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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar, "Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction."

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.






  • By Victoria Mixon

    We’re talking about how to approach the first draft of your novel this month, in honor of NaNoWriMo, Last week we talked about the 3 Essential Guidelines for your overall novel, and the week before that we talked about Running into the Jaws of NaNoWriMo. And today we’re going to be talking about the protagonist’s character, because that’s the core of all storytelling. (I tackled this topic last November in a post so bizarre that it famously prompted Roz Morris of Nail Your Novel to ask, “My dear, what are on you on?” 4 Post-Its to Stick Up Over Your Writing Desk. And I outlined the basic elements—which I’m going to talk about in greater depth below—back last summer in one of a series I did on how to write fiction all wrong: How to Characterize Wrong in 3 Easy Steps.)

    But, honestly, you don’t have to be doing NaNo to be starting a novel. If you’ve got holidays coming up in December, you might very well be getting yourself in gear to take advantage of them in the most luxurious way a writer can imagine: by writing!

    1. Your protagonist believes they cannot survive without this

      It’s a need so core to them that if you changed it you wouldn’t be writing about a human being anymore. What is it? Writers have been using the canonical primary needs for hundreds of years without wearing them out:

      • survival
      • love
      • justice

      Truly, these three needs have powered most of the fiction ever written. And there are still more aspects to explore in them. They’re that enormous. They’re that complex.

      Some of the other things characters need are:

      • to protect a child
      • to heal a wound
      • to learn the truth
      • to have an adventure

      These needs also have powered incredible numbers of stories. Remember Don Quixote? Out there scampering around the countryside on that mangy old nag with his reluctant sidekick at his stirrup? What was he up to?

      He certainly wasn’t defending his life. And I don’t think he ever really had a chance with Dulcinea.

      Justice. Adventure.

      He needed them really badly.

    2. Your protagonist can’t survive without this either

      Because that’s what makes a story: two needs. Otherwise, it’s a bildungsroman, the story of a protagonist grappling with a whole series of internal conflicts, and modern readers don’t have the attention span to survive a bildunsroman anymore. They need explicit signposts on why they should care. (I’m sorry, Moll Flanders.)

      But here’s the magic wand—you’ve already done this step. Yes, you have! Look above. How many stories are about two of those top three in conflict with each other? What if you mixed and matched two out of the seven? One of the seven with some equally-powerful but more subtle need?

      • to prove a point
      • to accomplish a lifelong goal
      • to protect someone elderly (or otherwise physically or intellectually vulnerable)
      • to escape evil
      • to come to grips with their own dark side

      You’ll notice that, no matter how subtle a secondary need you give your protagonist, it can pretty much always be traced back to one of those three canonical primary needs. And when you choose not to root your protagonist’s character in a secondary need quite that canonical, for whatever reason, you must add motivation to that subtle need through one of the canonical ones.

      Also, although experts once swore mysteries were too ‘intellectual’ to accommodate romance, pretty much any story gets better when you add thwarted love to the mix.

    3. Your protagonist has absolutely no intention of choosing between the two

      Which means any situation in which they are forced to do just that serves as a rip-roaring, roof-raising, mind-bending catastrophe for your Climax. As country singers are so fond of reminding us, “My baby left me, I lost my home, and then my dog died.”

      1. Say you have a protagonist who needs:

        • survival
        • love

        Whomever they love, it puts them in danger. In danger of losing their job? In danger of losing their home? In danger of losing their sanity?

        When Jane Eyre had to choose, she lost all three. Well, she wasn’t totally plugged in to begin with, but I really don’t think that night on the moor could have helped much.

        Pit your protagonist against themself by giving them the two most fundamental needs in the human animal. It doesn’t have to be romantic love, either. It could be love of a friend, love of a place, love of a cause.

        Romantic love has the added attraction of sex, of course, which always gets the attention of the hormonally-bullied. (You know who you are.) Just keep in mind—and this is really important—you must address sexual issues through their grip on the personality rather than through simple textbook instructions. Your reader doesn’t need to learn how to do it. They need to learn how to handle the consequences when they indulge in something they know how to do all too well.

      2. Or say your protagonist needs:

        • justice
        • survival

        Their pursuit of justice does nothing but put their life in danger. You know what that is?

        Every thriller ever written.

        This is why thriller works so well as series genre. Because you can pit your protagonist against themself through their need for justice—and the evil perpetrators’ efforts to kill them—over and over and over again until Doomesday and never run out of excitement.

