Category Archives: Nonfiction

The Perceval Series — an Update

It’s been nine (9!!) years since I published Perceval’s Secret, the first novel in the Perceval series. Have you had a chance to read it? (smile) Before its publication, I had outlined the series for five novels, and the arc of Evan Quinn’s story over those five novels. The work on the remaining four novels has continued over the last nine years, even as I dealt with serious health issues (that often stopped the writing) and working fulltime at an office job. Nothing unique there. Most writers write when they can while earning a living at other things, raising a family, or, yes, dealing with serious health issues. I thought it about time to write a status update on the series as well as what I plan for the next year or so.


I recently typed “The End” on the last page of the first draft of Perceval’s Game, the fourth novel in the series. This is a major accomplishment considering I wrote it only on weekends since July 2020. A year ago, I needed major surgery and did not write anything during my recovery, but I thought a lot about the series, the fourth novel in it, and amazed myself over and over thinking about my creative commitment to this project. But I don’t particularly want Evan Quinn showing up in my dreams and scaring me as he did years ago when I almost made him an auto mechanic! He is quite insistent about telling his story. As I was finishing the last chapter of the 4th novel, ideas for the 5th novel kept popping into my mind, including the first chapter. So, I need to do some “cleaning up” on PG and prep notes for the rewrite before doing some prep work for the 5th novel that will include notes, character list, concert programs for Evan, and making certain that I write down everything in my head before putting it away. The title of the 5th novel will be Perceval’s Choice. The novel’s locations will be Paris, France, and Vienna, Austria.


The second novel in the series, Perceval’s Shadow, has been fermenting for at least five years. I cannot remember when I first put it in its oak barrel. My plan for at least the next year is to work on the third draft (I hope the last), have Beta readers read it, and then contract with a professional editor to go through it. I’m looking forward to spending time again with the characters in this novel, especially Pierre Levade. It would be especially lovely if it’d be ready for publication by March 2024. I plan to publish this novel as both an ebook and a paperback. And, while I’m at it, I’ll probably publish the paperback version of Perceval’s Secret as well. Launching the second novel will be a good time to launch the paperback of the first novel. What about audiobook versions? I’m still thinking about it.


I finished the first draft of the third novel in the series, Perceval in Love, set in Helsinki, Finland, Vienna Austria, and St. Petersburg, Russia, in June 2020. I remember at the time I was quite surprised that it did not end the way I’d been thinking of it ending from the moment I began it. But Evan Quinn had other ideas. That’s fine. It’s his story. It would make sense to write the second draft of this novel after publishing the second novel. I’ve put that in my barrel of possibilities to ferment. I could also write the first draft of the 5th novel and finish the series (woo-hoo!). For the next year, it will remain fermenting in its barrel until ripe for work.


Essays: I continue to write essays for various markets, although as I’ve pushed harder on the fiction, the nonfiction side of my writing life has slowed. I have no plans to stop writing essays.

Music Memoir: This nonfiction book, as I have been sketching it, will be a series of personal essays chronicling how music has affected my life. I’ve been writing notes on various essays for the last two years as well as looking at the structure. I’ll probably start writing when the essays are ready to burst out of me. In the meantime I’ve been thinking about resonant vibrations, “hearing” a composer’s musical voice for the first time, and how much I enjoy the impish side of Beethoven.

Tips for Writing Memoir

Over at Nail Your Novel, Roz Morris has some helpful tips for writing a memoir, especially one in connected essays. Take a look!

Writing Updates

This year has continued to be a particularly challenging one for the United States, and with the pandemic still raging, for the world. I just read this week of two new variants of the SARS-CoV2, and one is even more contagious than the Delta variant. While I received my J&J vaccination last March, I am thinking about getting either a Pfizer booster or the Pfizer full vaccination in the next few weeks. As I wrote before, the coronavirus is here to stay and will mutate at will. It’s up to us to take measures to protect ourselves from it now and in the future.

