Cusp of Night – New Release from Mae Clair

Hi, Jan! Many thanks for inviting me to your blog today. I have a new release I’m thoroughly jazzed to share with your readers. Cusp of Night is a mystery/suspense novel that weaves timelines of the present with those of the past. Dual timelines are becoming trendy in fiction today, a pattern I’m more than happy to embrace. As a reader I’m thoroughly besotted by the idea. As a writer, I found it challenging to undertake.

Writing a book with dual timelines means you’re not telling one tale, but two. That means two sets of characters and two plots.

In Cusp of Night I have a mystery involving an assault and a mysterious “creature” set in modern day. Running parallel to that story is another tied to a murderous creature and the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s. Both mysteries have to dovetail into a tidy bow at the end.

Challenging? Yes! Enjoyable? Thoroughly!

I had a blast working on this novel and can’t wait for readers to discover it. My lead character in the present is Maya Sinclair, a woman who has recently relocated to the town of Hode’s Hill to accept a job as a reference librarian. Maya is readjusting to life after a near fatal accident that left her clinically dead for the span of two minutes and twenty-two seconds.

In the past, Lucy Strick, and aerialist in a seedy carnival is eking out a living, when a strange enigmatic man offers a proposal. This short excerpt—which sets the tone for her future—is the moment when they meet:

Vintage circus poster advertising a performance by the "amazing Blue Lady" of the air

May 1, 1897

“Hello. Have I come at a bad time?” A tall, thin man strode into Lucy Strick’s tent as if he were an invited guest.

“Who the hell are you?” She lurched from the stool in front of her small dressing table, knocking a pot of face paint to the floor. Damn. Where was Burt? The roughy was supposed to keep cretins away. May Day always brought a good take for the circus, but seedy folk showed up right along with the local farmers. Sodbusters, she could handle. Rubes in colors as drab as the earth they plowed, slow and simple as mules.

This man didn’t look anything like them—or the lechers who thought the entrance fee to her aerial act bought a free grope on the side. Put her visitor in an audience and he’d stand out like a sleek crow in a flock of cowbirds. Fancy frock coat, weathered face, hair and eyes as black as the coal her brothers dug from the Blind Boy Mine. Odd sort. He might have been as old as her pap or as young as Anton, the Strongman.

“You ain’t answered me.” She hadn’t liked people staring at her when she was a kid and wouldn’t tolerate it now. She wasn’t a freak, no matter what her kinfolk said. “Who are you?”

He didn’t hesitate. “A man who finds you extraordinary.”

“That so?” She snorted. Indelicately. “Well, that uppity accent don’t impress me none, so you best skedaddle ’fore I holler for Burt and have him bend you fifty ways backward. I ain’t unarmed, you know.” She groped through the silks, feathers, and tinted creams on her dressing table. “I got a knife.”

“I don’t. I’m not armed, dear lady.”

“Lady?” She’d never heard the word attached to the likes of her. Charmed, she shoved a curtain of black hair from her shoulder and eyed him openly. “You got a strange way of talking. I bet you’re a snoop, huh? This ain’t no fleece or racket joint, mister. Oliver’s Emporium and Traveling Show is on the up-and-up. Just ’cause we pull up stakes after a spell don’t mean—”

“You’re wasted here.”

She clamped her mouth shut. Even soaring through the air, the ground a death trap below, she remained in control. But this man threw her off balance with his bold comments. Dumb slug. Didn’t he realize what she was? Didn’t he have eyes?

“There ain’t nowheres else for me.” She’d known the truth every time her ma held her down and scrubbed her skin till it bled. Every time her pap cuffed her and called her Hades-spawned. When she was twelve, a preacher slathered her in whitewash while her pap watched stonily and her ma prayed for her deliverance. Lucy had run off that same night, stumbling over Ollie’s traveling circus two days later. She’d never regretted her decision in the eight years she’d called the carnival home.

Raising her chin, she stood her ground. “Ollie takes good care of me.”

“Yes. It must be gratifying to go from backwater town to backwater town, eking out a meager existence.” The man’s voice lowered, his cultured accent crisp with reproach. “Do you enjoy the way men leer at you? The barbs women toss behind your back, labeling you devil-witch and daughter of demons?”

Lucy stiffened. Pious folk were the worst. Hiding behind crosses and Bibles, as if the Good Lord loved her any less because of her appearance. Maybe Ollie traded on her unusual looks, but he treated her like family. Far more than her own blood kin.

“You need to leave.” She hated being reminded of what she was.

