Category Archives: About the Books

Under Construction






There will be some changes coming to this website later. Ultimately I will be migrating this site to merge in with what will become my main/primary website. More on that later. I won’t bother giving you the new link now because you’ll just click on it, and it won’t work. No one, especially me, likes a tech glitch. So the link will come once I have the new site set up and construction complete. Don’t hold your breath on this. It’s going to take a few weeks.

My first task is to survive the rest of this week at work and next week, then run flying out the door like I’m on fire to kick start vacation. To be honest I’m already moving at a steady pace, at least mentally, into vacation mode.  Next Thursday I’ll fly back to Boston (where the truck and all my crap is), swap out travel gear to get the backpack then head back to Logan Airport on Saturday to put my rumpus on a plane to Germany.

In book news I have been doing something that feels very weird, cool, but weird. I have been interviewing publicists. It’s weird because I’ve never interviewed anyone before. I mean, I get it, I have to do this if I want to find the right fit with the publicist I’ll use for Forgotten Echoes, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s WEIRD. I’m always the one getting interviewed, not the other way around. I never really interviewed my dog sitters. They came highly recommended to me so they were basically already hired by the time I met them. So, yeah, me interviewing someone else is seriously wonky. I’m managing though. I have done three calls thus far and the fourth is next week, the afternoon before vacation officially starts.

I have a whole lotta nothing planned for my vacation. I’m visiting with friends once I arrive, then I head to Munich, then to Garmisch, back to Munich, then to London. Seventeen day trip with only lodging, flights, and rail pass booked. Stuff to see and do, I’ll wing it. I plan to do a lot of walking around, getting lost, hilariously misusing what little I have of the German language, writing, reading, and just generally chilling out. I will not be doing any kind of frantic anything. I’m not on a mission to see and do as much as I can cram in during that time. I come back to the states with almost a whole week remaining of vacation where I’ll be in parts of Maine, not sure which parts yet, but parts. I will be traveling according to the groove, the Force, the wind, the whatever, and it’s going to be amazing!

I’ll post again on the flip side at which point I can tell you what all I did on my travels and what happened with the publicist interviews. By that time I may also have more information on the publishing adventure and new website. Stay tuned.

Women Only Press






In May’s post, I wrote:

“In book news, next week I’ll finish up the Forgotten Echoes manuscript tweaks to ready it for going out to publishers. Since I haven’t published via that route before, I don’t have a bleeding clue what I’m doing which means it’s guaranteed to be interesting!”

Then in June, I wrote:

“I have been sniffing around various publishers to see if I really want to go that route for Forgotten Echoes. I submitted it to my top pick last week, so now it’s sitting tight and waiting. I could do multiple submissions, but I have enough going on without having to figure out who I submitted to and when and such.”

As time does, it has ripped right by and it’s now coming into late July. Holy crap. How did that happen?

On July 9th I was wrapping up the work day, had finished teaching an IT class to other analysts, had packed up the laptop, and was waiting on a friend to finish packing up for us to go out for dinner. I saw the email from the publisher on my phone and even did one of those “What is this?” things (I can be bright like that sometimes). I opened the email and started reading.

“Dear Cheryl,

Thank you so much for your interest in publishing with SWP. I’m attaching your assessment for Forgotten Echoes here.

I’m excited to be writing to let you know that you have qualified as a Track 1 submission. As far as we’re concerned, your manuscript is ready to go. This only happens in about 7-8% of submissions, so congratulations and THANK YOU! …”

That is as far as I got. Breathing became a bit difficult while smiling and starting to cry. I tried to re-read the email (which was now looking blurry) and still only made it to the same place in the note. I handed the phone to my friend (who was now quite concerned by the wild range of emotions all over my face) while I found a chair. She read the email out loud to me, because, well, I needed to breathe.

She Writes Press is a business that is run by women and only signs female authors. They were my first pick for several reasons, and some are contained within this post called Why We Need Women-Only Spaces by Brooke Warner, the SWP publisher and person who contacted me directly. Whether you are male or female, I recommend reading it.

