Rebeginning a Project

What a fine time to get inspired

There’s nothing like feeling inspired just as the semester is about to get busy. Tomorrow is the first day of the semester, where I have two classes to teach and office hours and all the little things to take care of, and I want to play with the next book. I hope this goes away, at least for a week, so I feel like I’m beginning work instead of devoting myself to my sideline.

What’s the book about?

The name of the book is Maker’s Seeds, and it concerns the Archetypes that show up in Apocalypse and Whose Hearts are Mountains. The Archetypes are, for intents and purposes, humanoid immortals, and they exist to hold humans’ cultural memories. If the Archetype dies through violence to their hearts or heads, their people will die because of the death of cultural memory.

The above books (none of which I have published) focus more on the human (or half-human) point of view. Maker’s Seeds looks at the Archetype point of view, concerning their Maker’s decision to slowly remove the responsibilities of holding humans’ cultural memories from the Archetypes. The result is a race of powerful immortals choosing sides in a schism, fighting in battle to the death — before the Maker has divested most of their cultural memories, thus endangering much of humanity.

The two central figures of the story are Luke Dunstan, an Archetype and Leah Inhofer, a seventeen-year-old human. The opposing viewpoints between the two — old vs young, Archetype vs human — make for drama as they try to prevent the Battle between Archetypes and the potential annihilation of millions of humans.

That being said …

I’m not ready to write it yet. I’m not willing to let loose my creative mind before the semester starts. Maybe I will this weekend, although I have lost my coffeehouse home because of closure (RIP Board Game Cafe). I hope to reconnect with writing soon.

Photo by Luca Nardone on

A Slap

So these last few weeks have been a great growth time for my writing. I have revised two out of my four novels (Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies) to give more of a development of character at the beginning instead of barreling into the plot immediately. I am working on a third, Apocalypse for the same, and the fourth, Gaia’s Hands, is going to require a lot of work, especially now that I know it’s a romance novel. 

And I would never have known to do this without rejections from agents sending me to developmental editors and beta readers and books about writing. I haven’t been revising just to pay my dues; I really feel like I have a better product because of it. 

My mother once told me it took two people to paint a picture: the artist and the person who slaps the artist when they’re done. At this point, I feel like I need a slap. I need someone to read something and tell me if I’m done. 

And then, in my next set of queries, what if I don’t get accepted by an agent? What’s next? I have really no idea to be honest. I suspect it will feel like a slap in the face.

Monday Morning

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Monday morning, which seems a lot like every other day in this pandemic — I have two cats at my workstation (the corner of the loveseat in the living room), and I’m drinking coffee.

Today is work (the ordinary type where I have to grade final exams for classes) and work (the writing type where I look at what I’ve written and what it needs). I’ve done fixes on Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies, and it’s time to apply it to Apocalypse.

You see, now I know what my problem is. I started right into the action and didn’t give the story its moments to develop characters and scene.  I hope I’m doing it right this time.

Progress (I think)

I think I’m through the edit of Prodigies — it’s going to my in-house reader now. The edit was about two things — emotions and plotting. I hope I have those in a better place.

I guess Prodigies will go out on my next querying round, and I’m hoping the beginning now brings agents in. They should get to know the main character now. 

Now, I’m afraid, it’s time to go back to Gaia’s Hands. I would rather prune very prickly roses than go back to Gaia’s Hands, to be truthful. That book needs so much help, being the first one I wrote. It needs replotting and characterization and dilemmas and … I still don’t know if I want to start it from scratch.

I do worry because I haven’t had an idea for a new book for a while (but Whose Hearts are Mountains wasn’t that long ago, either). On the other hands, I want the existing works to be sharp, sparkly, and compelling. I hope I get closer to that.

An excerpt from Whose Hearts are Mountains (Literary work)

I decided to sleep for the night in a rest stop just outside of Adair, in the former state of Iowa; a place where a giant white monolith stood outside the entrance to an old rest stop. I could see very little; my headlights didn’t cut through the deep night enough.  

I should have known someone else would find the rest stop as a shelter. I spied two such individuals at the Adair rest stop, revealed by the flicker of my headlights — a dark man with long greying hair and a wizard’s beard, and a paler man with hair tucked back in a rasta cap. The two sat on the ground in front of the door. Behind them, I noted the expansive blond brick building with its glass panels in the front, and a dull glow in a back room. I didn’t doubt that the windows would be revealed to be damaged and dusty in the morning.

I considered that, in the post-wars era, the men sitting by the entrance were not truly homeless. They landed on their feet, founded a camp, and called it home.

I pulled up to where they sat and rolled down the window. “May I stay here for the night? I can sleep in my truck.”

