Call for Beta Readers

The title says it all. Book 1 of the new speculative mystery series is done and looking for a couple of beta readers!

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a beta reader is a generous soul who volunteers to read a pre-publication draft of a novel and provide feedback. (Alpha readers see the manuscript at an early, still-in-development stage; beta readers see a close-to-publication draft.)

If Your Problem is Murder is a speculative mystery set in 1985, the first in an intended series. (Yup, this is the book formerly known as Dogwood, the one I was determined to find a one-word title for. As you can see, it…didn’t work. Maybe I’m just fated to have long titles?) The book is 77K words, about 275 pages. Here’s a brief pitch: In this small town mystery series, Redmond Marrs, a life coach with a big secret, tackles the personal problems of residents—all the way up to murder.

Let’s do a quick Q&A:

Does a beta reader need any previous experience?

No, just a love of reading!

What kind of feedback will be expected?

I like to keep it simple. The main question I have for you is this: Is the story working? If not, which parts?

The important thing to remember is that you can’t hurt my feelings. I’m eager to make the book be the best it can be. You would be helping me do that! The manuscript has not been copyedited yet, so at the very least you should expect to encounter typos and the odd goof (timeline or factual) here and there.

What do I get in return?

A signed copy of the book upon publication and my eternal gratitude.

What’s the timeline?

I can email you the manuscript immediately. I would need to receive your feedback by June 9.

What’s the next step?

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, great! If you’re reading this in my newsletter, go ahead and respond to the email and let me know your preferred format. The options are .docx, PDF, epub, mobi. I can also do Google docs. I’ll reply with further details and the manuscript.

If you’re seeing this on Goodreads or elsewhere, sign up for my newsletter here to follow along with the latest writing and book news. As I always, I can also be contacted via the form on my website.


Welcome, 2023

Happy New Year! For me, January 1 always brings with it the feel of a crisp new notebook. Pages yet to be written. Moments to be grabbed, new things to be learned, adventures and struggles awaiting just around the corner.

Blue skies ahead, what’s over the horizon as yet unknown.

The ocean water picture is one I took from my cabin on the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat cruise, this past September in the Western Caribbean. It was an extraordinary experience. I’d never been on a cruise before, or the Caribbean, or a writer’s retreat. I can happily report back that I met and got to converse with some wonderful people, attended group dinners in a grand dining room, sat in on lectures by authors Brandon Sanderson and Margaret Dunlap and agents DongWon Song and Seth Fishman, went on three lovely excursions, watched a nighttime lightning storm from the ship’s railing, visited Rose and Jack’s “I’m king of the world” spot on the bow, and never got seasick!

I had planned to do a full edit of Book 1 of the new mystery series on the cruise, somewhat optimistically in retrospect. With all the other activities, I managed to get through about 150 pages, so just about half. I did attend an “unlocking” session, which helped clarify some issues I had been struggling with, mainly having to do with the big arc of the series.

By mid February, there should be a near-final draft of the book. The working title, Dogwood, is not here to stay, alas, but I’ll leave the unveiling of the new and improved title for a post down the road. When I’m happy with the manuscript, I’ll send out a call for beta readers. I’ll give out more details then, but basically the way it would work is I’d provide a Word document (or other format) with the 300-page manuscript and brief guidelines as to the type of reader feedback I need. In return you’d get a deeper look into my writing process than this newsletter, my eternal gratitude, and a copy of the book upon publication in your preferred format, ebook or print. Be on the lookout for the email if you’re interested!

On a social media note, going forward I’ll be taking a break from the merry-go-round that’s Twitter. I’m trying out Mastodon — you can find me in the Wandering Shop, a community of science fiction and fantasy readers and writers. I’m @neve there ( So far I’m finding it welcoming and less adversarial than the ‘birdsite’. I’ll still be on Twitter, just not as much.

May this new year bring you lots of good things!