This is my favorite part and it is 100% true:

” … Women, by and large, feminists included, are not angry at men. We’re angry at internalized gender bias that holds us back and keeps us in second-tier situations. We’re angry at a culture that’s so disdaining of women’s empowerment that it undermines women’s efforts and advances. We’re angry at specific men who spew hateful comments about women’s appearances and menstrual cycles, as if these are the things that define us … ”

Everything I heard about SWP encouraged me, and I WANTED to be part of their community. I cannot tell you how honored I was and still am to have gotten that email. I have since been in touch with Brooke, and we’re discussing the publishing contract. I have lots of questions for her mostly because I’m quite numb when it comes to the terminology. This IS my first rodeo after all, right?

SWP has a sister company called SparkPress. SWP handles memoir and literary fiction primarily. SP handles more genre fiction. Scifi falls squarely in the SP realm. SparkPress has the same staff and business model, except SP does publish male authors too. SP’s business core is the same as SWP because it’s the same people, and that core is what drew me to SWP, so I’m perfectly fine going to SP for genre fiction publishing.

So, there will be more to come on this as the details get worked out. Check out SWP and you can link to SP from there too from tabs at the top. Good stuff.


Image from

Time Blur

Since my last post:

The house went on the market on a Tues, showings started on Friday, same day I finished packing up and left for Boston for the weekend.

I taught my niece how to put up a tent, in the living room, much to her parents’ dismay. 😀 It was a little rainy out. Tents indoors are wicked fun!

The house went under contract on Sunday while I was flying to Baltimore. Set up residence in the hotel in MD, worked, then spent the first weekend in Charlotte for a work retreat. Went white water rafting while there (only fell in twice).  That was a freakin riot!

Returned back to MD for work and found out the entire septic system on the house was older than me and, shocker, needed to be replaced. Yay! Money pits! So while I wait for the estimate on what that will cost, I’m hanging out in MD. My work week is wrapped up, so it’s time to relax and do some writing … FINALLY!

I haven’t been able to really sit down and write for any length of time on the weekends due to trying to get my carcass out of the house and prep it for the market. This writing desert makes me cranky. So to fix the crabbiness issue, I’ll be at the keyboard this weekend working on the Forgotten Echoes sequel while the first book is with my last test reader. Coming down to the end of the tweaky edits for that book which puts it even closer to release. More on that later since I won’t be rushing it off to self-pub on Amazon like I have done before. Changing tactics on this one. 😉

Writing Process Part 3

OK, bit of a long spell between posts, but that’s what happens when you’re packing up a house to bail and throw it on the market and go pitch a tent wherever you land for the night. And everything in that sentence is literal. I’m going to have a nomadic summer, and it’s going to be amazing.

Back to the writing process.

After I fill out that page with a little blurb for each chapter, I grab a stack of 3×5 note cards. Each card correlates to a chapter, for the most part, but each card absolutely correlates to a SCENE. So if I’m going for 60 chapters, I could end up with a 62-64 cards for those times where there are two scenes in one chapter.

For anything and everything you need to know about scenes, head over to The Story Grid website by Shawn Coyne. In short, each scene breaks down into 5 beats. These beats are things that happen in the global story but also happen in each scene on a more micro level. Each 3×5 card ends up with I – V roman numerals to represent the beats. And I fill out as much of the cards as I can in pencil.

Sometimes things shift around a little or I change course some on the story, but the cards help keep me organized. I don’t type out anything until I have a really good feel for dialogue, actions, etc for each card.

This image below is both one of the most exciting things to see and the most intimidating. Steven Pressfield says” “You’re playing with dynamite when you type Chapter One.” He ain’t kidding.





Once I have those note cards and start typing, I can bang out that chapter in no time. For Forgotten Echoes, once I had those index cards done and the story in my head, I could easily write 6 to 8 chapters over the course of a Saturday and Sunday.

So, the story is written, and I fill out my Excel cheat sheet to track scene shifts and story events. I have shifted to cover some of these things on my index cards, but I still do my Excel file version too. I can Ctrl+F in Excel to quickly find something on that spreadsheet vs flipping through 60 cards to find what I’m looking for. The Excel file is a pain but a time saver in the end. Once my Story Grid Excel spreadsheet is filled out (again, see SC’s website for a sample from Silence of the Lambs… brilliant stuff!), now I plot a map.