“Sure, ma’am. Martha should be back shortly, so you don’t feel scared with just us two men.” I didn’t expect such a considerate offer on the road.

“No, that’s okay, I’ll pull my truck over here — “

“You ain’t sleeping in that truck, are you?” The unkempt white man, who wore socks as gloves on his hands, shook his fist at me. He spoke in an oddly flat voice, and he struggled with eye contact.

“Well, actually, yes, I was going to.” I could recline the seat back and stretch out a little — 

“No, we got a nice warm building. You’re staying,” the black man decided. “Martha will be back soon to be your chaperone. Would be nice if you gave us something to help with supper. ”

I didn’t trust him. I couldn’t. Was this another trap? I searched my mind for something to forestall my spending the night with them. Would they rob me? Assault me? “I have nothing to trade — “

The black man chuckled. “You got stories. Might as well get to know you better,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m George.”

“And I’m Pagan,” the other man said, not offering his hand.

I looked them over in the headlights’ glow. They looked harmless. Famous last words, I realized. On the other hand, I would probably have a good chance against them with my gold-filled backpack, which probably weighed 20 or 30 pounds.  And I was very hungry.

A Moment of Gratitude (Personal Development)

This is a picture of my husband.

Something happened to me yesterday that I couldn’t imagine ever happening — a couple of friends offered to beta-read my latest novel!

This is big, for reasons most writers will recognize. Our  own families generally don’t read our books, much less our friends.  The fact that my friends are actually beta-reading my works amazes me,

I don’t worry about these friends being unable to critique fairly, because they know I need this to grow in my writing. And one’s a Creative Writing grad, one a professor, another a grad in (I believe) psychology. A good mix. 

So pardon me if my feet don’t touch the ground today!

Ode to Developmental Edits (Writing Tools)

I just finished making corrections from the developmental edit of Whose Hearts are Mountains, so I’ve been thinking of all the reasons I’m glad someone told me to find a developmental editor:

Because “good enough” is not good enough
If you think about it, a developmental edit is a brutal thing to put your book and your psyche to. You pay good money (averaging about $800-1200 from my research) to have someone tear apart the novel you’ve spent months or years bringing into existence. You have to read over all those comments and it’s frustrating.

Still, I do it and I swear by it. Why? Because my “good enough” isn’t good enough for publishing. Few people’s are, even after second or third draft. Writers need a pair of fresh eyes; furthermore, we need someone with literary skills to examine our word choice, to make sure our meaning comes out in our words.

Why can’t I just proofread extra good?
First of all, if you didn’t notice the grammatical error in the previous sentence, you probably need skilled help. More importantly, proofreading is not the same as developmental editing. Proofreading picks up grammatical and punctuation errors,and the person who does this is a proofreader or line editor. Developmental editing gets into the conveyance of your ideas itself — whether a sentence or paragraph is clear, whether your passage’s moods make sense, whether your characters are portrayed realistically and readably.

Why can’t I just use beta readers?
Beta readers are very good at letting you know what the average reader will think or do. Some beta readers — the ones with some creative writing skills — might pick up on some unclear sentences or sentences that don’t sparkle.  But they’re reading for enjoyment, not for discernment, and usually not in a higher literary sense.

How to find a developmental editor

  • Ask around. If you have writing friends, they have likely dealt with developmental editors, and have had good and bad experiences. If your sample of writing friends is small, ask on Twitter, a writing forum, or NaNoWriMo. Ask for their feedback in direct message, because they’re more likely to be honest that way. Don’t be surprised if a couple developmental editors find you that way.
  • Comparison shop. Ask the developmental editors questions. Rates, of course, are important. Turnaround time is important.
  • Understand their style — you can have them read and respond to a short excerpt of your writing. A developmental editor should push you but be constructive in their criticism.
  • A very important point — make sure you sign a contract before proceeding. Read it well before signing so you understand what your rights are. 
A developmental editor is someone you should consider having on your team. If you can’t afford one, at least find a beta reader who has a lot of literary skills. The idea is to create the most compelling version of your hard work.

If any readers use developmental editors, share your stories with me via email:

A Glimpse at my Novels (Literary Works)

Are you curious about what I’ve written?

I casually mention in this blog that I’ve written five novels and am working on getting an agent and getting published. I very seldom talk about what I’ve written. So here’s a list of my novels with synopses.

I will cover the ones that exist in the same universe first, in chronological order.

Gaia’s Hands
The odd couple of Jeanne Beaumont, biologist, and Josh Young, writer, follow a threat to Jeanne’s livelihood and a path of their own awakening talents. After calling forth a miracle at the collective Barn Swallows’ Dance, they must fight the conspirators who would destroy it — and possibly their lives. 