June Update

In the Back Yard

Summer has finally arrived here in the Twin Cities after what seemed like a VERY long winter. The grass is green, dandelions are popping up all over, and the purple magnolia (Magnolia Ann) in our back yard survived its first Minnesota winter, no small feat. The picture above is from a month ago, mid-May, when the flower buds were just starting to emerge. (As to the yellow spots in the yard, well, if you have a dog you know what they are!)

Book Update

There’s now a complete first draft of Book 1 of the new series, best described as a mystery series with speculative elements. For now I’m still sticking to Dogwood as the title, though that might change later on. Luckily, unlike the rest of what goes into a novel, it’s the one thing that can be settled on at the last minute and mulled over and over in the meantime. I find that my brain likes to play with potential titles in the quest for a more catchy one or one that better captures the essence of the story or has some mysterious it factor.

At the very least, I’ll be adding a subtitle… A Peculiar Botanist Mystery, Book 1 is the front runner for now, though I’m not sure if it conveys enough of the speculative part of things.

Travel News

We have two family trips planned this summer, both of which I’m very much looking forward to, and then in September I’ve signed up for a writing retreat, something I’ve wanted to do for a while now but the timing never worked out before. It’s the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat 2022, which will take place on a cruise ship sailing the West Caribbean.

The plan is to take along a near-final draft of Dogwood to edit, along with a second goal of planning the structure of Book 2. And then goal three, which might be most important one, to hang out with and meet other writers! And four, enjoy the sightseeing and the ship and hopefully avoid getting seasick… I’ve been on short boat rides but never on a cruise, so I won’t know until then and there about the seasickness part, wish me luck : )


Recommended by Readers

A while back I asked you to chime in with reads you enjoyed in 2021. (Meant to post this back in January but here we are.) Below are some of the recommended books. We’ve got sci-fi/fantasy. We’ve got mystery. Sci-fi/mystery combos. A couple of time-travel romances. Thrillers.

My thanks to everyone who responded! Some of these authors I’ve read, others have gone on my TBR list.

I’ve just started one of the thrillers recommended, a book I hadn’t come across before, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost, a “modern and twisty retelling of Jane Eyre“. Enjoying it so far!


New Year’s Newsletter

First, a welcome if you’ve recently found your way to this newsletter via my website, or a Voracious Readers Only giveaway, or the ArtWorks parking-lot fair back in September. Very happy to have you here!

This past year has gone by kind of fast, and yet when I think back to January it seems like a long time ago. A side effect of a pandemic year that was weird and strange for everyone? Our goldendoodle (Grif, age 3 1/2) agrees that time is a fluid concept — each spring he seems to completely forget all about snow once it melts away and is freshly surprised (and a little outraged) by its appearance when winter rolls around once again. Above is a picture of him frolicking during our first big snowfall of the year (17 inches!). It took him a couple of days to accept the change in his backyard. He checked the neighborhood streets, too — the white stuff was everywhere on his walks — and then he went back to doing what he does best, enjoying himself. He’s a carpe diem kind of dog.

Moving on, a writing update! I’ve been working on Book 1 of a new speculative mystery series. The current word count is just about 59,000 (out of an estimated 75,000 words) which makes it seem as if I’ll soon be nearing THE END, but really that’s just the messy first draft. Next comes the shaping stage. Shifting, adding, taking scenes out, rewriting chunks, fiddling with the setting and the characters, polishing dialogue, pulling tight the strings of the story. I’ve set myself the challenge of a one-word title for this one. (I picture my cover designers pulling at their hair… She has a looong name AND she wants a long title?? Regarding Ducks and Universes…. All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise… Argh!) I’m sure I’ll change my mind a few more times about the naming of the book, but the working title at this point in time is (ta-da!) Dogwood.

Finally, I have a question for you. What three books that you read in 2021 were your most enjoyable/memorable (or just happen to be on your mind as you read this)? It’s fine if the books didn’t actually come out in 2021, the publication date doesn’t matter, there are no rules here really, other than that I suppose they should be in the one of the categories that have brought us all here: speculative fiction and mystery… Could be a sci-fi mystery. Could be just mystery. Or just sci-fi. It’s all good. 