The man’s expression softened. “Child, I don’t see you as any of the ignoble names you have been called. I see you as special. Do not be ashamed of your exotic beauty.” Looming over her, he turned her fingers toward the light. The kindness in his voice almost made her believe she was attractive.

Until she looked at her hand and saw the same damning color that covered every inch of her body—blue.

Tears threatened her eyes. Crying was a weakness she hadn’t embraced in years.

“I see the pain on your face.” The man tightened his long fingers around her hand. “Memories of cruel taunts and unjust words. Leave here with me, and you will never be ashamed of your lovely blue skin again.”

Oh, to believe!

She stared into his eyes. There was something hypnotic about his gaze, the rich timbre of his voice. Even his touch spoke to her, his palm not smooth as she’d expected, but lined with callouses earned by a life on the road. “Who are you? What do you want?”

He smiled, his eyes flashing with lightning and promise.

“My name is Simon Glass. I want to make you famous.”

Banner ad for cusp of Night, a mystery/suspense novel by author, Mae Cllair
BLURB
Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house–a woman whose ghost may still linger.

Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

Release date is June 12th
PRE-ORDER FROM ANY MAJOR BOOKSELLER HERE

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Other Social Links

bio box for author, Mae Clair

 

Jonah Part 3

In the first episode, we met a young man, Jonah, exiled to a deserted island to pay for his crimes. But, this is no ordinary island. It’s inhabited by wild mythical creatures with long red fangs and claws like an Eagle, venomous flowers and stinging nettles and brambles. In the last episode, a drop had occurred. The burlap bag contained some dried buffalo, hygiene items, a note, and two books, The Four Agreements, along with a blank journal. The note informed Jonah the only way he would ever get to leave the island was to examine himself and face his demons. Jonah dismissed the books with a snort. Let’s see what’s going on with him now that a few more days have passed.

Thankful that he’d been given one pot to cook in, Jonah hunched over the small fire and drew the savory smell in through his nostrils. The dried buffalo would make a hearty soup and his stomach growled at the thought. He stirred the mushrooms and Burdock root to a slow boil, then added pieces of the meat.

Campfire

The crackling of leaves brought him to his feet and he reached for the ever-present dagger. He turned in a full circle and saw nothing. It must have been an animal. After all, the Master had been very specific in warning him he would be the only human inhabitant on the island.

He sat back on his heels and stirred the boiling stew.

There it was again. That time, there was no mistaking the sound of footsteps. Was he going mad? He yelled. “Who’s there?”

Silence answered him.

He ran his hands through his thick black hair and returned to his stew. Once he was satisfied that it was thoroughly cooked, he pulled the container from the fire and disappeared into his hut to enjoy the fare.

His nostrils flared, and eyes closed as the delectable aroma arose. Within minutes, he devoured the tasty concoction.

Just as he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, he heard it again. Footsteps approached from the east. He got to his haunches ready to spring and held his breath. They stopped just short of his hut.

He let out a loud cry and lunged from the hut, dagger drawn. To his surprise, a young boy stood wide-eyed. He stopped short.

Jonah had difficulty finding his voice but managed a weak, “Hello.”

The boy simply nodded.

“Who are you? Where did you come from?” Jonah fired the questions. “How did you get here? Are you from the mainland?” Jonah quickly deducted this was no ordinary boy. His eyes glowed with luminescent light and webbing grew between his long fingers. 

Merlin1841

The boy turned and ran.

Jonah gave chase and pulled him to the ground. He turned him over. “I demand some answers. Did the Master send you?”

The boy shook his head. “I didn’t know you were here, mister.”

“You’ve got some explaining to do, kid.” Jonah helped the boy to his feet and pushed him toward his camp.

Who could this mysterious visitor be and what sort of magic does he carry? Tune in again next week and we will find out more.

 

Jonah Part 2

A young man named Jonah has been exiled to an island for reasons we do not yet know. It’s not your typical island as it is covered with stinging nettles, venomous flowers and mythical fanged creatures. He’s been there a few weeks already but he watches daily for the boat that will come and take him back to the mainland. What does he have to do to be rescued? Let’s go see.

Jonah awoke with a start. His hand flew his dagger when he heard a loud thud.  Warily, he peeked out of his crude shelter expecting the worst.

A burlap package lay a few feet from his hut.

burlap-bags-1

He turned in a full circle and did not see another living soul or source from where the package could have come. He dashed out, grabbed the bag and ducked back inside his shelter. His heart raced! He wasn’t forgotten.

He opened the bag as eager as a child on Christmas morning. The first item he discovered was a sealed package of dried buffalo. Without looking any farther, he tore into it and groaned aloud as he savored the flavor of the meat. Anything was better than the muddy fish he’d been forced to eat to stay alive.

