Otherworldly delights for this round.


OD MAGIC, Patricia McKillip.

I love this book so much I read it every year. Od is a wizard who needs a gardener for her school of magicians. But that’s only the start. The story takes place in a kingdom where unauthorized displays of magic are forbidden. So when a theatrical troupe that employs dazzling tricks stops in the city, it draws all sorts of unwanted attention. There are many characters whose fates are interwoven, so it requires a bit of patience with all the points of view, but the tale is wonderfully told and just might leave you wishing for a little magic of your own.

ORLANDO, Virginia Woolf.

A gender-bender, feminist classic that follows the adventures of a poet who changes from a man to a woman and lives for centuries, meeting the key figures of English literary history. Written for Woolf’s companion, Vita Sackville-West, it’s highly personal and a bit bizarre, but Woolf uses the story to criticize sexual and social expectations with wit and dark humor. Not for everyone, as it verges on stream-of-consciousness.

OUTLANDER, Diana Gabaldon.

I’m usually not much for time travel stories, but the romantic in me was charmed by the tale of Claire Randall, who walks through a standing stone in an ancient circle in 1945 Britain and finds herself in 1743 Scotland. She meets Jamie Fraser, a warrior, and eventually falls in love. Very strong writing that really delves into the main characters, avoiding the caricatures you might associate with romances. Very long, but so engrossing that the pages seems to fly by. Even if you’ve seen the TV series–Sam Heughan is definitely swoon-worthy–reading the book will provide a rich background.


OF SEA AND STONE (Secrets of Itlantis #1), Kate Avery Elison.

Aemi, a slave in the Village of the Rocks, thinks the stories she’s heard about the People of the Sea, who live underwater and possess unimaginable technology, are just that–stories. Then she’s captured, and enslaved below the waves in Itlantis, a world filled with ancient cities of glass and metal, floating gardens, and wondrous devices that seem to work magic. How will she escape? The first in a five-book series.

Any you’d recommend?

Thanks for reading.



As I work with editors, I’m learning a few strategies to guide revisions. Here’s a brief rundown:


This doesn’t mean getting microscopic. I have to justify whatever I include, consider its relevance. It helps to ask two questions: Why here? Why now? (Actually, these are terrific questions to ask about every part of a story.)


Action is followed by reaction, not the reverse.

An example from my book, JEWEL OF THE GODS:

Old version: Nyada cried out at the blood oozing from the Elder’s forehead. “Gods help us, she’s dead!”

New version: Nyada smoothed back the strands of hair hanging over Sister Saule’s forehead. Her fingers came away smeared with blood. “Gods help us,” she cried. “She’s dead!”

  1.  PACING

I have a tendency to write lean, which can make for a rushed telling. I’m learning to slow down and look deeply into my story. Every scene has a purpose and needs to be developed fully. Sandra Scofield’s THE SCENE BOOK (link below) is the best book I’ve found for ensuring your scenes contain the necessary elements.


I was familiar with this concept, but composing a GMC chart for every character gave me clarity and insight that really helped me stay on point. With a GMC printout to guide me, I’m less likely to have a character speak or act in ways that don’t ring true—no more “out of character” moments. One editor recommended Debra Dixon’s excellent book, GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT (link below), and I can’t thank her enough.

There you have it. Four easy steps to help with revisions. I hope you find them useful.


Links to books mentioned:

Sandra Scofield, THE SCENE BOOK, A Primer for the Fiction Writer

Debra Dixon, GMC: GOAL, MOTIVATION and CONFLICT: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction

Thanks for reading!




An alternative Victorian era “memoir” of Isabella, Lady Trent, a renowned dragon naturalist. This book, the first of five, covers her early life and  struggles to be taken seriously in her pursuits. Not a lot of dragon action, if that’s what you’re into, but Brennan delivers with a lively, witty account of one woman’s passions and adventures. Includes fabulous drawings by Todd Lockwood.


I’m not usually a fan of talking animals, but Wagner hooked me with this tale of intelligent rats whose once peaceful underground colony has been overtaken by a ruthless dictator. The story centers on Vincent and Victor Nightshade, two brothers who join a rebel army. Well-conceived characters (I especially like the inclusion of strong females), atmospheric, and action-packed. An engrossing read, on a par with REDWALL and WATERSHIP DOWN. First of a trilogy.


THE NAME OF THE WIND Patrick Rothfuss.

A high fantasy “memoir” about Kvothe , a notorious wizard. Over the course of three days, he tells the story of his life to a Chronicler. The Name of the Wind encompasses the first day of his recitation; there are several follow-up books.


NEVERWHERE, Neil Gaiman.

After he stops to help a girl bleeding on a London sidewalk, Richard Mayhew discovers an underground world of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. According to the blurb, it promises to be both “eerily familiar and utterly bizarre.” One of NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of All Time.

Any others you’d recommend?

Thanks for reading.