To start us off, here are three books that I read this past year that I quite enjoyed:

  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. In some ways an old-fashioned sci-fi tale. If you liked The Martian, you’ll enjoy this one.
  • The Nils Shapiro series by Matt Goldman. Mysteries set in Minneapolis. There are four of them so far and I’ve read the first three. Page-turners with snappy dialogue and local color.

There you have it. You can reply to this email with your 3 books (or comment below if you’re reading this on my website) and I’ll include a list of everyone’s recommendations in the next newsletter. 

Happy holidays! Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2022!



July Newsletter

Hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable summer!

Can anyone help me identify a bird? It nested a while back on the light fixture right outside our front door. There were at least three baby birds, from what we could see of the beaks peeking out of the nest. When we got back from a week away visiting family in South Carolina, everyone had flown the coop! I made an attempt to identify the breed by its brownish-white chest on one of those websites listing bird species in Minnesota, but without much luck. If you’re familiar with it, do let me know!

In reading news, I’ve been trying Bookbub as a recommendation site for what to read next. (Amazon’s algorithms tend to suggest books that are popular but don’t catch my eye, or books that I’ve already glanced at but passed on for whatever reason…and, occasionally, the algorithms suggest my own books as well?) If you haven’t come across Bookbub before, it allows you to choose which categories you like to read and follow authors and be alerted when they have a new book out or when one of their books goes on sale. The site sends out daily emails with discounted books in your preferred reading categories, which is handy for discovering new authors. The only problem is that my To-Be-Read list is growing ever longer!

Speaking of Bookbub and other sites that feature discounted books, I had someone ask me whether waiting to buy a book until it’s on sale hurts authors and the answer is no. The point of the promotional pricing is to climb Amazon (and other) charts, and every purchase of a book helps push it up the charts just a little more. The reader saves money, which is always good, and the book gets a tiny boost in visibility, also good. In other words, everyone wins…which probably accounts for Bookbub’s popularity with both readers and authors.

And speaking of sales, All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise will be discounted to $0.99 the week of July 26 on Kindle and the Nook. I’m in the process of taking the book “wide” onto other retailers–the full list will be available here by the end of the month. It’s been a bit of a learning process and I’m curious if I have readers who prefer platforms outside of Amazon–my print books have always been available wide but the ebooks have been limited to Kindle thus far. So if you’re on Nook, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books or another retailer, do let me know!

Hope your summer is full of good books and good friends!


Happy Spring

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on

I hope everyone is having a good spring and enjoying the warmer weather and maneuvering vaccine appointments without too much difficulty. It’s been hard to snag appointments here in Minnesota but I did just get the first dose of the vaccine yesterday. I’m looking forward to getting back to traveling this summer and doing normal things like regular haircuts and teeth cleanings and time spent at the outdoor swimming pool. It’s been a strange fourteen months or so, to say the least.

On the book front, All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise is now available in paperback, after a delay because the print proof got lost in the mail for a bit. You can find it on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble. If you’re interested in ordering the paperback through your local library, the book is listed via IngramSpark. You’ll need this number, the ISBN: 978-1-7366979-1-7

My thanks to everyone who’s bought it so far and left reviews! For some reason, this time around, the reviews have mostly gone to Goodreads rather than Amazon and I have no idea to what to attribute the pattern. Maybe posting thoughts about a book on Goodreads feels like less pressure — plus the site does let you leave a star rating only, no text needed. Either way, the reviews have been much appreciated!

Also, I’ve done a couple of guest posts this week. On Thursday, Mary Robinette Kowal kindly lent me a corner of her blog — My Favorite Bit — where I got to talk about the fun I had choosing brands for my cast of characters.

In keeping with the theme, a few days before that I was guest on PersephoneKnits, Julie Reeser’s blog, where I mused about coming to terms with my author brand…

…or, A Story Best Told in Four 19th Century Owl Illustrations.

