Award-winning author Karen McCullough is a web designer as well as the author of a dozen mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website and blog.
The Beach That Inspires Me
For the last several years, my sister-in-law has been renting a beach house on Edisto Island, a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina between Charleston and Hilton Head. My husband and I and various other family members join her for a week of sun, surf, and sand in early to mid-May.
It’s a wonderful break for all of us, but like everything else, the sights, sounds, smells and other experiences of the coastal visit go into the idea-churn inside my brain and come out in new pieces in various stories.
Although Edisto Island isn’t the exact model for the island setting of most of the first third of my paranormal romantic mystery, The Wizard’s Shield, the experiences I’ve had there over the years do figure largely into the descriptions and events in the book, especially the first part.
A violent storm in the first couple of chapters forces my two main characters, one-time friends separated by circumstance and betrayal for many years, to work together to save the island and its inhabitants. It brings them back together and reminds them of the unique bond they’d had at one time.
Although I’ve never had the opportunity to fight the effects of a squall with magic as Michael and Ilene do, I’ve experienced the frightening way storm winds howl and flatten the sea oats along the dunes, the way they churn up the ocean, making waves roar and foam, the sizzle of lightning that seems way too close, and wind-whipped rain that feels like bullets. I’ve looked out across the ocean and seen the dark cones of waterspouts dropping from cloud to sea. All of that became part of the scene, amped up by magic.
Later when the two protagonists take a long walk on the beach to have a painful but necessary conversation, I use the sights, sounds, and objects found on the sand to punctuate their talk.
“What did they do to you?” she asked.
He didn’t know how to answer, so he started walking again. He stalked along, occasionally glancing out at the ocean. The roar of the waves beat against his ears, keeping time in some odd way with the beating of his pulse. His chest seemed to collapse inward, making it hard to get enough of a breath to speak. It took a while before he realized that Ilene had caught up and was nearly running to match his pace. He slowed enough to let her stop jogging.
“It’s a long story,” he warned her at last, when he’d relaxed slightly.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a conversation that serious during my many long walks on the beach, but there is something about the surf, sand, shells and other bits of nature that inspire one to think about life and one’s place in the universe more deeply.
The Wizard’s Shield
A powerful wizard with a physics degree and a checkered past invents a shield to ensure he'll never again be tortured almost to death.
The wizarding powers-that-be fear the repercussions of such a device and send his former girlfriend, an accomplished wizard herself, to retrieve the device or destroy it.
When the shield is stolen by the magical mafia, Ilene McConnell and Michael Morgan have to set aside their differences and work together to recover it. Michael claims he needs the device as insurance against the kind of injury and injustice he suffered once before. Ilene maintains its potential to upset the delicate balance of power makes it too dangerous and that it needs to be destroyed. But none of that will matter if they can’t retrieve it before a ruthless, powerful wizard learns how to use it for his own ends.