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Something strikes me as I continue working on revisions of my latest novella. The next one will be the the last of the Minstrels of Skaythe series.

Up to this time, the individual novellas have stood more or less on their own. My minstrels have had their separate adventures, trying to fly under the radar of Dar-Gothull’s oppressive regime. That will be much more difficult after the end of Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. So in addition to fixing this draft, I’m starting to gather my thoughts about the next one.

There are already quite a few characters in the four novellas. I need to consider which ones will appear in the finale. Likewise, the evil mages who have grudges against the various minstrels. What will their roles be? Also, there is one specific image, predicted near the end of The Tower in the Mist, that I need to make real.

Most of all, I need to decide the outcome for the total series. Can a rag-tag band really take down an evil empire? If they do, what will replace it? I believe it’s important to be honest with readers. A flimsy, pat ending might be comfortable, but it would also feel hollow. And I’ll tell you now, I’m not setting out to write a flimsy, hollow story with Minstrels of Skaythe.

Those of you who have read these novellas know that I’m not afraid of gray endings. That’s intentional, really. I want to leave space for the readers to think their own thoughts about what will happen in the new status quo.

So that’s what I’m pondering at the moment.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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What’s Happening? The decision has been made. The county health officer says school re-openings are not safe, so we’ll begin the 2020-2021 school year teaching remotely. Honestly, I feel optimistic. I have some fun ideas about what the digital environment might look like. If my supervising teacher agrees, I’ll be using a role-playing game as a mechanism for social/emotional learning. Many tutorials await.

What I’m Working On. As previously mentioned, I’m in the midst of revising Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. I’ve managed to consolidate a few short scenes into one medium one, but I’ve also added a couple. We shall see if I’m able to reduce the total word count in this draft.

What’s Next? It remains to be seen if I feel Prisoners is ready for publication in late November. But, for obvious reasons, most of the events where I would have publicized a new e-book have been cancelled. I do plan to participate in Bad Moon Rising, a book event hosted by horror novelist Teri Polen every October. So there’s that to look forward to.

Fun and games. Currently I’m playing Animal Crossing as a casual game, and my beloved Dragon Age Inquisition for action, romance and adventure. I’ve also been setting aside time to read in the evenings or work on jigsaw puzzles. I stay up too late with video games.

This week is my husband’s vacation from work. This is kind of weird, since I feel like I’ve already been on vacation since March. But he hasn’t been. At any moment I may be snatched away from what I’m doing to go for a hike or to the lake, but that’s okay. Prisoners and Inquisition will still be there when we get back.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Here’s another excerpt from The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. This one features Ozlin, the second viewpoint character. Enjoy!


   “Thief — stop him!”
   Ozlin ducked and darted, weaving between the bystanders. He veered to avoid a snatching hand. The merchant was slow, but his strides were long. A hard fist dug into the tangles of Ozlin’s unkempt hair. He yelped at the pain, kicked and cursed.
   “Let go, you shithole!’
   “Nobody steals from me,” the merchant gloated with grim satisfaction. He started to yank Ozlin back toward the plaza, where the guards were.
   “Pervert! Help!” Ozlin’s voice cracked as he screamed. A few onlookers glanced around, but nobody seemed to came to help him. They were too busy waving and cheering.
   “Shut up, you brat,” growled the merchant.
   Pain tore at Ozlin’s scalp. In an instant, rage replaced his fear. He grabbed the hand that dug into his hair and let the fire roll free. A sizzle, the stink of charring meat. Now it was the merchant who yelled.
   Loose again, Ozlin scrambled away. Sandals slipped on the pavement, and then he was steady. All his thought was to run, run, run!
   “Get back here,” roared the merchant.
   Dead end! It wasn’t Ozlin’s first chase, but somehow he’d come the wrong way. A row of barrels was stacked across the alley. He skidded, looking for a way through, then whirled and tried to race back, but skidded to a halt again. The furious merchant advanced, rubbing at an angry red mark on his wrist.
   “You’ll pay for that, gutter trash,” he rumbled, menacing.
   Ozlin was doomed. They were alone in the alley. Except, one person emerged from the crowd. The woman with the reed hat moved up beside the merchant. For the first time, Ozlin got a good look at her face, the narrow nose and pinched mouth. Cold eyes fixed on him.
   “Can I help?” Her voice was soft and neutral, but with an acid undertone. She knew what he was, just as he recognized her.
   “Mage.” Ozlin couldn’t make the fire go back into his hands, so he made his hands into flaming fists. “Stay away from me!”