In July, I left my day job at the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners and began a new job at the Minneapolis Community & Technical College. I’ve cut my commute down to 20 minutes each way but that means less time for reading on the commute. I only recently emerged from the initial job training and returned to a hybrid of work in the office and teleworking, then hunkering down at home and staying away from people (as my pulmonologist insisted that I do). Over the summer I also had to replace my laptop, printer, and modem. At least my health has remained fairly stable this year and my writing has gone well.


I continue to write on weekends, working on the fourth novel in the series, Perceval’s Game. I’m over halfway through but finding it somewhat difficult to get back into my writing mind on Saturdays. I continue to write notes for the last novel in the series, and any thoughts I have about the previous three novels. One character in the fourth novel is named after a friend who chose to have a character named after him in a fundraiser I ran a couple years ago. I recently updated him on the character’s development.

I had planned to launch at least two marketing campaigns, one in the first quarter and one in the third quarter, this year for Perceval’s Secret but did not. Posting the Aanora story did bring more sales for the novel, however, although sales remain disappointing.

The second novel in the series, Perceval’s Shadow, remains on the shelf for the moment, fermenting. I will eventually find a professional editor that I hope will stay with me for the entire series, but to work on the second novel first. I’m still thinking about gathering some beta readers and have talked with a couple people about doing it. Depending on what I learn from the editor and/or the beta readers will determine how I proceed with that novel. I don’t think it’s ready yet for publication, but just how much more work it needs is the big question. And Perceval in Love continues to ferment.


This sci fi novella remains at the Fan Fiction website until next August. I did a bit of a push for it before it was scheduled to be taken down this past August. Then I decided to do some editing and cleaning up, and that actually bought me another year on the site. Yay! If you haven’t yet read it, you can find it here. I had a blast writing it!


For most of this year, my essay writing (as well as blog writing) waited in the wings for attention. I finally worked on an essay I began last year and I think it’s about ready to send to the editor. I have been working sporadically on a collection of essays about classical music and how it’s affected my life. The working title is Music and Me. I’ve been writing down ideas as they come to me but haven’t yet begun writing the essays. I’ve decided that I’m committed to this project, so one way or another, I will finish it. Writing essays makes a nice break from fiction.


Reading as much as possible and as widely as possible is an essential part of a writer’s life. I read science fiction, espionage thrillers, mysteries, and the occasional nonfiction. Since the America in the Perceval novels is an autocratic dictatorship, I was most interested to read Masha Gessen’s Surviving Autocracy, an examination of Trumpism, the damage it’s done to America, and what needs to be done to repair the country and society. Other standouts this year: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre, Still Life by Louise Penny, and Forever Young: a Memoir by Hayley Mills.


I’ve been terrible this year about writing at this blog. A part of me feels guilty about that, but I need to focus on the fiction in my limited writing time. I think a lot about this blog, and write down ideas for posts. So who knows? I may be able to squeeze in more posts as time goes on…..

A Lost Earring

Obsession. Ludwig van Beethoven, obsessed with a lost penny (pfennig), composed a little piano masterpiece.

Obsession. Today, I’m obsessed with a lost earring and it’s so occupied my mind that Evan Quinn’s sojourn in Chicago of 2050 has been obliterated for the moment. How could this happen? I thought obsession fueled creativity. For me today, it’s blocking what I want to write. So, instead, I decided to write about the lost earring.

Here is its twin, the one that was in my right earlobe and made it through yesterday secure in my right earlobe.

Sorry about the slight blurriness, the earring was dangling, moving from side to side in front of my computer camera (because I’d discovered that a battery corroded in my little Olympus camera and it won’t turn on), and I was challenged to click the camera icon to actually snap the photo without moving anymore than I was. These earrings are of mauve and green crystal beads, faceted to catch the light like prisms. I’ve been startled at times when they’ve caught sunlight and reflected it to a nearby wall in sparkling purple light. They are pretty. They are fun. And they are in my two favorite colors. I love them.

The loss of one destroys the pair. The pain I felt, standing in my bedroom after I’d arrived home from work, seared through my chest. I took out the right earring, but there was nothing in my left earlobe. I wanted to scream.

Why? It’s just an earring, right?