        Be aware that thrillers get their layering through complicated technical subjects, so the authors of thrillers do a great deal of research into specific industries: law, politics, banking, history, international espionage, high-tech weaponry, et cetera, plus very often exotic locales. That all needs to be professionally-researched and very adroitly handled. For advice on how to use your research properly, read Roz Morris’ Nail Your Novel, in which she explains exactly how she used her research for eleven ghostwritten books, eight of which were best sellers.

      3. Or maybe your protagonist needs:

        • love
        • justice

        What would force a person to choose between what they want and what they know is right? Well, almost everything. Anne of Green Gables tells us all about it as she works her way through her daily life—the endless, excruciating decision-making process that never leaves us alone. It’s when she has to choose between the things she loves and the things she knows are right that she becomes important to the reader, someone they will carry with them internally for the rest of their life.

        Because such stories don’t have death hanging over anybody’s head, they tend to be more mild-mannered. That allows them to go deeply and profoundly into the human experience. Remember that your reader is reading not only to be reassured that life is worth living, but to learn something they don’t already know. If you choose to pit your protagonist against themself through these two very human (but not dastardly) needs, you’ll have to know something about those needs that the reader can’t figure out for themself. Just reiterating an experience identical to the reader’s own without adding anything original won’t hold their attention.

    You can see how this simple pyramidal design gives you a protagonist your reader passionately wants to see succeed, even as you back that protagonist into worse and worse corners until you’ve backed them right against a wall.

    Then your protagonist must always, in the Climax, choose. That choice is the secret ingredient that makes your story work.

    This, my friends, is what we call sympathetic character.

    [I KNOW: I finally turned off comments because of the spam. Thank you for all your comments over the years! You’re such a joy to write for. If you like these posts, please feel free to click StumbleUpon and/or Facebook and/or Twitter.]

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    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

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    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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27 Responses to “3 Vital Steps to Creating Your Protagonist for NaNoWriMo”

  1. This is a great post Victoria. I am more than half-way through my nano, and wondering why everything still feels so … well, flat, and I think this may be part of the answer. Essentially, my protagonist is a lonely and somewhat isolated 30-something woman who’s diagnosed with a fatal illness — and decides she doesn’t want to die alone and so hires an out-of-work Cuban handyman to live with her and basically pretend to be her boyfriend. Of course they eventually fall in love for real and both end up getting more out of the deal than they bargained for. It works in my head but it seems to be missing something crucial in the conflict aspect…

  2. This sounds like you have a wonderful setting and backdrop for this woman’s internal quest, Andrea. That’s great!

    So she needs. . .what two things?

    1) To find the meaning in her life? (now that she knows it’s about to end)

    And what else?

    The romance is a great extra angle to throw in there, but if it doesn’t conflict with her primary need then it’s not leading her toward her Climax. You need to discover what’s interfering with her search for meaning. How is she blinding herself to the deeper meaning that surrounds us all every day? (We all find ways to do it!)

    Or, conversely, how is her search for meaning making her resist this romance?

  3. Thank you! All good things to think about.

  4. You are very welcome, Andrea!

  5. This really is a great post – but then I love everything you’ve written here, although I’ve only recently discovered you. Thank you for all the wisdom and advice you share. Especially sharing it at such a nitty-gritty level. It is invaluable.

    I’m currently writing a book which is a natural and perfect set-up for all these issues of conflict – its YA, which is so ideal for characters’ inner conflict! 🙂 But that’s actually becoming a problem for me, because it’s the conflicts are so universal, so obvious, I do believe it’s obvious and almost cliched on the page too. You know, teenaged girl is doing what she feels powerfully obliged to do by the important adults in her life, but really wishes she could do what she loves, but if she does she’ll lose the support of the adults, who convince her they know what’s best for her, blah blah blah. It makes for a good story, but not a compelling, unique story. The only solution I can think of is to upend the readers’ expectations, but that is risky.

    Any thoughts on how to keep the conflict issue from becoming cliched?

  6. Yes! I can explain the distinction between cliche and canonical. You’d be amazed what we’re intrigued by reading over and over and over again, even though it seems like it’s all been done before.

    Cliche is, by definition, something that’s been done so many times it’s out-lived its usefulness. But this of course means we have to all agree on what we mean by “useful.” This is easier to apply to language than it is to ideas. Words are easy to spot as cliches.

    Canonical, on the other hand, is something that keeps getting done because it never outlives its usefulness. We continue to love certain stories because they plug into such very deep and meaningful needs inside us.

