Adventures In Charleston, South Carolina

I needed ideas and inspiration. River Road Hauntings was complete, but I didn't want the Haunted Hearts series to end. So where could I take my readers next? The next locale for the series had to be a setting rich in history and potential ghost activity.

Charleston, South Carolina, of course.

Aerial view from the eighth floor of The Francis Marion Hotel looking
south down King Street. © Denise Moncrief
So I asked my wonderful assistant, Katy, if she would join me on my adventure, and off we flew for a very quick three-day weekend. We arrived late on Friday night, exhausted from a multi-leg flight to Charleston. It was the smoothest and easiest airport/flight experience I've ever encountered.

On the flight from Charlotte NC to Charleston.  © Denise Moncrief

Thank goodness for my wonderful assistant. She was up for anything I wanted to do on this trip. And we walked our butts off. In the heavy humidity. And we drank lots of water because it was hotter than Hades. What were we thinking booking our trip for the weekend before July 4th?

We stayed at the Francis Marion Hotel at the corner of King and Calhoun. The hotel was first opened in 1924. Although the furnishing had been modernized, the hotel still felt like an old, elegant hotel.

The lobby of the Francis Marion Hotel. © Denise Moncrief

Our first task on Saturday morning was to find a brunch place. The first restaurant we tried was Virginia's on King. Be aware that Virginia's requires reservations for breakfast, which we didn't have. So onward we trekked north on King and found Callie's Hot Little Biscuit.

Callie's is a very narrow shop front, really narrow, with a kitchen along one wall and a few barstools against a bar along the other wall. Very crowded. Most patrons ordered their biscuits to go, and we did as well. My bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit was the best I've ever had. The biscuits are made fresh and are very light and tasty. I highly recommend Callie's for an on-the-go breakfast.

After we had filled our tummies, we headed south down King Street toward Charleston City Market.

Charleston City Market. © Denise Moncrief

As you might be able to see from the above photo, the market was established in 1807. The building is long and narrow and went on for several city blocks. One building would end, we'd cross a street, and the next building would begin. The market is full of both touristy type items as well as locally made arts, crafts, and jewelry. Katy and I both bought a pair of unusual earrings that could either be worn dangling or nestled in the ridges of the outer ear. We enjoyed our shopping experience so much that we went back on Sunday morning after brunch.

Our next destination was Folly Beach. The popular beach area is located 26 miles south of Charleston. Since we went on a holiday weekend, the main intersection was jammed with both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. It was nearly impossible to find a parking place close to the hub of everything, but we finally found a restaurant a block or two away with parking available for customers only.

My lovely assistant Katy at Washout. © Denise Moncrief
The Washout is an open-air restaurant, and we could imagine the place hopping with bar business at night. Katy ordered a hamburger, and I ordered jerk chicken and tomato pie. I'd never had tomato pie before. Oh, my God, I fell in love.

Jerk chicken, tomato pie, and cole slaw at Washout. © Denise Moncrief

Once again, we had appeased our hunger, so we headed out in search of a parking spot near a beach access and lucked upon a spot right next to the walkway out to the beach.

Folly Beach. © Denise Moncrief

Already tired from a busy day, we headed back to the historic district and decided to drive down the peninsula to gawk at the houses south of Broad. We started at the Battery and worked our way north. This gave us a nice introduction to the walking tour we planned for Sunday morning.

After our gawking, we went back to the Francis Marion for a bit of a rest because we knew we were about to do more walking.

Our next adventure was a guided ghost tour in the French Quarter area of Charleston. I found the tour a bit schmaltzy and the tour guide eccentric (which only added to the fun of the adventure), but despite the somewhat cheesy nature of the tour, the adventure gave me what I craved: inspiration for the new book series. Sadly, I saw no ghosts and captured no apparitions on camera, but I really didn't think that I would.

St. Michaels on Broad. Haunted or not? Our tour guide thought so. © Denise Moncrief
After our walking tour, we searched for a place to eat along King Street and were disappointed to find that most restaurants along King close up around nine on Saturday night. We finally found Mod Pizza. Mod is a build your own pizza joint. I ordered a large--my eyes were bigger than my stomach--with regular pizza sauce, mozzarella, Italian sausage, mushrooms, and roasted garlic. Very tasty. But I couldn't eat it all. I'd recommend getting the smaller size if your appetite isn't that big.

Sausage, mushroom, and garlic pizza from Mod Pizza at
the corner of King and Calhoun. © Denise Moncrief

We slept well that night. The next morning, we took our time getting out the door.

