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I was a listener before I was a writer, now I have a lot to say. I am a small business owner, a mother of two, and a wife to a wonderful man who tends to show up in my characters.

Inundated… with snow

It has been over a month since my book was launched in the UK. I’m still waiting for the paperback to be IN STOCK at Amazon. There are sevaral orders pending and I’m anxious for them to receive the book. The e-books on both Amazon and B&N are available for immediate download. I did receive my first Amazon Five Star Review. Thank you so much. Please keep the reviews coming. Hearing that readers liked the book is heartwarming even in this storm hitting New England as I speak.
Now, you can order a signed copy of The Summer Palace on my website: I have advance copies to fulfill the orders but at some point will receive books from the distributor and I will be able to replenish my inventory.

I’m including another few paragraphs from The Summer Palace to pique the interest of readers who may need a little preview of my work.
Excerpt from Chapter IV
The following morning, Wiley looked into the face of the man he had attacked in a moment of rage. His eyes diverted to the floor, his hand flexed, and his feet swapped position against the wooden planks of the farmhouse kitchen. After they broke their fast, Wiley struggled for the words of apology, but they didn’t come.
“Thanks for the food,” he said. “Come on, Henry, let’s go.”
Henry shrugged and shook his head. Wiley’s inept response resonated with the people gathered about the kitchen. He hesitated for a moment knowing what he should have said and what he wanted to say were polar opposites. He decided it was better to say nothing.

I’m looking forward to attending two book club reviews toward the end of this month. The reactions to my book are coming in and so far they’ve been positive. I’m grateful to all those who have purchased the book and find the time to read it. As I mentioned before, it’s an honor to have someone sit and dedicate those precious hours to my story and hopefully they come away with a positive response. I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas and downloaded my book to read through one more time before the reviews so it’s fresh on my mind (it should be etched on my mind). My point is that Alexa found my book for me in my library and proceeded to read it. I had no idea the Kindle had the capability to do that. The narration wasn’t that bad. There were some places where she gliched but I was impressed.
I plan to get an audio version of The Summer Palace produced and wait to hear from my publisher and will certainly share my experience with that endeavor. Since I listen to most of the books I read I’m anxious to offer my book to those who prefer audio.

My writing groups are fun and I find really creative and talented people who love to write. I am inspired on my journey to improve my writing. My search for beta readers and critique partners hasn’t gone so well, but I’m attending a meeting in Connecticut on January 14 to network with local writers.

I’m still reading as well. I just finished Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. It’s a wonderfully creative time-travel take on the horror of slavery from a first person point of view. I have recently become interested in this subject after watching ‘Finding Your Roots’ and learning the personal history of slavery in this country. It has worked it’s way into some of my creative writing and one of my online friends recommended this book. Currently, I’m enjoying re-reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.

An e-mail blast is scheduled to go out. I hope you enjoy the content and continue to check in. I appreciate comments and look froward to hearing from you.

To be or not to be — Published

My focus has changed since my book was published almost one month ago in the UK. Recently, my book has become available in the US on the e-book and now paperback (listed as out of stock), but still available to order. I placed an order myself and am anxious to see how long it actually takes to get to me. has the nook (e-book) version only.

I am now focused on the readers and potential buyers of my book. My book is currently being read by two local book clubs and two more in the next months. I find this is a good way to get some real feedback. These people are serious about the books they read. I’m honored to have them choose my book and let me sit in on the critique. “You must have thick skin.” “You are so brave to put yourself out there.” Are some of the comments I hear. I want to write a good book. One that will warrant the time and energy spent on reading it. Hence, the title of this post. There are a lot of people that love to write. Only some of whom want to see their words in print. That’s how I started. Simply telling a story. Then, I got the bug to be published. If you’ve been reading my blog you know how headstrong I can be. How I barrel into things and worry about the details later. Not sure if that tack is right for everyone. Where am I going with this? I guess I’m trying to say that if you think your writing is of value, then you should endeavor to share it. I want to hear what people think of my stories, and I don’t want to write something no one wants to read. I’ve mentioned before that I have a hard time getting people to read my first drafts and manuscripts. I suppose no response from agents may be a hint that my writing needs improvement, a change in genre, or a trendy theme. I have been there many times. A novice writer is encouraged to keep trying. I have sent out many queries on several of my stories and except for The Summer Palace they have all been rejected from query letter, to first few chapters, and partial MS request.