    We will never get tired of reading stories in which protagonists risk their lives to correct injustice. Two needs—almost infinitely meaningful to the human psyche.

    By the same definition, teens will probably never get tired of reading stories in which protagonists risk the disapproval of their authority figures in order to follow their hearts. This is a dilemma that is endemic to adolescence. Therefore, teens find it riveting and, truly, almost infinitely meaningful.

    The way to make it unique is to make your characters, scenes, telling details so specific and fun and wonderfully-drawn that it comes alive in your reader’s mind as though it had really happened to them. Be charming! Be profound. Be crazy! Be human. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re reworking needs that have been used before. Stephen King doesn’t.

    Focus upon writing those characters and scenes in ways that only you would think to write them. In particular, rely upon your specific, significant details.

    They will lead you home.

  7. Thank you, that is excellent advice and encouraging too. I appreciate it.

  8. You’re welcome, sarah! I’m glad you’re encouraged. 🙂

  9. Thank you for the mentions! Some great truths here. One of the things I’m often asked is how we can make new stories out of such limited ingredients. The answer is, the ingredients aren’t limited, because they’re the stuff of life. Which you’ve explained beautifully here.
    Er… what are you on again?

  10. High on life, my dear. And just a teeny spot of Puerto Rican rum in my evening toddy.

  11. Jeffrey Russell said on

    And then there’s the needs and conflicts of all the secondary characters…

    “Tell me, what can a poor boy do?”

  12. Yes, it’s true. But you’re getting ahead of the first-drafters, Jeffrey. You’re deep into layering in your novel, where the serious crazy lies. 🙂

  13. Ah, good reminders! Now I need to go back and look at my heroine to make sure I’m using some of this. I had the whole plot in mind and I have been moving her into place to further it, but I really need to know why she is where she is, and why she does what she does, that ends up getting people killed, and worse.

  14. Yes, Dan, character motivation is what it’s all about. Why? Why? Why would people do such things to themselves?

    We all suffer the hellfires of damnation just for being us.

  15. I love, love this post, Victoria. It couldn’t have been more timely for me. I’m tackling layer two of my revisions and your Vital Steps are essential, indeed. You’ve really helped direct my train of thinking. Thank you!

  16. Thank you, Heather! If you’re into revisions, you’ll probably want to see the guest post I did for Writer Unboxed: Rethinking Motivation for Character Arc. In case your brain has not already been twisted by revision enough. 🙂

  17. Can I participate in this discussion even if I’m not doing the nanowrimo thing? The issues raised here are very much on my mind as I’ve just completed the first draft of my first book – and now I need to go back and clarify exactly these issues.

    My heroine Rebekka is a young woman who has spent the last couple of years caring for her terminally ill mother, who died about 6 months before the story starts. Rebekka has allowed herself to be sucked into the role of caregiver for her mother and her younger sisters at a time when she should have been planning for her own future. When the story starts she is just about to leave home and move into her own flat, start studying, do the things she cares about.

    So at the beginning of the story her primary need is – I think – for freedom, you could say for the excitement of being young and taking charge of your own life rather than being responsible and caring for others. But she is also the kind of person who feels very responsible for others – she feels guilty about wanting to leave home and start her own life.

    Precisely because Rebekka is in this vulnerable period of transition, not quite adult, not quite child, about to leave home etc, she falls foul of a witch who (for complex reasons of her own) casts a spell on Rebekka that sucks Rebekka into the story world of a book Rebekka is reading. From everybody else’s point of view Rebekka has fallen into a coma – her body is in hospital, but in fact her mind is wandering around in the story, experiencing the book-world as real, if that makes sense.

    In the rest of the story it switches between Rebekka’s sisters attempts to figure out what is wrong and get her out of the coma, and Rebekka’s own attempts to make sense of the very bizarre world she is suddenly inside, since she has no idea what has happened to her or that her body is in a hospital bed.

    As far as I can see, the conflicting need seems to be something around Rebekka’s tendency to accept challenges in a fairly passive way, rather than go out of her way to chase the prize she wants for herself. There is also something around Rebekka having to choose between the fairly seductive and magical world of the book, and the rather less appealing “real life” world she would be returning to if she woke from her coma. But that sounds rather long winded and not nearly as pithy as the examples quoted here! 🙂

  18. Hi Masha!

    I think you’re on the right track. Basically, Rebekka needs:

    1) to find herself
    2) to lose herself

    Her willingness to lose herself has made her fall in with the witch.