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Today I’m sharing a brief excerpt from my high fantasy novella, The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. There are two viewpoint characters in the tale. This one is Meven’s. Enjoy!


     The narrow street crossed others at an angle that made it hard for Meven to see where she was going. She kept moving, listening to the people nearby. Surely there had to be a larger street. One that would lead to a gate, and freedom.
   Groaning their complaints, the people around her stopped to let a wagon full of wood rumble by. Meven tensed as a vague spark of magic pricked at her senses. Stinging heat lusted to set something afire. She refused to look around.
     “Nothing to do with you, Meven. Keep your eyes on your own business.”
     The oxen pulling the wagon dropped dung under the wheels. Meven wished she could have stayed on the ship instead of dealing with so many stinking people and animals. Two weeks at sea had been a blessing and a relief. Born on the water but for years exiled to land, she had forgotten so much! The rhythmic dance of the ship on the tide. The musky tang of salt water, the creak of the rigging and slap of waves against the side.
     People started to move around her. Meven made to step with them, but another driver cracked his whip and rushed his wagon into the gap. People around her grumbled with frustration.
     “Typical,” Meven said to no one in particular.
     Long ago, almost thirty years now, she had been a water-child who toddled the deck of her family’s houseboat, Fawn. She had learned to walk and swim at roughly the same time. From one port to another the family roamed mighty Lake Bilseng, up and down and across and around. Sometimes they earned coin by delivering cargo between Nibbuk and Ortach. Mostly they foraged in the mangrove thickets to net enough food for all the mouths aboard. Those had been golden days. Before her magic emerged and capsized her life.
     As a child, Meven hadn’t questioned her parents’ way of life. Now she understood how much they risked, yet also gained, by living on the water. Her recent journey by boat had been mere impulse, the fastest way out of a trap. She hadn’t expected it to become a sojourn through fond memories. Now that she had revisited the sensations of life on the water, Meven didn’t want to give it up. With any luck, she wouldn’t have to.
     Well, not only luck. Planning, scheming, and perhaps a bit of trickery would be involved. Also, relearning a few old skills to keep herself hidden and fed in a mangrove swamp. But first, she had to get out of this wretched town!


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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… With dialogue, that is.

One of my favorite techniques when revising is to bring in more dialogue between characters. After all, humans are inherently social. One might even say we’re nosy. Dialogue is a really great way to draw readers in and show them who the characters are.

Writers can pack in a lot of subtle information through conversation. Who wants something from the others? Who has lower status? Who is being honest and who is being sneaky? Writers should always make our passages pull double duty when we can.

Currently I’m working on Lorrah’s arc, and she is traveling with Badger Squad. Some of you will remember my women warriors from the first volume, The Tower in the Mist. There are six of them. I don’t want them to be faceless minions. So having them chatter — with Lorrah or with each other — is one way to bring them to life.

Dialogue is also great for breaking up long passages of description, or the dreaded info-dump. Why have a character sitting there, pondering a problem, when they could be talking about it with someone?


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Yep, I’m down to it. Revisions have begun on Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. I’ve started with Lorrah’s plot arc, which is somewhat simpler. This will give me extra “think time” on Alemin’s more complicated arc.

Of course, there are issues. I’ve discovered that I repeated myself a few times — and I’m only in the third segment. It seems I was trying to orient myself as I started the new section, but I really don’t need to describe the same camp site twice. So I’ll have to decide where that description has the most impact. This is not entirely a bad thing, since I want to reduce the novella’s total length by at least 10,000 words.

On the other hand, Lorrah’s character was somewhat vague when I started work on the first draft. Now that I know her better, I’m having new thoughts about her situation. These allow me to strengthen and focus her character.

I would say it’s a work in progress, but that would be a cliche. However true it might be!


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I’ve been working away on the second draft of Prisoners of the Wailing Tower, and I think I have the plot more in order. Thanks to those of you who commented on my question last time. I really appreciate it. Lorrah’s act of courage does have more impact. However, I’ll probably work that twist in there somehow, for pacing purposes.

I now have a better arrangement of plot events, especially on Lorrah’s arc. Alemin’s still may need work. While I fiddle with those ideas, I’m also making a list of all the other prisoners in the Larder and giving each one a few quirks. Same with the prison guards. There really needs to be more than one guard with a name.

By the end of the week, I expect to actually be re-arranging my printed plot sections so I can start on the second draft. Because so much extensive work needs to be done, I will not be editing the existing text. Instead, I’ll start a whole new document. More typos may creep in this way, but I find the text has a fresh flow when I do it this way.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on each of the two POV characters separately. This should allow me to focus on making their arcs stronger. In the end, I’ll be able to weave them back together in a single manuscript.