Another component is time. How much time do you have to devote to your writing. If you write for your own enjoyment, then it cannot be a full time venture. My success with The Summer Palace came from eight months of total devotion to the story. Four months to write the raw story and four months of review and edit—strict eight hours a day only taking time out to make sure the family was still there. With my first three books I had been distracted by social media, contests, and lack of knowledge of the business. By the time my fourth book was written I had figured it out and did none of those things for months. That’s what I attribute my success to. To be our not to be — published. Before I received word that my MS was accepted and I received a contract, I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes. I had inklings from partial MS requests and professional editorial advice that encouraged me to keep writing. I had to find out what made my ‘good writing’ good and how to bring up the rest to match it. My big professional edit wasn’t about periods and commas and grammar it was about content and characters and prose. When I was finished (is a book ever really finished?) I wasn’t sure if my editor would own up to the fact that it was edited, for after all was said and done the periods and commas do matter.

I ended up doing the artwork for the cover of The Summer Palace and being personally responsible for the final edit. Adding to the eight initial months it took to foment the book I took ten days to go over the final edit. Forward and backward (how I found some glaring errors). I suppose you do have to have some courage to take on such a task. How many times does someone have to tell you… you suck before it sinks in? After all, look at all the great writers. The smile that broaches your face when you close the cover after a good read. I have been there. About chapter 30 of 35 when you realize the story is coming to an end and you want more. You almost want to dwell in the story that you hope won’t end. The remedy? Read more books by the author. That doesn’t always work either. There was something special about that particular book; those particular characters in their particular place. What makes us great at what we do? Passion and the fact we never give up? Experiences of a lifetime that bubble up in a media that you unexpectedly have a handle on?

To be our not to be — published. That is a good question.

End Of the Year

What a year it has been. Plenty of ups and plenty of downs. All in all though, I have accomplished what I had set out to do and you can read all about it in this blog that has documented it all.

What have I learned this past year?

Strive to be your best. Produce your best work and leave nothing to chance or anyone else. As much as possible, be informed and never stop trying. Heading into 2018 I can now say I am a published author. It’s something I never thought I’d be saying until three years ago. I told a story and thought to get it published. I’ve learned to be self-sufficient and proactive. I have to learn… and you will too, to be a spokesperson for the work. Getting readers to pick up your book is what it’s all about. Why is this book so special? Catchy title? Colorful cover? Great description? What’s the buzz word? What’s the log line?

One Word That Describes Your Book.

A word that will become synonymous with your book. A word that can appear—should appear in all your advertising headlines. I write to entertain myself… is that my word? entertaining. I hope readers will be entertained by my novel. I’m asking them to spend many hours reading it. I’m hoping they’ll get lost in the adventure… is that my word? Get Lost? For one thing… that’s two words and another telling people to get lost is not always taken in the way it was meant.

Read my book because it will (fill in the blank) you. (fulfill, engage, challenge, release). Release your inner Katia. How about Escape? rather than Get Lost? sounds better it’s one word… I may have just worked it out.

Read my book and ESCAPE to another time and place. Follow Katia as she finds, loses, endures, and pursues her love through every obstacle imaginable. The people and places along the way that shape her decisions and give her hope. I chose a random paragraph from The Summer Palace to help inspire a decision to read my book.

