, in 1892, a flood washed away all that was left of the dwindling town. Now it's nothing but a historical marker on a rock ("Big Rock") in the middle of a beautiful area used for fishing and picnics.

See the big rock in the middle? That's Big Rock, where the marker is located. The Apple River circles this entire area.

See the big rock in the middle? That's Big Rock, where the marker is located. The Apple River circles this entire area.

This map was drawn by a surviving resident in  1897, and is most of what is known about the town of Millville.

This map was drawn by a surviving resident in  1897, and is most of what is known about the town of Millville.

We hiked a few trails around the area, and they were beautiful. I came away from Millville inspired to write something about the place that once was, so let's see what comes of that!

For more information on Millville...

 

The Summer of Swag Subscriber Giveaway!

Summer is here - it's 90+ degrees in Chicago, we've got the air conditioners in, and our winter boots and jeans have been packed away. Summer is when Chicago is at it's prettiest, and it's also an excellent time for traveling...

And I've been traveling. Good Lord, have I been traveling.  

In May, I visited Atlanta, GA for the RT convention, and then only 9 days later embarked on a two week road trip from Chicago to New Orleans to Texas and back again. In early August, I'll be heading to the Rust City Book Con in Troy, MI -- and all along the way, books & swag are everywhere. I've come home with some great stuff that I'm compiling into an excellent prize pack, and you could win! 

THE SUMMER OF SWAG SUBSCRIBER GIVEAWAY!

Sign up for my newsletter between now and August 15th to have a chance to win a prize pack of book-related goodies!

SO FAR this pack contains...

  • Paperbacks! (Including my own HAVEN'S FLAME as well as books by Linda Lael Miller, Emma Lang, and Heidi Hormel!)
  • The official RT 2017 Thumb drive from Smashwords, containing close to 100 ebooks--including MELT, which features my short story, Off-Season!
  • A free audiobook via Audiobooks.com!
  • A pack of Rearin' To Go coffee from the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame!
  • A fun collection of bookmarks, buttons, bottle openers, pens, and more from authors like Merry Farmer, Kirsten Osbourne, Caroline Lee, Elizabeth Boyle, and more, as well as a tote bag from the RT Naughty or Nice party! 

...and there's still an entire book convention to come, so who knows what else will get tossed in?

Sign up and spread the word! 

Love,

Marie

An adventure begins.

Because I might not be in my right mind, I thought it would be fun to come back from a week at RT and depart on a two-week long family road trip just a few days later. This means that in the month of May 2017, I'll sleep in my own bed a grand total of 9 times. 

So I'm off tomorrow AM, bound for Nashville and New Orleans and Texas and all sorts of adventures on the way and in between. The centerpiece of the trip is my lovely cousin's wedding in New Orleans, but I'm going to be doing research on the way for a new project I'm very (VERY) excited about. I love New Orleans and it's history, and used it briefly as a setting in EMMA'S BLAZE, so I'm stoked to be able to revisit it and use it as a historical setting once again.

Oh, and I'm going to be stopping in every bookstore I can find, and meeting up with some Pioneer Hearts ladies in Fort Worth at the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame. 

If you want to follow along, I'll be posting updates on FB/Twitter/Instagram. <3

 

Ten tips for attending RT 2017!

I'm seeing some people nervous about RT 2017. 

To those people, I'd like to say....*Breathe*...and offer up some unofficial tips for how to have a great time and not lose your mind at RT, based on my experience attending last year's Las Vegas event.

1. DON'T BRING BOOKS WITH YOU.

Books are heavy.

Last year, for some reason, I brought three paperbacks with me to RT in addition to my Kindle. All three paperbacks became just more weight that had to be packed up and brought back home at the end. (Though I think I left one in the hotel room?)

What I'm saying is that you're going to get books. So many books. You'll probably wind up with more books than you can probably handle in your luggage on the way home. I fit as many as I could into my suitcase, wound up using my convention tote as a second checked bag - hi, Southwest - and STILL wound up shipping a box home. Unless you want particular books signed, I'd leave them home. (I'll only be bringing my Kindle this year, and I'm looking forward to reading HAVEN by Rebekah Weatherspoon on the flight, so there.)