Laurel Smith, a woman without a past, works as a laborer at the ecocollective Barn Swallows’ Dance, unaware of her part in a 6000-year-old myth. Adam Lee is an immortal Archetype who holds the patterns which allow Han Chinese men to survive. He’s been sent on a mission to help Laurel find her legacy and bring her memories back.

An army assembles to kill Laurel to collect on a millennia-long vendetta. Laurel’s memory loss isn’t an accident, though, and three dangerous Archetypes more ancient than even Adam are determined to keep her in the dark. If Adam and Laurel can’t collect enough allies to stop the approaching army, they will build an army to wipe out all women on Earth, and with them, all future generations of humans.

Grace Silverstein, an eighteen-year-old viola prodigy, flies to Poland to participate in an international assembly of prodigies. However, her hosts have hidden their plans to coerce the prodigies under a flimsy mask of hospitality. Grace’s new friend and fellow prodigy Ichirou can influence people’s emotions with his computer graphics, and they figure out that his talent is what their hosts want to capture. Grace smuggles him out of the country with the help of his chaperone and her mysterious accomplice, but their escape has not gone unnoticed.

Back in the US and under pursuit, Grace discovers her own talent of manipulating emotions through her beloved music. The chase continues as both foreign agents and Homeland Security close in on Grace and her compatriots, who uncover a terrorist plot by the prodigy organization. Grace can keep herself and her friends safe if she never reveals her gift but exposing her talent could save many more lives. Making the right decision while avoiding capture may be the hardest thing Grace has ever done—and could have long-lasting effects on the entire world.

Whose Hearts are Mountains
In Whose Hearts are Mountains, Annie Smith escapes the smoking ruins of her university and heals in a remote Canadian town, where she hears stories about a fair folk who help humans and then disappear. These tales resonate with the stories her mother told her as a child, and she seizes the opportunity to research the spread of these tales – until she comes home to find that the United States has crumbled under sectarian turmoil.

Annie chases the stories through a drastically changed landscape, and begins to experience unsettling dreams and strange phenomena. The stories lead to an oasis in the middle of the desert and a people who present mysteries. Pieces click together, and Annie finds out that her identity is tied in with the tales and with a frightening act of terrorism that only they can stop.

This next one is not in the same universe as the others:
Ian Akimoto, Traveller, jumps through time from the environmental catastrophe called the Chaos to 2015 Kansas City to help Kat Pleskovich, time-jumping daredevil, solve the mystery of who wants to kill her mentor.  Soon their own lives are in danger as they piece together clues involving everything from time physics and falsified records to multiple Kats and gruesome deaths in Kat’s daredevil game Voyageurs. 
Their search reveals that a rogue time traveller broke the timeline at crucial points with a goal of winning Voyageurs with the greatest stunt of all – destroying humanity. Kat and Ian must decide whether to risk their lives toward setting the future right. 

Enjoy and give me feedback!
If you have suggestions for synopses or just want to comment on the storylines, please let me know! My email is

A Case of Writers’ Block

I’m back home, sitting at the Board Game Cafe, trying to figure out what I want to write.

Anything I start will be interrupted in two days when I get my dev edit for Whose Hearts are Mountains back, so I can work on fixing it. On the other hand, I feel weird not writing. Not writing poetry, not writing short stories, not writing novels, not editing. 

I’m afraid that if I take a break, I won’t go back. But I have taken a break over finals week and beyond to Christmas. And inspiration has taken a vacation as well.

If I felt like starting a novel, I could turn the jam-packed short story Hands into a novel, if I could get some insight as to what Warsaw, Poland was like fifteen years ago. Boy, did I paint myself into a corner there. 

My blog counts as writing, though, as I intended it to. Warmups to something bigger for the day. Let’s see what that will be.

On My Way Back Home

I’m spending my last couple hours at Starved Rock sitting in front of the fireplace in the Great Hall, soaking up the atmosphere. It has been a good vacation despite my frustrations borne of childhood issues temporarily clouding my perception. 

I need to get back to writing. This will be easily cured by a big project in the form of my developmental edit of Whose Hearts are Mountains. The frustration, though, is that I don’t have any ideas on the back burner, neither short story nor novel. I don’t like feeling so tenuous about my attachment to writing. 

I need to have a resolution that I will write two hours a day once more. It’s been a while since I’ve spent that much time — no, I take that back; I was writing/editing four hours a day cleaning up Whose Hearts are Mountains in November.

Does anyone have any story ideas I can play around with?