“I have a plan to take care of the Rostov boy who’s betrothed to Katia, I know his father, General Vasily Rostov, very well, I can get him to have the boy bring her here to the Inn. Pavel can give her the message and we will see where that leads us. The Baron can’t argue if Dimitry Rostov should insist on an outing with his daughter, for she’s betrothed to him, as long as they don’t find out what our actual plans are. Fiona, your son may have been a stable boy, but now he is a soldier. Furthermore, if he is anything like his mother he will persevere.”

One thing I’m lacking is hearing opinions from readers. I have trouble getting family members to take a few quiet moments to read my book.

family member

“I’ll read it when it gets printed.”


“It’s printed.”

family member

“When it’s available online.”


“I give up.”

Granted, not everyone is a Literary Historical Fiction reader. What I said before about being proactive… find people that do read the genre. Book Clubs have people that read for the joy of it and enjoy the critique. I have my book in the hands of one local book club and I will attend the critique at their meeting next month. This could be painful. Maybe I should rethink this. Too brutally honest? not honest enough? that’s the risk. Who wants to write a book that’s not worth the read? Maybe if I ran the wagon load of characters off the proverbial cliff I could fix it in the sequel. Maybe I should wait until the newspaper or e-magazine skewers me in print. So far, in my endeavor to market my book, I have joined two writers’ groups one online and the other at the local library and one book club; I can honestly say that I would listen to them. They are all passionate about reading and writing and I certainly don’t feel I’m wasting my time. I find it quite entertaining. There’s that word again. I have read two books for the book club I now belong to. Charlotte by David Foenkinos and News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Both good books which I would not have read. I look forward to the critique of the latter at the end of the month.

I just finished reading Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley the first in a series that I’m looking forward to reading. I really liked this book about six sisters named after the system that contained seven stars which they were all named after—minus one. A story within a story after Mya goes in search of her family (No spoilers here).

My writing groups are keeping my writing skills homed after editing and proofreading The Summer Palace Series books two and three for the past few weeks. I was able to order The Summer Palace online in the UK and received the four books in ten days which was good considering the time of year the only setback was the cost of shipping. The paperback is still not available on but the kindle version can be downloaded for a mere $4.95 and if you’re so inclined to do so and really enjoyed the book, leave a review and watch for events in W. MA in the coming months.

The Low Down

I’m not sure how to tell you to avoid these things, but I walked right into it. Sometimes I think it’s better to be reactive—you may get discouraged otherwise if you think about it too much. My book was released, but only in the UK. The domestic distributor has not done their part. It seems I will have to have a separate launch date for my US readers. My book, The Summer Palace is available in paperback and e-book at the UK website under New Releases or under authors under Nomakeo. The price is $13.95 US dollars and $4.95 respectively. It costs almost as much as the book to ship to the US. I am asked to check and for the availability of my book. To date only the Kindle version is available on I have ordered books through my publisher and the website and hope I receive copies of my book to honor the commitments I have made and keep my sales going in a forward direction. I will have to guard them with my life until it becomes easier to get them. Currently, I’m in possession of five books which is no way to start marketing a new release. Not sure how to avoid such a thing in the future. I was told the launch of my book on November 30, 2017 would include all outlets but that didn’t happen. My fault for being too trusting? However, it’s times like this that test your mettle. My publisher is trying their best to get the domestic distributor going and I have ordered books through the UK for limited local distribution.

I usually barge my way through life and figure it out later. That has been my method. When I was a typesetter and they brought in desktop publishing I didn’t have enough sense to balk. Some did. I dove into it and figured it out as I went along. Same with writing. I tell stories and then I figure out how to make it readable. Same with desktop, if I only knew what I was getting myself into I might not have started, some never do.

I was a listener long before I was a writer perhaps that is where all my stories come from. I have passion for history and passion is key to writing… I’m convinced of that. I didn’t target an audience or plan a strategy, but I can certainly see a point for that. You must respect your audience and mustn’t trip them up with more information than they need or sentences they can’t read. Certain genres require shorter books… fantasy books are usually 80,000+ words. You need to know where your book will fit in a book store. I hadn’t figured that out either. Today, I know my book is a Literary Historical Fiction but I kind of squeezed it in there because it made sense—hindsight.

