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 : )