*Note: It appears that, this year, there will be a book swap area for people to leave books they don't especially want. This is a great idea that I didn't see last year, so kudos to the organizers!*

2. HAVE A PLAN, BUT BE FLEXIBLE

Look at the enormous/overwhelming schedule beforehand. It's online right now and it'll all be in the booklet you'll get when you check-in. There's so many happenings to process, so give it a once-over ahead of time and note things that interest you. Otherwise, you'll be going in blind and things will pass you by.

BUT! Don't lock yourself in to something in each time slot simply to fill time. Who's to say you won't wind up having a spontaneous drink with a favorite author, playing Slash at the hotel bar with some new friends (Annie & I are totally bringing Slash, by the way) or discovering something entirely new? I went to a fantasy panel last year. FANTASY! I had a great time, though as I don't really read fantasy I never expected to attend! Surprises are everywhere!

So go in with a plan, but be ready to throw it/some of it out the window.

3. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

(Obviously I am really good at this.)

Readers and writers can be an introverted bunch, and RT can be a lot.

Our phones can't run non-stop, and neither can we. So recharge yourself.

Make sure you take a little time to yourself each day, whether its a nap or a shower, relaxing in your hotel room, or simply walking away to find a quiet spot to sit and read. If you're there with friends, remember that you don't have to attend everything together. It is 100% fine to not travel as a pack the entire time. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Also make sure you leave food breaks in your schedule. A hangry conventioneer does no one any good.

4. COMFORTABLE SHOES.

Watch me rock adorable heels at the con. In my "real" life, I'm a homeschool Mom of a five year old, so cute shoes aren't practical 99% of the time. At RT, you better believe I will be wearing the shoes I long to wear in my day to day life. However, I'm staying at a nearby hotel and not the Hyatt Regency so for travel to and FROM the con, you better believe I'll be in flip flops. Even if you're staying at the Hyatt Regency, the trek from your room to the convention area might be lengthy. (I'd swear it was almost a mile from the towers to the convention at the Rio last year, and there were ramps and carpet and heels were a pain.)

5. HYDRATE AND BRING SNACKS.

We're all adults and know how the world works. Unless you want to find yourself trapped paying five bucks for a small bag of chips or a bottle of water at a hotel kiosk, bring your own. I found a cute little water bottle that will clip onto my purse, and you can bet my bag'll be full of Trader Joe's fruit bars. 

If you want to grab a coffee before a panel, leave extra time. Those Starbucks lines can get long when several thousand people all want their frappucinos at the same time.

**Also, I'm throwing a pack of Starbucks VIA in my bag for the hotel. Between my roommate and myself, I doubt the 1 or 2 Keurig pods in the hotel will suffice.**

6. TALK TO STRANGERS

You never know who you might be standing next to in line. And there are lines. Before the big events, lines will form as people want to be one of the first hundred (or whatever #) in the door to snag a goody bag. So while you're standing in a hallway dressed like a flapper or whatever, talk to the people around you. I had great conversations with ladies in the goody room line, the Starbucks line, and while sitting at a lunch counter at Guy Fieri's restaurant in the Rio. (Shut up, that guac was excellent and the margarita was needed.) Meet people. Make friends. Remember - everyone there loves books, so you have an easy conversation starter...

7. KEEP AN EYE OUT

Along the same lines at #6, read people's name tags. You might discover you're talking to an author you've read. The authors registered to attend, so they're running around and fangirling just the same as everyone else. 

AND make your social media icons look like you for a few days! I love Twitter, but I'm bad with names. :)

8. WEAR COSTUMES

Don't be nervous. Go for it. If you have the chance to wear a rockabilly or a flapper dress, and you want to do it, DO IT. You will not be the only one at the event dressed up, I promise. 

9. GO OUTSIDE

The convention is not the world.

Last year's con was at the Rio in Vegas, which is a ways off the strip and felt rather landlocked. To get out of the hotel required either a hike over a freeway or a cab and a couple hours commitment. This year, the con is right in the middle of downtown Atlanta. 

Now, I'm assuming most of us are coming in from other places for this, so try and see something of the city outside the walls of the Hyatt Regency. After a couple days in probably windowless conference rooms of a big hotel, fresh air and sunshine can do wonders. At least go to the pool! 

Guys, Atlanta is full of things to see.