Well, first of all, this pair of earrings was a gift from a good friend a long time ago. They cannot be replaced. They have always been one of my favorite pairs of earrings. I don’t wear much jewelry, but I did get my ears pierced as a freshman in college and have enjoyed wearing earrings — all styles, colors, shapes — ever since. I have a pair of black chandelier earrings that I love but one broke. I couldn’t bear to throw them away. Could they be repaired? If they could, I’d love to have them back, you see. So, I took them to a neighborhood jeweler’s that specialize in custom-made jewelry and asked if they could repair them. Yes. And they did. It cost me probably 3 times what they were worth, but I have those earrings back.

There’s no repairing something that’s lost. Only finding it. And I believe I know what happened. It’s the face mask. Having to wear a face mask for protection against COVID-19 has affected my earrings. Sometimes the mask just hides them. Sometimes the earrings get caught in the mask or stick out at weird angles from it. I believe that at some point yesterday when I removed the mask, the earring in my left earlobe slid out of my ear from the mask brushing it. When did it happen? Where did it happen? Considering the number of times yesterday I put that mask on and slipped it off, it could have happened at any time during the day. On the bus. On the train. In the office. At the train station downtown. Some of my wire earrings have wire guards to prevent that from happening from any cause. I wish I’d thought yesterday morning to take the extra precaution of putting wire guards on these earrings to protect them.

That darn face mask! I’ve been wearing face masks for a year now, every time I go out of my home, on the city bus, on the train, at the office, in stores, at the bank, to get the COVID-19 vaccination, and to go to the restroom at work. Even at the hair salon as my stylist trims my bangs and the mask catches snippets of hair against my face and mouth. I can now say that my lost earring is a casualty of COVID-19 because if I hadn’t needed to wear a mask, it would never have slid out of my earlobe and disappeared. Maybe that’s the reason I’m feeling the loss of this earring particularly acutely. I have lost my pre-COVID life when I wore earrings and no face mask, and didn’t need to worry about a face mask pushing an earring out of my ear.

Will the vaccination I received 10 days ago protect me from infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus? I believe it will for a while, but no one knows how long, really. Everything about this virus and its effect on humans is a mystery. Except its deadliness. I recently read about an antibody treatment that, if begun within the first week of symptoms, can actually shorten the course of infection and decrease the severity to mild symptoms. This morning, I read an article in the April 2021 Atlantic Monthly (“Unlocking the Mysteries of Long COVID” by Megan O’Rourke) that described the damage the virus does to the human autonomic nervous system and heart, and how it resembles a difficult to diagnose disease that can be treated. Medical researchers are questioning the relationship between the virus and the human body’s immune system, i.e. does the virus trigger the immune system to go on a rampage against the human body rather than defending it against the virus? A virus that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Amazing how something so tiny could cause such devastation and pain.

I suppose I should count myself lucky if all I’ve lost (to date) is an earring from a beloved pair of earrings. I do know people — co-workers, friends — who have been sick with COVID-19 and recovered OK. I know others who have lost family members, relatives, and friends to this virus. I will continue to wear a face mask (and be more careful about my earrings), stay at least 6 feet away from people, wash my hands frequently and telework. There is hope for an end to this pandemic.

Just as I hope that when I go into the office on Monday, I’ll find my lost earring on the floor by my desk.

The Different Types of Editing Explained

One of the prevalent strains of flu knocked me off my feet this past week and I’m still recovering. As a result, I have not done much writing, but I have tried to keep up with email. I ran across an interesting blog post at “Writer UnBoxed” that defines and explains the different types of editing. There wasn’t a reblog button, so the link is here.

Professional writers need to know about the different types of editing in order to hire the right kind of editor for their books when the time comes for the professional editing process to begin. I would dearly love to find an editor who could stay with me for all my novels, who could do a developmental edit as well as copy editing. An excellent professional editor is like gold. But there’s more to it than just being able to edit, I’ve discovered. It’s also important that the editor have an interest in the kind of writing I do, the subjects of my writing, and be open to learning if the knowledge is not yet there. It can be a disaster if an editor just doesn’t get your subject matter or has no interest in it.

More soon….