Our first stop was Slightly North of Broad for brunch. I highly, highly recommend SNOB for brunch. I ordered shrimp and grits, and Katy ordered French toast with Red Harbor maple rum syrup and walnut streusel. Both dishes were excellent. We both ordered a Mimosa, which we both enjoyed. Considering the socio-economic history of that part of Charleston, I do think the name of the restaurant was slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Brunch at Slightly North of Broad. © Denise Moncrief

After brunch, we found a parking lot closer to the market and hit it again. Of course, we needed to bring back souvenirs for those that we left back home.

We spent the rest of the morning on a walking tour of the area South of Broad. We parked on East Bay and passed the magnificent Rainbow Row on our way down the peninsula.

Rainbow Row, Charleston, SC. © Denise Moncrief.

The houses in the district were even more beautiful than the pictures I'd been drooling over ever since I started planning this trip. The tour was worth the time spent walking in the heat and humidity to get an up-close view of some of the city's oldest homes.

I'm going to leave a few pictures below from the walking tour.

© Denise Moncrief

© Denise Moncrief

© Denise Moncrief

For our final adventure before we headed toward the airport, we drove out to Sullivan's Island to take a tour of Fort Moultrie. The island is 28 miles east of Charleston over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. We would have liked to tour Fort Sumter, but the tour would have taken two and a half hours. We didn't have that much time to spare on a short, fast weekend. The tour of Fort Moultrie gave us an insight into the harbor defense of the area throughout the history of Charleston.

We left Charleston knowing that we wanted to return. Even though there was so much we'd left unseen and undone, I considered the trip a success. I boarded the plane home brimming with ideas for the new book series.

So...be on the lookout for the new series. I'm titling it Carolina Hauntings, and I'm excited to begin development of the series premise and the book plots. I'll keep you posted.


Why I Pulled the Plug On My Twitter Account

True confession time. I didn’t create my Twitter account for the purpose of social interaction. There, I said it...or um...wrote it. No, I opened the account for the purpose of selling books. I know. That isn’t something I’m supposed to admit. My presence on social media is supposed to be all about developing relationships, isn’t it? But the honest to God truth is that most authors were on Twitter for the purpose of selling books, and so was I.
When I published my first short story through a now-defunct, small Canadian publisher, one of the first things I did was create a Twitter account for my author profile. Back then, an author was expected to establish a social media presence. That’s what authors did, especially new ones. I still see authors and publishers pushing book promos through social media, so I guess it’s still a thing to do, but I started questioning the effectiveness of marketing books through free social media a long time ago.
Sure, when I first signed on, I met some interesting people through Twitter. That was back when being on Twitter was new and authors actually hung out on their Twitter feed. There was some real-time social interaction. I still maintain some of those early connections I made on Twitter through Facebook.
As the number of people I followed grew, so did the speed of the tweets flying through my feed. There were too many to keep up with, and I couldn’t hang onto one of them long enough to start a conversation.
The people I met were other authors. I never once made a connection with a reader or book blogger through Twitter. Never. I followed authors, and authors followed me. So when I pushed my books over Twitter, I was peddling them to people who were doing the same thing I was doing. Were we even paying attention to each other’s tweets any longer? I don’t think so.
Then, the inevitable happened. I discovered there was a way to automate my Twitter feed. Twitter automation killed real-time interaction amongst authors. I wasn’t there. Just the tweets I had scheduled at the beginning of the week. When I signed on, there was no else there either. Just their tweets. One time, I tweeted, “Is there anybody out there?” I got no answer.
This exercise in futility didn’t sell books. It didn’t gain me any new readers. It didn’t foster new relationships. It was a waste of time. I stopped automating. I stopped popping into Twitter to see what was going on. My feed died from neglect. I almost forgot Twitter existed.
Now, I know there is social interaction on Twitter. I read about it in the news. Every day someone tweets something that someone else disagrees with or finds offensive, and the tweet receives a flurry of angry tweets in reply.
I don’t want anything to do with what spews forth from angry, hateful people on Twitter. For me, use of the medium has lost its intended purpose, and I don’t want to wander into the swamp of dissension that hangs out in other places on Twitter outside of author-land.

So bye-bye, Twitter. I wish I could say it’s been nice knowing you, but for the most part, you’ve been a pain in the butt.


I'm Not Mary Sue. My Name Is Denise.

Her name is Mary Sue. She’s a time and space traveler, zipping from book to book, scene to scene, unmindful of physics. The woman is disdained throughout the literary world because Mary Sue is a thinly-veiled representation of the author. She appears when the author interjects a little too much of herself into her characterization.

I'm not Mary Sue. My name is Denise.