The seasonal photo at the top is from – our yard is still mostly brown!


Launch Day: All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise

Hello, everyone! It’s here, the launch day for the eBook of All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise, a speculative whodunit set in a Seattle of the future. Now available for Kindle and on Kindle apps for iPad and iPhone.

An early review on Goodreads had these kind words to say about the book:

“Delilah’s Demise is a delightful surprise… An intriguing dystopian future blended with a murder mystery.”

I’ve had a couple of people ask whether there’ll be a print book. The answer is yes, a print book is in the works and should be out by early April — stay tuned!

Looking back on writing this, it reminds me a lot of Regarding Ducks and Universes, although they are very different! Part of it is that they’re both standalones and about the same length: 90,000 words. They also both look into the near future, whereas my other books (in the time travel Incident series) turn a lens into the past. Then there’s the fact that they both ended up with looong titles… They were the right titles, but still, it makes it a challenge to write a tweet referencing the books or any kind of character-limited description!

I’d like to report that spring weather is accompanying the book launch but as I’m writing this it is in fact snowing here in Minnesota. At least it’s a spring-like snow, large melty flakes that won’t stick around for long.

Finally, if you do pick up the book and would like to help spread the word about it, an Amazon or Goodreads review is, as always, much appreciated!


Cover Reveal: All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise


It’s here, the cover for All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise, out on March 16, 2021! I was concerned the title, being long, would have to be squished in, but I think it pops beautifully. Fantastic job on the design by Damonza.


As the publication date nears, I’ll have a few ARC ebooks (Advance Reader Copies) to give out. I’ll be emailing these out at the beginning of March. Launch week reviews posted on Amazon and/or Goodreads are more important than ever in getting the word out about the book, so if you interested in being an early reviewer, please do let me know. Details on how to sign up are below.

To be added to the ARC list, either:

(1) reply to this email (if you’re reading this in a newsletter)


(2) contact me.

There is a choice of formats: mobi (for Kindle ), epub, or pdf. Don’t forget to let me know which format you’d prefer!


December 2020 Newsletter

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Book News

There’s book news to announce! The novel I’ve been working on for a while now has a publication date: March 16, 2021. The finalized title is All the Whys of Delilah’s Demise, a mystery set in a near-future Seattle. This one ended up being somewhat of a departure from my usual style, but I learned a lot in writing and polishing it, and from feedback I received along the way from beta-readers and my editors, Kristen Weber and Shannon Page. Hopefully you all like it!

Here is a brief description:

A future Seattle where popularity is everything. The mysterious death of the #1. And an elusive killer.

A century into the future, life on the frozen West Coast is harsh but inside the Dome of New Seattle, it’s a popularity contest. Everyone’s sorted onto a People List—at the top is Delilah, a charismatic stage actress. Much lower is Scottie, six months into adulthood and sliding toward the bottom spot, which brings a short ride out of town.

When Delilah dies in a balcony fall, the blame for the seeming accident lands on Scottie. Aided by her ‘Watson,’ the personal assistant her brain chip provides, Scottie scrambles to save herself and find the real culprit. What she discovers will shake the very foundation of her world…and place her squarely in the crosshairs of a shadowy killer intent on clearing a path to #1.

There is no cover yet but the Kindle preorder page has gone up — you can find it here. There will be a trade paperback version; I should know more in January – stay tuned. There will be ebook ARCs to give out at some point, most likely at the end of February.

New Website

Next, I’ve moved my website from Blogger over to WordPress for a crisper look. Come check it out here (unless you’re reading this on my website, in which case you’re already here). I tried to aim for an uncluttered, easy-on-the-eyes feel to the font and pages.

Manuscript Critiques

Photo by Pixabay on

Finally, I’ve added a manuscript critiques section to the website. Send me your works-in-progress or your ready-to-submit masterpieces for feedback!

I’ll read your manuscript twice, once all the way through without stopping and a second time with an eye out for everything from story structure to pacing issues to character development. More details can be found here.

Have a great rest of the week,