My April & May Webinars

Categories: News |

I’m doing two webinars in next three weeks. They’re one hour long, and free to Write on the River members. BUT membership is only $35/year for this worthy writing organization, so even if you only participate in these two classes, it ends up costing you only $17.50 apiece. And there will likely be more webinar events from WOTR thru the spring, which will end up being free to you as a WOTR member. Hope to see you on-line for some fun classes!

Let’s meet on Zoom!

Saturday, April 18, 10:00-11:15 AM – Developing a Powerful Plot 

I’ll provide insights into plot and character starting with suggested questions to ask of an initial novel concept, questions that can lead us to a more nuanced, layered story. We’ll consider how the major character can help deepen the plot and how a convincing story arc can shine a light on what happens next.

Saturday, May 2, 10:00-11:15 AM – Pacing in the Novel Read More…

Keeping Track of Series

The novel being constructed.

Here I go again, getting all organized about things. Writing things, that is. But even for you organizational skeptics, you must admit that to write a series, you gotta keep track of stuff.

During the writing of my first series, The Entire and The Rose, I found that no matter how blindingly clear story elements were as I wrote, I got fuzzy on, or outright forgot many of them while writing subsequent books. With my next series, The Dark Talents novels, I was forewarned. I employed some tracking tools that I had used on stand-alone novels, but which proved to be even more critical with a series.

When I recommend these tools to my writing students, sometimes they give me pitying looks, as if to say, Really? If we did this stuff, we’d never get any work done!

But I maintain you’ll save a ton of time if you keep track of your series with a few handy documents. For instance, you won’t go chasing through your document trying to find a term or place name, a character’s name, and expressions. Read More…

15 Joyful Things

Categories: Musings |

Anyone else been waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning lately?

There’s a lot to worry about with so many people going through heavy cares or acute stress over health, family, and employment. Even if I’m not experiencing these things outright, it’s hard to watch this happening to so many others.

But it’s important that we keep our spirits up. Not only for our own sakes but so that we can be supportive emotionally and materially to others; that is, present, balanced, and compassionate instead of blameful, pessimistic, and fearful.

And it’s important to us as writers, if circumstances allow, to keep going, even though it might seem all we’re doing is telling stories. It’s what we do, and it’s not irrelevant.

Here’s one way I’m staying present and optimistic. I’m thinking of things that are still good, still working, still bringing me (or should be bringing me) joy. Read More…

Nest of the Monarch in paper

Categories: News |

In trade paper January 14. Also in eBook & hardcover.

A top ten fantasy read of 2019. —Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

“Riveting.” — Publishers Weekly

Trade paper edition arrives on Tuesday January 14.

Berlin, 1936. Winter and fascism descend on Europe. Kim Tavistock has put her life at risk before . . . this time it’s her very soul.

A few questions come to mind: Why does Kim’s Berlin station handler say “Everyone has their limits”?

Can a British spy trust the British Intelligence Service? Can she even trust herself?

Is the man she’s living with going to help her or kill her?

What’s it like to be both less than human and more than human at the same time?

Who’s the last person Kim could ever expect to meet on Christmas eve among monsters?

Find Nest of the Monarch at these fine retailers:


Barnes & Noble



The wandering novel

A novel is complex, if only because it’s so long. It can so easily wander off course, fall into episodic events and feel scattered.

To maintain unity in a story, create or discover the novel’s dramatic purpose, whether it’s the human value at stake or the theme related to a human value. To write at our best, the challenge is to know in the simplest terms, what larger issue the story is about.

This dramatic purpose can shape our decisions about what events to portray and which to leave out. Making it more likely that readers will experience a cohesive, fulfilling story.

Getting to Meaning

Examples of human values explored in novels: The Kite Runner: atonement; The Titanic (film): to be loved for oneself; The End of the World Running Club: spiritual renewal; A Discovery of Witches: self-knowledge. These are universal human issues. In these best-selling stories, fictional events and characters are chosen to dramatize these human issues. Read More…