As I mentioned before The Summer Palace is my fourth book. Book One Woven sits in a box collecting dust all 180,000 words. Book Two The Tea Room has recently had another rejection and it too sits at 77,000 words until I can find a Critique Partner or beta readers. Book Three Places a Science Fiction historical fantasy at 67,000 words has been out on query for about one month and one half with only the sound of crickets in my inbox. Needless to say, it was a thrill when The Summer Palace was picked up two weeks after submission along with nine others (After four months of intensive reconstruction). Never heard from the other nine.

For the Spring of 2018 I have a US Launch planned and an Author Fair at a local library. There are many tools for new authors in your local communities and I was happy to realize this. Book Club readers have been so receptive and they read for the joy of it. It’s great to see how a book impacts the lives of others and I hope my book will be well received.

One More Day Until Publication


I recently read a book in which the subject is about a club you never want to belong to. The authors who get a book published on the other hand is a club I have been actively trying to get into for almost three years. On November 30, 2017 I will officially be a member of that club. I feel so joyful today. I recently joined a local writers group and book club two separate groups both with talented and articulate people. I recently read that marketing your book is very important but WORD OF MOUTH is a much stronger vehicle. It has been a most pleasant experience friendly, encouraging people in both groups. People that love to read and those who love to write. My kind of people. I’m also reading books I would never have chosen for myself and broadening my world. Today’s group considered and chose my book The Summer Palace to read for the next book of the month I am honored and crave the feedback. Tommorrow I will deliver twelve books to another book club. It’s wonderful how receptive these avid readers welcomed my book sight unseen and I hope they aren’t disappointed. So far this new phase of the process has been a positive experience.

Thursday, my book will be available to purchase. There are three ways to purchase my book The Summer Palace by S. Forrest Nomakeo,, and Barnes and Noble in Western Mass. and online. Amazon and B&N may state that the book is out of stock because they need to get orders in order to place an order so don’t be discouraged so by ordering from (UK) may be the most direct way if you absouletley mus t have the book right away… and I can understand your reasoning for that. The Summer Palace by S. Forrest Nomakeo because there are other books by the same title but this book is yellow and the only one that bears my name.


It was one month ago today that I sent my third book The Places You Will Be From out to query. Since my initial blog I have received no word from any of them. That is why you must never wait; keep on writing, reading, and dreaming. I’m still looking for a Critique Partner of Tea Room my second book and it sits in the crock pot on low.

Now I have several clubs I’m proud to be part of. Check out the local library website and join a writers or readers book club. That’s what I did.

Did you get the e-mail?

So far I haven’t been able to write while listening to my playlist. I’m trying it now. I’ll see how it goes.

Well, it happened I received my 20 complimentary advance copies from my publisher. A banner day. Seeing the book and holding it in my hand was a great feeling. I shut the musci off can’t seem to concentrate with it on. Anyway, I’m relying on the fact that my book will be available as promised on November 30, 2017. Although, my book isn’t in the system yet. Not sure how this will all work out but I will keep you informed.

I sent out my first e-mail to this list. I hope if you are a registered user you received a notice about the upcoming release of my book The Summer Palace and I’m entering into the marketing phase. I’m trying to line up book club events, and handing my copies out to people that have been encouraging me throughout the process. The event I’ve been planning, the big event, is temporarily scheduled for February 2018. A little later than we expected but to do it right I need a few months to plan. In my networking plans I reconnected with one of the editors of one of my books. The author of The Novel Makers Handbook, Diane O’Connell replied to me right away. I have mentioned her book in this blog  before but I must say again how much the book and its author helped me in my quest to get my book to the level it needed to be to be published. If you are in any stage of completion of your MS I highly recommend this helpful tool. In fact I went on Amazon and gave her a review. Speaking of reviews on Amazon, I have developed a policy for myself. If I can’t rate a book at five stars or even four—I won’t leave a review. A three star review leaves a negative connotation and I made that mistake once and won’t do it again. So, as important as these reviews can be I believe it’s better to leave no review than a mediocre or poor one.