He sat back on his haunches and explored the remaining items in his mysterious package.

A bar of soap, toothbrush, and hairbrush fell out on the floor of his hut. How had he made it this long without them? He set them aside and continued exploring.

In the bottom of the bag lay two books and a pencil, along with a handwritten note.  He unfolded the parchment note.

There is only one way off this island. You must examine yourself, face your truths and make peace with your demons.

Jonah folded the note, lay it next to the bag, bit off another piece of jerky, then carefully resealed the bag and opened the first book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Four Agreements

The first sentence on the inside flap, “Be impeccable with your word,” brought a snort. He tossed the book into the corner of the hut. He didn’t need any philosophy BS, he just needed to get home.

He reached into the bottom of the bag, hoping for more food and found another book and a pencil. He opened it to find only blank pages.  He tossed it into the corner along with the other book.

He’d heard the psychological and philosophical jargon his entire life and none of it had helped him survive on the streets. None of it had helped when his father was beating him across the back with a leather strap. And none of it put food in his belly when he was starving.

No. He’d made his way with his own strength and that wasn’t about to change now.

He pulled his hair back and ducked out of the shelter into the early morning dawn. The most important thing he could do was keep his body strong and ready to fight. After all, it was what he did best. He stretched his taut muscles and began a series of Tai Chi maneuvers. He twirled and kicked, landing in fighting stance. Yes, this was what worked for him, not religion or philosophy.

manbun

A scurrying sound drew his attention and he glanced toward the hut in time to see a furry rodent dashing inside. The jerky! He lunged forward and reached the critter at the same time the critter reached the bag. With a precise throw, his dagger landed in the varmint’s neck. He tossed the invader into the murky water and grabbed his precious staple. After he dug a hole inside the hut, he buried the meat and covered it. Then he placed both books on top.

There. That should protect it. He’d gather the mushrooms and edible roots he’d discovered and make a stew later. No, he didn’t need self-examination. He needed sustenance and most of all he needed to get back to the mainland and back to living, back to ruling his kingdom.

He pondered the words on the note. What was he going to be forced to do?

 

Jonah – Part 1

Jonah

Jonah stood on the sturdy wooden dock and scanned the horizon. He could make out the outline of the mainland. He’d attempted to swim it more than once only to be forced to turn back or die. Would today be the day the boat would arrive? Brown murky water lapped at the timbers and a scaled water lizard trolled for a morning snack.

A low guttural growl turned him around. The feral creatures on this island were like none he’d ever encountered. Half animal and half-mythical, he discovered their weakness quite by accident and out of desperation.

He strode down the dock, stopping to scoop up the golden dagger he’d left lying in the sand. He ran toward the creature screaming, dagger aimed at its heart.

Perhaps it was the glint of the sun off the metal blade. Jonah didn’t know, but it worked every time.

It now seemed like a lifetime ago that he was dropped in this godforsaken place. Had it been the right choice? He questioned himself every day. Maybe prison wouldn’t have been so bad.

He scanned the horizon a final time before kneeling to light a fire. If he’d only known when the option had been given, he might have chosen differently. But, at the time, anything sounded better than being locked in a cement box buried in the ground.

Sure, they’d given him the dagger and a few supplies. Everything else, he had to get on his own. And, it didn’t help that the island was covered with thickly tangled nettles that stung the skin when touched, flowers filled with deadly venom and blackbirds that swooped down without warning and pecked at his head. But, the creatures were the worst of all. He’d never forget the first time they showed themselves. Fangs that glowed red when they growled and claws like that of Eagles had sent him climbing the nearest tree despite the stinging nettles and prickly thorns. But, their claws allowed them to easily climb and he was left with no option but to run. It wasn’t until exhausted and unable to run anymore, he finally turned and drew his saber. He prepared to die. But instead, they backed down.

With welts covering his body from the stinging nettles and sweat dripping down his face, he’d waded into the murky, muddy water. Strangely enough, the mud lessened the pain and he’d left his body covered with it for two days.

Driven to construct some sort of shelter, he used his saber to cut branches and brush.

shelter

That was the first day. He’d improved the shelter over the many days that followed.

He kept track of time with marks on a piece of driftwood. It was now covered with thirty marks and he was still alive.

But, for how long?

mythical creature

Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed meeting Jonah. Will he survive long enough for the boat to arrive? What did he do to get exiled to this horrible and dangerous island? Join me on Sunday to find out more about him and this strange arrangement.

Hugs!!