My life is not entertaining enough or adventurous enough to be at the center of a suspense story. My characters are so much more than I am. I try to write them stronger, smarter, braver, fiercer, sassier, bolder, more flawed, more compassionate, more sensitive, more emotional, more impulsive, more conflicted, and so much more interesting than me. None of them are perfect.

So when a reviewer assumes the thoughts and opinions of the character are my thoughts and opinions, I’m disappointed and dismayed. Actually, I’m a little bit wounded. How could someone who doesn’t know me assume I’m that shallow, mean, cold-hearted, stupid, uninformed, disrespectful, immature etc.?

One review, in particular, has gnawed at me for years. I've considered responding, but responding to reviews is considered a really bad no-no. So I've kept my angst to myself all these years.

First, let me say I have a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement officers and I believe most of them are trying to do the job right. So... Just because I write a bad cop character doesn’t mean I think all cops are bad. Just because I write an innocent ex-convict character doesn’t mean I think all convicted felons are great guys. No, I don’t think all police officers treat victims of violence as horrible as the detective character treated my heroine.

I started writing because I didn't want to read about one more perfect hero or heroine. Human beings are not clones, and characters in books shouldn't be either.

If I didn’t write flawed characters, if all my characters were wonderful pristine people, if they all conformed to stereotype, my characters would be dull and flat, lifeless, and boring. 

Maybe I should put a disclaimer at the beginning of each book:

The opinions expressed in this book are the characters’ own and do not always reflect the views of the author.

As strange as this might sound, I don’t always agree with my characters. I don’t always approve of their behavior. I don’t always think like they do. I don’t always behave as they would. Sometimes, they say things I wouldn’t say. Sometimes, they do things I wouldn’t do. Actually, most of the time, they don’t act or react like I would at all.

I’m not my characters. I’m not Mary Sue.


New Year's Resolutions? No. But I Do Have Some Writing Goals

Happy New Year, everyone! Some of you are glad 2017 is over and history. Some of you might be sad to see the old year go. I have mixed feelings about 2017. Some good things happened and some not so good things.

I’m started this new year off with some goals. And I’m happy to report that I’ve already completed my first task: cleaning out my clothes closet. So I’m marking one task off my list already. Yay!

Someone told me she was trying this new method of deciding what clothes to keep and what clothes to toss. No, it’s not the hold-it-in-your-hand-and-decide-if-it-brings-you-happiness method. I tried that with questionable results. It depends on what day I’m trying on a certain piece of clothing if it makes me happy or not. This new method is called the backward hangers method. Turn all your hangers around backward, and after you wear a piece of clothing, hang it forwards. By the end of 2018, you should know which clothes you still wear and which to get rid of. We shall see if this method works on New Year’s Day 2019.

So onward to my writing goals for 2018.

Goal Number One: Release at least four books.

The Rush of Winds Through Magnolias and Wild Rose were the only two new books I published in 2017. I did a lot of writing last year, but most of my new work is scheduled for release in 2018. Truthfully, I should have concentrated on finishing the Haunted Hearts series, because toward the end of 2017, my personal life interfered with my writing schedule, and the release of book number ten was postponed longer than I had planned.

The final book in the River Road Set of Haunted Hearts, The Sweet Madness of Honeysuckle is on pre-sale now and set for release on January 21, 2018. So that’s release number one.

I’ve completed the first book in the new Prescience series, Second Sight, with a tentative release date of April 15, 2018. Here's the link to a chapter one sneak peek. My goal is to have the next book in the series Dream Sight written before I release Second Sight, and release Dream Sight six weeks later toward the end of May or the beginning of June 2018. So that’s books number two and three.

My plan is to complete Oceans Apart for release in September 2018. So that’s book number four.
And last but not least, I promised Jane that I would start the Dare Island series this year. So hopefully that’s book number five.

I know it’s an ambitious goal, but Second Sight and Honeysuckle are already written, and if life doesn’t get in the way, I might be able to release all five books.

Goal Number Two: Establish a regular email newsletter schedule and stick to it.

My goal is to send out a newsletter every other month. Every month is too much. I want to send you news about my writing and my release schedule that is informative and of interest, so I don’t send out a newsletter just to send a newsletter. Hopefully, there will be more news to report in 2018.

Goal Number Three: Start a Facebook Group just for my readers.

I love getting feedback from readers and interacting with you. A private group would make communicating so much easier. I want to make it a place where my readers can go to view content that is exclusively for them. Sneak peeks. Special offers. Contests. I'll let you know when the group goes online.

I'm excited about my goals for 2018. I hope everyone has a happy, safe, successful, and totally wonderful New Year.

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