    Now, be aware that protagonists are not passive victims—they must do things to get themselves into their predicaments. This is why fairytales and the paranormal have rules in which the protagonists must make a choice that puts them under a spell. i.e. eating an apple, accepting a magical deadline, inviting a vampire in, etc.

    So when you shift focus to her comatose body, there must still be some engagement to keep Rebekka the heroine. I’d suggest that she be making some kind of tiny, unexpected efforts to wake herself—my grandmother would move an arm a tiny bit or, once, shake her head—which would serve as the catalyst for that scene that sets the sisters going trying to figure out in a new way what’s happening.

    You’ll bounce her back and forth between her willingness to lose herself and her growing need to find herself until she faces an irrevocable choice: she can continue to be lost in this magical world under the witch’s spell or she can wake up and finally accept responsibility for her own life.

    That is the Climax. You must make it an event (the witch offers her a final choice). And you must make the magical world and the witch’s spell incredibly tempting to counteract readers’ pre-programmed belief that real life is always the correct choice.

    You don’t even have to know which one she’ll choose. Just write toward that Climax. You’ll discover the clue to the correct ending buried deep in your story after you’ve written absolutely everything else.

    It sounds fun!

  19. Fantastic. This chimes exactly with what has already emerged. She moves from merely trying to “get back” to real life to actively twisting the story so that she goes deeper into the story – jabs herself with Sleeping Beauty’s spindle on purpose, as a matter of fact.

    I’ve also tried to build in echoes between what happens in “real life” (a nurse pinches her fingers to establish how deep the coma is) and “coma life” (she bruises her fingers in an attempt to get back into a train she believes will take her back to her waking life). Things like that.

    And I’ve already written the scene where she has to choose between the dream and reality, but now my problem is that I’ve made the dream so attractive, I cant believe she will want to go back! So have to work at that again.

    But your point that she should not be a passive victim right at the beginning is a good one. I think I need to twist that scene so that she becomes a more active participant in falling under the witch’s spell. Lots to think about. Thanks for your advice 🙂

  20. You’re welcome, Masha! Yes, be thinking at all times about how this protagonist is leading the reader through an exploration of their own efforts to grapple with fate. Escaping into fantasy is something everyone can relate to!

  21. Oops sorry about the very long post above – I got carried away…

  22. We like people who get carried away around here. 🙂

  23. Susan Kelly said on

    Hello, Victoria! I have recently discovered your blog and it is such a treasure house! I’ve been poking around going ooooooooh!! YESSSSS! and ahhhhhhhh!

    Ahem. What you say is just making a lot of sense to me. I bought your new book so I could mainline your wisdom.

    So, my protagonist is a computer game programmer. He and his group of workers are building a game that turns out to have the unexpected property of sending the gamer into a deep meditative trance. Other things going on: they’ve just about sealed a venture capital deal, Ben (my guy) is beginning to suspect that one of his employees is leaking information to the competition. And, well, there’s a pandemic to end all pandemics going on.

    What I started out writing, a long time ago, was the story of this pandemic. What I’m really interested in is writing about my characters making it through the crash of civilization, and then finding some way to continue after. Ben, this computer guy, had always seemed boring and flat to me (and others agreed). So I gave him a more interesting work life, and then the flaw in the game occurred to me and I’m pretty interested in what happens with that (as I intend to stretch this story out over a couple or three books (some from different POVs) and I’m excited about what role this flawed game can play in a dystopia).

    I have been trying to write Ben as a nerdish guy who isn’t all that handy with the social graces.

    But, somehow, I still don’t feel like I know him.

    I think he wants to know why the game does what it does. (I’m uncertain as to whether it would be a good thing, a bad thing, does it depend on who it is, is it addictive or no.) You wrote in your book “the truth is always more interesting,” and that seems like a thing Ben would live by. So, that seems like a species of love — love of his own mind and curiosity, a love of all the wonders of creating and creation. He has a moment, when it’s becoming clear that civilization is doomed, where he looks around his office and thinks, “I’m not finished with all this yet.”

    Bad guys will be making use of this property of the game in nefarious ways, and Ben will be pissed off that they’re using what he invented in this way. So, there’s some justice to be dealt out.

    The way I envision the climax, achieving this justice is going to mean Ben will cause or precipitate the death of someone he once loved, as much as he’s able to love, in the course of seeking justice. He’s going to know that’s his choice, and he’s going to choose death for his fellow because he loves what remains of humanity more.