Still, things are not happening fast enough. It’s a true exercise in humility. I sit to write and order my characters across the continent, I decide what they’re wearing, what color their eyes are, and even whom they might fall in love with, yet I’m totally at the mercy of someone else who doesn’t think my book should rise to the top of the pile, answer my e-mails immediately, and produce a timeline. However, I do believe there is a lot of grey area between what I expect and what is professional and courteous.

A Really Big Shoe

Remember my recent post about waiting for the other shoe to drop? If not, you can find it in the archives not so long ago. Shortly after my last blog, I received the proof certificate to sign off on the cover and text of my novel The Summer Palace. I have since been assigned a Marketing Coordinator and the plans for the publication of my book are in motion. I’m still not sure about when I’ll receive the advance copies or exactly where my book will be available for purchase on November 30, 2017, but I will keep you posted. I have compiled an e-list from this blog and you should be receiving a notice when it becomes available to purchase.


Between the date of October 26 – 28 2017 I sent out eight queries on my book The Places You Will Be From the same book that was turned down by another agency. I reported that I heard back from two agencies so far, one was an auto-reply and the other was a rejection. I have heard nothing from the other six since. That was roughly two weeks ago.

When I signed off on the final copy of my book I received a questionnaire from the Marketing Department. Because I had done my homework, I was able to fill it out and send it back the next day. I had mostly everything in place; a professional photo, a media kit downloadable on my website, a synopsis and jacket description, a good basis for an e-mail list from this 2-1/2 year old blog, and a podcast and ten questions from an interview. I also had to come up with a list of booksellers, media, and organizations that could be contacted about my book.

In the long stretch of time between signing a contract and signing off on my book (14 months and counting) I kept writing and looked into what would be expected of an author in this final phase of production. I’m in a much different place than I was six months ago when I thought my book would be published. The delays and waiting were draining (I don’t recommend doing that). This next phase, going out into public and talking about my book will be me out of my box. Looking at the top of this blog, you’ll see I was a listener before I was a writer none of that says media personality. In the last month of filtering through The Summer Palace I have become re-acquainted with the story—word by word. It still thrills me to see how all the words combine to express what was in my mind. I do hope when a reader sits down with my book that the hours they spend with the words will be meaningful and memorable. A book is a real commitment by the reader and an honor for the author.

Speaking of which, I have been immersed in the Drenai Series by David Gemmell. I am currently reading The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend book 6 out of 11. I have enjoyed each and every book so far and I highly recommend them. He’s a one of a kind storyteller.

So, the other shoe has dropped and it’s a really big one. It will take me on an adventure that I will be happy to share with you.

A Lot Has Happened Nothing Has Changed

A lot has happened.

• Expecting a  final PDF of my novel The Summer Palace  to approve

• Waiting to receive the cover and jacket copy to approve

• News about my recent submissions

• My latest endeavors

Nothing has changed.

I still wait to sign-off on my novel and get it into publication. I found more errors in the final PDF copy I was expected to sign-off on two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I found several glaring errors and inconsistencies that I choose to fix. When a publisher takes on a first time author, there should be some understanding of typical errors we make. Like, expecting someone else to painfully go through the MS and miraculously find the errors hidden in-between miles of text. When I received that final PDF copy I decided to do what I should have done during the first edit. I read the book backwards. I’m sure there are more errors, they seem to be eternal, but I found some that would have made me cry if the book was printed that way. Not sure what to do at this late stage I went back to the Word Doc and effected the changes and sent it back to my publisher. Four days later I found out that I had to make the changes to their file which they sent and I made the changes and sent it back the next day. That was a week ago and I still wait. So in that regard nothing has changed.