Each scene is ranked for the hero’s internal and external progress. It’s my own ranking system to judge how things are getting more positive vs more negative. Is she doing well getting what she wants or needs or is she in the crapper? I tend to sketch out the really high and low parts first (in pencil), then fill in the rest. Once I have my scribbles, I go back in with a colored marker to better show which story line is going where.





This map is something I did not do for any of the Burnt Mountain books, mostly because I was still learning about the Story Gridding stuff at that point and hadn’t learned enough yet to get into graphing the story.

So, the red line is the hero’s external story – what she wants. The blue line is her internal story – what she needs. This was covered at a high level on the foolscap Global Story Grid back on Part 1. It all comes back around to that.

The good news is that the lines go all over the place. They cross a few times, peak when things are going well for the hero and crash when the hero’s world comes crashing down (the second plot point that kicks off the start of the climax around the 75% mark). Near the end you can see that the hero makes another spike in getting what she needs while losing what she wants (blue line goes up, red line goes down). The lines cross again, and at the very end she’s ultimately a bit higher/above the baseline for both internal and external than when she started.

If the lines were all gently sloping here and there, that would be a bit of a boring read. Below is the cover of Coyne’s book. The lines are his grid of Silence of the Lambs. There are some serious zig-zagging and significant separations in the lines where Clarice Starling’s internal and external story lines go haywire.








So that covers the super quick, super high level process of what I’ve been doing with the new trilogy. Yep, Forgotten Echoes will end up being a three-fer. More to come on that as things develop. Currently it is with my last test reader, and I’m seriously looking forward to getting back into my writing groove once I am moved out of the house which is imminent. Yay!

Writing Process Part 2

If you need to refer back to any abbreviations or other info from Part 1, you can find that here.

So I have my high level Global Story Grid filled out. Next up is taking a blank sheet of paper and starting some more scribbles. I ballpark it out with numbers 1 through 60 to put in a guesstimate for 60 chapters. I then start marking percentage points of where certain things should fall. This isn’t in stone (Obviously! It’s paper in pencil!) so I have wiggle room. If the first plot point hits a little earlier or later than the 25% mark, it’s not the end of the world. These are just rough mile markers so I don’t get lost in case my brain hits a fever pitch of thoughts for plot events.








This is quite an intimidating piece of paper. I mean, the sucker is BLANK. So I start jotting things down where I THINK they will fall until I get some little blurb on each line. This is another one of those things that gets dragged around with me for weeks as I jot things down. Some parts are easier than others to fill out. Sometimes I know what will trigger the lull or second plot point to then set off the climax around 75%. Sometimes I know the ending and/or the beginning, and I have to sort out the middle parts. But ultimately, no writing on the laptop is taking place yet. This was a direct recommendation from AH that I reluctantly followed initially then later saw the huge benefits of it.

So if you’re using Joel’s 12 sentences model, this is the same thing except Joel’s has far fewer lines. I just draft things out with 60 sentence fragments.

A new thing I did on the most recent story was an attempt to organize some seriously scattered thoughts that I couldn’t track on my paper because I couldn’t “see” who was where. I had my characters split up and needed to keep track of who was where and doing what until I brought them all back together again. To remedy this I bought a pack of sticky notes and borrowed my brother’s dining room wall while I was visiting him. I had a field day of scribblies and sticking and moving things around.





Each row is for a particular character and represents what is actively going on or perhaps happening behind the scenes while other crap is happening face up in the story. Thankfully the painting on the wall didn’t mind me working around it, and even better, I didn’t knock it off the wall.

As I moved these stickies around I got a much better idea of what needed to happen and where in the story. So I did more scribbles (and erasures) on the paper with the chapter numbers to finish filling that out. The giant chunks of blank space become less intimidating as each line is filled in. I’ll sit on this for a few days, letting it marinate in the brain pan in case something changes with a new idea or whatever.








I know the images are blurred, and that is on purpose since this is for a book not yet written that is the follow up to Forgotten Echoes. No spoilers!

Part 3 to come.