  • The Georgia Museum (which has four whale sharks in a 6.3 million gallon tank, you guys!) is only a .7 mile walk away, in an area that also contains The World of Coke. Coca-Cola was invented in Atlanta, did you know?
  • Centennial Park, which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, is also close. While RT is in town, the park will be home to the Shaky Beats music festival
  • For history nerds (my people!) there's the Margaret Mitchell house, the Center for Civil & Human Rights, and MLK's birth home, a national historic site dedicated to him, and The King Center.
  • Art fans might like the High Museum of Art. Plant nerds might want to visit the Atlanta Botanic Gardens.
  • Want to go crazy and see a show? RIVERDANCE is in town!

Take an hour and go for a walk. See what you see. Enjoy your time.

10. DON'T EAT AT CHAINS.

My final tip comes from my friend Aleisha, and I think it's sage advice --

"When I travel, I don't eat at anyplace I can eat when I'm back at home."

With the advent of smartphones, it's easy to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. For starters, here! The Best Restaurants in Downtown Atlanta. (White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, mentioned in the article, is literally across the street from the convention hotel.) As a brewery fan, I hope to make it up to one of the city's numerous hot brewing companies. We also won't be terribly far from The Curb Market. This bustling and modern city holds tons of foodie adventures, so go exploring.   

To conclude, RT is going to be a big noisy blast for booklovers.

Take advantage of it, and do you. (Then come home and read the books you brought back, and leave reviews, because nothing helps authors more.)

And if you see me, say hi. I'm super nice, I promise. :)

 

 

 

 

The MAIDENS & MONSTERS playlist.

Officially/Unofficially! (I don't own any of these songs, of course.)

I collect songs. I'll hear a phrase or a verse, and if it strikes me as something that could be used in a story I'll file it away and remember it. My playlists during the writing of a book are curated as carefully as my home library is.

Over the course of these FIVE BOOKS (can you believe it?!) this is what it's all come down to.

 

For your listening pleasure ----

FACADE, from the musical Jekyll & Hyde

The overture of the series, if you will. Duplicity and society are mega themes in M&M, and I can practically see the characters singing this in a musical number. (I come from a musical theater background. Almost everything is a musical in my head.)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA MIX, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, performed by Lindsey Stirling

So I was sick in bed with a sinus infection and a fever and the idea of doing an old west Phantom of the Opera came to me and I started writing it. Then the idea came that - haha - Christine should have plucky friends and I'd name them after the leading ladies of other gothic/horror classics...oh wait! A series idea was born. During the whirlwind writing of CHRISTINE, I probably played this track two hundred times, no exaggeration. It's a wonderful mix of the major instrumental themes of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, with the quirkiness of Ms. Stirling, who I dig. It was perfect when I needed it to be perfect.

CASTLE, by Halsey

Why this made for Mina's theme, I don't know - the creepiness, the bold statement of "I'm heading straight for the castle..." Whatever. It worked, and drove the book when I got lost in details for a while.

SLEDGEHAMMER, by Rihanna

My sweet Lucy Carew, my wonderful and originally spoiled brat, took probably the biggest arc leap in the whole series. From being silly to being a sledgehammer, and thus - her theme. 

WE SINK, by Of Monsters and Men

Lucy and Henry's love theme. Because those two went through some STUFF.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH, by Hozer

Can we talk about ESME for a moment -- and how the book that happened was not at all the book I thought would happen? I'll be honest. The world in May of 2016 was a different place than the world at the end of the year, and ESME was my response to it. Sometimes there are bigger things to handle than one's own dreams and desires. Esme fought and scrapped and came out of it a character I love so hard. Also, Quincy is - no joke - my favorite of the leading men of this series. Salute to those two. They earned it.

AWAKENINGS, by Sarah McLachlan

Wake up, girls. 

TONIGHT AND THE REST OF MY LIFE, by Nina Gordon

I've been a FRANKENSTEIN/Mary Shelley nerd since college, when I dreamed of being a literature professor. FRANKENSTEIN captivated me, and I've been rolling it around in my head ever since trying to adapt it - and this song was always a part of that. Finally, it fell into place for ELIZABETH, even if she's not even sure where it should go. <3

TEAM, by Lorde

I wanted to write about female friendships and how they can be as important - if not more important - than romantic ones. This series allowed me to do that. I'll remember these ladies fondly, and they'll remain on each other's team...