I was supposed to hear from the Marketing and Promotion departments but haven’t. Today I sent out an appeal to someone who could take up my cause. I did receive a publication date and a promise for advance copies by November 22, 2017 but since I haven’t signed off on the project I’m getting concerned about that date being feasible. A lot has happened but still, nothing has changed.

My back-up plans: The Tea Room was rejected and the query and sample pages that was picked up on The Places You Will Be From was rejected after sending in fifty pages. Nothing has changed there either. Rejection is  tough. It makes you wonder. What was so enticing to the agent about the three sample pages and the query to inspire the agent to ask for a partial MS, and what was so uninspiring about the rest to reject it? Am I getting better writing queries and opening pages, while the rest of the story remains a bore? Something about the storyline and characters that didn’t go in the right direction and was distasteful to the agent? Bad hair day? Not likely.

What was my reaction? I’m actively looking for a Critique Partner for the Tea Room. I still love the story and see merit in its telling. I have joined one writers’ group and I’m planning to drop in on a local chapter of the Fiction Writers Club and see what they’re all about in my quest for a CP.

After my disappointing rejection of Places You Will Be From. I sent out eight queries, after two days of self-pity, and received two auto replies and a rejection in my inbox one day later. That was ten days ago and I can expect to wait another three months (hearing nothing) to expect that—it was a no. Strange to say, but the almost automatic rejection from one agency was almost welcomed so I can move on—a rejection in hand is better than two in the bush (it goes something like that).

A lot has happened, yet nothing has changed. I still haven’t given up.

What I Learned So Far

My word! Has it really been that long? It finally happened. The second round of proofs came in… after six months of waiting. Not sure what the delay was, most likely too many other books in front of mine. Still, I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind. The long delay took the wind out of my sails and I lost confidence in myself in the process. My words were raw in front of my face like prickly bushes that needed pruning–badly. No rascally wizards flew in to make the corrections and gloss the whole thing over. After spending an entire weekend tearing the book apart (putting in commas and taking them out again), I put on the brakes and tossed the entire first pass out the proverbial window. The good news is—I had taken the time to look up the grammar rules that I wasn’t sure of and went line by line scouring each. The bad news was—I had spent seven days and twelve plus hours each day going over it. The moral of the story: Believe in yourself, for after a calmer reflection on the work–I found– it wasn’t that bad. I expected someone else to do the technical part of my writing while I handled the creative. It almost seems… actually is— more of a self-publish than a partnership. My contract promises book in hand after 290 business days. That ends on Nov. 2, 2017. Since I sent in my corrected files today, I’m not sure if the book can be printed in two weeks–give or take. (I received them on Sept. 29, 2017) In March, it took me five days to turn it around. However, I didn’t scrutinize the work the way I should have, I expected someone else would do that. Instead, of utilizing the twenty-one day restriction, this time, I finished it in eleven trying not to risk more delays. So, I’m not sure how the contract can be honored. I’m asking for some concrete dates and plans for the release of my book. This is not how I imagined the publishing of my first book to unfold.

As I waited for the proofs to come in, I worked to do three things; 1) Send The Tea Room to another publisher. 2) Work on the fourth book Vernal House in The Summer Palace Series. 3) Ready my third book PLACES You Will Be From for query. I did all three.

Now, I have free hands. I think I’ll do a little house work, shave the dog, and go shopping. After an eleven day marathon of mulling over the MS and not much else; I need a break. I learned several things: words/phrases essential to a sentence don’t need commas. Introductory clauses need commas, conjunctive adverbs can link two independent clauses together with a semi-colon before and a comma after, parenthetical  phrases can be offset in a sentence by commas, and never begin a sentence with a coordinating adverb (one of the fanboys). Also, double-check your work before sending it out for query or review. Make sure someone who has some understanding of grammar edits your MS first  (it might just have to be you). It’s almost like the mechanism underneath the hood of your car. Everyone knows its there but no one wants to know how it works. There are those that do and they make the big bucks. Take the time to re-learn those basic rules. There are some great resources online– I used some interactive worksheets (starting with the grade 4 level). I plan to work my way up, but for now I might only be as smart as a 4th grader. Then, know the difference between an independent clause and a dependent one. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. A dependent clause can have a subject and a verb, yet it may rely on the previous clause to make complete sense.