    Can you advise me as to whether you think this will work?

    These are things I’m confused about:

    if I make Ben a really geeky nerd, he might not really know much about “love.” Will it seem odd at the end when he makes this big declaration in favor of humanity?

    How can I *possibly* write a story of a pandemic in which survival is not one of the two “canonical” motivations? One person who looked at my draft said the ending was “shocking,” because they didn’t defeat the virus in the end. That’s not the story I want to write.

    Help?

    Thank you so much.

  24. Hi Susan!

    Aah, pantsing, that scourge of the writer’s world. It always seems like such a good idea at the time! 🙂

    You must now ask yourself: what’s more important to the reader—Ben’s computer company failing, or humanity dying of a pandemic? The reader knows it’s only a matter of time before Ben’s venture capitalists and competition are stone dead, so why should they care about that? They want to know how humanity survives!

    Remember that all storytelling is, ultimately, about survival. How do we do it? And why is it worth the effort?

    Your protagonist needs:

    1) to be a creative genius
    2) to thwart evil

    So your Climax is the moment at which he must choose between the two:

    Once upon a time, a man sacrificed his greatest accomplishment (and even best friend) to save the future of humankind—that’s the premise. He and his best friend created the ultimate computer game with an almost magical psychological property, but it turned out his friend was secretly planning to sell/use it for the purposes of evil—that’s the story. He and his best friend had just succeeded with their game (gotten the venture capital) when a pandemic broke out, creating an unprecedented opportunity for evil—that’s the backstory.

    Now, as far as Ben feeling ‘flat’ to his creator, that is far more serious than sorting out his plot. You’ll never bring him alive if your heart isn’t in it. And if your heart isn’t in it, your reader’s won’t be either.

    You need to find a way for Ben, in some way, to personify an aspect of personality that you yourself find intensely riveting and devastating.

    Why don’t you just make him female, so you can use everything you personally know about being a woman on this planet, and think of his computer game as a symbol for writing novels?

    I’m guessing all that stuff lies pretty close to your heart! 🙂

  25. Susan Kelly said on

    Hello, Victoria!

    So, Ben needs to be a creative genius, and Ben also needs the courage to be something other than a creative genius (ie, an evil-stopper). This is what struck me the second time I read your comments. If I try to address the larger problem, that Ben doesn’t feel real to me, this will certainly do it, because my own life climax right now appears to be: I need to be a creative genius (ie write an epic, killer novel) and I need not to be a creative genius (ie, I have to let this Frankenstein first novel go, and move on). Ironically, if I can let the “need” go, maybe I don’t have to abandon all that I have so far. It’s all in seeing everything in a different light, that you’re not who you thought you were, maybe?

    Novel writing as therapy is us. 😉

    Pantsing, the scourge — if there’s ever going to be a poster child for the perils of pantsing . . . . I’ve been working on this project for literally decades (I’m ashamed to say how many). (Not sure why shame should be a part of it? When I can say it without shame, maybe I’ll have freed myself?) I’ve written slightly different versions of the story from the POVs of about seven different characters (at one time, I had them all together in the same book, OMG). I’ve written hundreds of thousand of words. I’m only now, perhaps, beginning to create an actual story.

    It’s not all been time wasted, of course; I’ve learned lots about writing atmosphere and characterization and dialogue.

    Victoria, thank you so much. You’ve made my day, my week, perhaps even my year.

  26. You’re so welcome, Susan! Yes, novel writing is a writer’s way of making sense of the universe. And “you’re not who you thought you were” is a beautiful way to express the basic dilemma of all stories, which is making that climatic, impossible choice.

    Also, just so you know, I spent fourteen years pantsing one novel, and Katherine Anne Porter spent twenty-nine years on Ship of Fools.

    It simply means we’re dedicated. 😉

  27. […] drafts all month: Running into the Jaws of NaNoWriMo , 3 Essential Guidelines for starting a novel, 3 Vital Steps to creating an excellent, story-worthy protagonist, and 3 Crucial Aspects of Writing […]




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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world’s expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .


SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .


LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .


BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .


SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I’m working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .


SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .


M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


DARREN D. BEYER is an ex-NASA experiment engineer who has worked on every Space Shuttle orbiter but Challenger. In his sci-fi Anghazi Series, Beyer uses his scientific expertise to create a galaxy in which “space bridges” allow interstellar travel based upon the latest in real theoretical physics. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny’s debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .


STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield’s second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans’ fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .


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