I hope you’re all keeping safe and able to rally some concentration on your writing.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Thank goodness! My new/old computer is back in business. There are just one or two sites that I’m still trying to recover the login info for. That lets me get on with the book map for Prisoners of the Wailing Tower.

And I’ve already discovered an issue! I forgot that I gave the bad gal, Ar-Lizelle, some minor mental powers at the start of the book. In fact, these crop up throughout the plot. But, at the end of the book, her sister Lorrah uses a very similar mental power to knock her out and escape. So I’ll either have to take Ar-Lizelle’s mental powers away, or think of a new way for Lorrah to escape.

Actually, this connects with a plot issue that I’d love to get advice from all you writers. Through much of the novella, Lorrah is afraid of her sister and refuses to go into an area where she might have to confront her. But, by the end, Lorrah voluntarily goes into that area to draw Ar-Lizelle away from something else that’s going on.

Here’s my question: is it better to keep it this way, or should I allow Lorrah to think she’s avoiding the situation and then have Ar-Lizelle figure out where she is and come after her? In the first option, Lorrah makes a courageous decision. In the second, the plot gets a major twist.

What do you guys think? Should I go for the plot twist or the character growth? Not that I promise to follow a majority vote or anything — it’s still my story — but I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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It kind of came as a surprise, but I have pretty much found my way to the end of Prisoners of the Wailing Tower! Lorrah distracted her mean big sister, and managed to show off her magical chops. That allowed Alemin to escape from the Larder with all his fellow prisoners. I just have a couple of wrap-up sections where the characters reflect on what they achieved. And I need a great final scene, of course.

Once that’s blocked out, I’ll get to work on revisions. Most of what I have is good, but some things need to be discovered a lot sooner. I also want to trim length; the other novellas are 30-40 thousand words, and Prisoners is nearly 50 thousand. To get a handle on that, my first step will be to make a book map.

What is that? So glad you asked.

Book maps are a way to analyze the plot and figure out where the weak points are. There are lots of methods. Some people use index cards and move them around until they like the flow. Others use storyboard software.

My method is to make a chart using my word processor, WordPerfect. For each section of the manuscript, I’ll briefly describe the action and note a few details like new characters being introduced. I’ll also color-code them to show which POV the sections are in.

With two points of view, Lorrah and Alemin, it’s important that both of them have a satisfying plot arc. So after mapping the book, I can read their sections separately. Once I have a good arc for both of them, it will be pretty easy to weave them back together and polish the sections that I just slammed out to finish the draft.

Yes, revisions are a pain. But I know what I need to do, and I’m actually excited to get this manuscript in shape. So instead of being mad at it, I can be proud to publish it.

Meanwhile, I hope you’re all having a safe and relaxing Fourth of July.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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What a rush! Queen Titania’s Court, my month-long fantasy book feature, is done for this year. I’m very happy with how it came out. Thanks so much to my fellow authors, who were great fun to work with. Thanks also to those of you who commented, shared, and helped spread the fantasy book love.

What’s Happening: I’m officially on my summer schedule. My district opted to use all of the days in our contract that were held for snow emergencies, so the last day of school was pushed back to June 19th. It was a very weird last third of the school year, but 2020 is turning out to be such a weird year that it’s hardly worth mentioning. I am still going by the school two days a week, to keep up with weeding the garden. The custodians seem genuinely happy to have someone to talk to.

Work in Progress: Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. (Still!) It’s been going slowly, what with a few distractions and all. I also began writing without having made some key plot decisions, and that always bites me in the butt. At the moment I’ve given up on polishing the prose in any way. I’m just slamming out the plot to finish the draft. I expect that to happen before the end of this month.

What’s Next: Revisions on Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. Normally I let a draft settle and go do other things. With this one, I hate it so much that I’ll probably go straight into the second draft. My plan was to publish it this November. However, it has to be up to my standards. If I’m not able to do that, I have a backup plan. That’s something I’ll get into when and if it happens.

Fun and Games: I’m currently playing Animal Crossing (for the cute/ chill/ creative/ vibe) and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Inquisition is a huge, sprawling fantasy RPG. It’s also a big inspiration for my Minstrels of Skaythe series. It’s good to go back to the well every once in a while. In addition to video games, my regular role-playing group is playing D&D Third edition online via Discord. My character is a rogue archer who scoffs at rules. I also have a stack of jigsaw puzzles that I can really concentrate on now that I’m on summer break.

I hope you all are staying safe and well.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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