In the acknowledgement section of my to-be-published book I mention my father, who was an English Teacher. When I contemplated my MS as it sat before me upon arrival I was embarrassed to have his name associated with a couple hundred pages of comma splices and fragmented sentences. After my hissy fit and bare bones attack on my ignoble script, I feel a little better about my contribution to the literary world. I think I can hold my head up high and be proud of the work I’ve done.

By the way, I did get a hit on the query I sent out recently—a request for fifty sample pages; because, they liked what I wrote in the three page sample (this same MS has been queried out many times before and after a complete take down and overhaul–under the hood check my Q and requested pages were accepted). That’s a good feeling.

More of the Same

More of the same from me. I believe things are about to happen. I received an e-mail from my production coordinator and it seems my book is back in proofreading and I received a final version of my cover design that I signed off on.

I’m about .25% through my fourth and final book of The Summer Palace series and I’m working hard to get it a little more complete before the final edit of the first book begins and I don’t have time for much else. After five months, since I last saw my novel I fear I’ll be apt to change some things, but I have to force myself to leave it alone and trust that it is in perfect condition to print. The first round of proofs was not that bad, but I did find myself wanting to make changes again after five months of not seeing it it’s almost like seeing it for the first time. Still, I don’t know if the same proofreader will be going over my book and if the corrections and AA’s I made will appear in a brand new corrected document or the same doc with additional marks. Will another proofreader agree with the first?

This series is in many states of repair. Book one is being proofed, book two is on hold until the release of book one, book three is a WIP and the hard copy is in a box waiting to be reviewed. Book four, as I mentioned, is in the early stages.

At this point I can tell you how I prefer to write my stories having written a few and trying different methods on each. The first step (my favorite) is writing the rough draft. Basically, sequential scenes unencumbered by details and dialogue. When several ideas start to accumulate in my head I put caps (bare bones – ex: PAUL IS MUSTERED) in the scene and get back to it later. For The Summer Palace I used colored index cards representing the different characters and their scenes. Since then, I’ve created a separate digital file called SCENES and answer the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, HOW, WHY, WANT, and OBSTACLE* questions for each scene. It really  helps the process by making sure each scene is interesting enough to hold the readers attention and it helps with the embellishing stage of writing. I like to keep track of the number of scenes and assign chapters at this point. After reaching about 100 scenes and watching the word count I read through and look for timeline errors and omissions. I am comfortable if the word count is in the 40,000 range because the first run through usually adds about 20,000 words. That’s a comfortable place to be because it still needs all the details and fact checks. My goal is about 75,000 words so I’m usually a little off the mark after the second go around. 15,000 words in a 60,000 something word document is not hard to reach. At this point I print out the doc and read carefully with a red pen in my hand. It’s a good idea at this stage to effect the changes and put it away. I have document boxes where I keep old MS’s and MS’s on hold or WIP.

I’m passionate about history and that’s where I find my inspiration. I don’t seek out historical events and work around them. I put my characters in a time and place and research what is going on around them at the time. There is an awful lot of history to be picked through you’d be surprised what comes up at the point of your particular interest. Certain issues pique my curiosity (ex. the terem, the hussars, 17th C Europe). Often times an event may be covered over and over again and one aspect has been overlooked and that’s where Historical Fiction comes in piecing together the puzzles left by documents lost or destroyed. It has to make sense. Sometimes there is more than one version of a story or someone’s name is unknown and a careful analysis can help to bridge the gaps.

I’m learning as I write and finding places I would never have known about. I have taken on subjects I knew nothing about and broadened my knowledge. Instead of reading about them (and I do read a lot) I write about the things I am most interested in and I hope those who choose to read my books agree.

*Novel-Makers Handbook by Diane O’Connell