Good morning and happy Raid the Stores for Jellybeans Day!
I have a treat for you - Journey Windrow!
Journey Windrow was born to wander and didn’t have to join the Navy to see the world. A jeans and t-shirt gal, she has curly magenta and purple hair, a twisted sense of humor, and is inseparable from her senior pup. She enjoys photography and playing with graphics programs. You can sometimes find Journey in the wild at writers conferences. The Reluctant Mage, her first urban fantasy novel in a series, is set in Boston, where Mage Miranda, like Journey, runs on Dunkin’. Enjoy a wild ride of paranormal action-adventure, magic, love, loss, snark, friendship, and the meaning of family.
1. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Babylon Five. Really? You left B-5 out?
2. A book that pleasantly surprised you?
Bringing Home The Rain: The Redemption of Howard Marsh 1 (The Jubal County Saga) by Bob McGough. Wow!
3. Coffee, tea, or cacao?
Coffee. Frequently. Hot. Cold. Where is it? Dunkin’ addict.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 9 years old. I was told that I inherited my writing abilities from my maternal grandfather who has a small museum dedicated to him and his newspaper in North Dakota. He died when I was 18 months old so I don’t remember him. Is writing genetic? Who knows.
2. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I have several degrees, the final one a J.D. Twenty years in social work provided me a functional doctorate in dysfunction and mental health issues. Decades in the 12 Steps give me insight into substance abuse and mental health (co-morbidity) issues. I’ve read mythology since I was in grade school, starting with Edith Hamilton and gravitate Norse/Celtic. By the time I was in college I moved toward a lifetime of neo-paganism. I’ve been a member of Druidic Association of North America for over 25 years. I’m steeped in the lore. I read a great deal about quantum physics and frequently cite Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
The tales are set in Greater Boston. I’ve walked those streets and alleys and been at most places I describe. I was public transportation girl and walked all over the city and adjoining areas: Back Bay, Brookline, Charlestown, Cambridge, Kendall Square, Quincy, and more. Boston has the third largest Chinatown in America and is where the Volunteer Lawyers Project is located. Kayaked on the Charles. My information is from personal experiences. Friends keep me up to date on slang and area changes. The BaSIS building I describe is where where my accountant practices in Revere. In the novel BaSIS has the entire building open. Castle Island? Been there. Boston Common? Old stomping ground. I worked on School St. off Tremont which is the setting for one of the confrontation scenes between the mage and the cop. May have gotten coffee at every Dunkin’ in Boston. Been at the burying grounds mentioned. Irish pubs are all over and feed into Nowhere Inn descriptions as does the Warren Street Tavern on Pleasant Street which as been there 243 years. Marathon Bombing? Glad I wasn’t there in person. Boston Strong!
Um, people are people, even magical people. I was a social worker. I know people and their foibles.
For The Reluctant Mage:
Pre-story: Take everything away from somone who struggled to build a good life after a traumatic childhood. Her life experiences created a person who trusted no one. Let her find an emotional base. Take away her place of safety and everyone she loves and trusts. Add booze. Marinate for two years.
Novel starts here: Watch what happens under additional stressers. I’m hearing my dead husband’s voice in my head. I must be losing my mind. Add complications.Why are people trying to kill me? Shake until frothing. Nothing is what it seems. She can’t recognize herself these days.
Create a hidden world that lives alongside the mundane world. Provide the outlines of the hard magic and the medieval guild culture that the protagonist rejects, but is involuntarily tied to. What happens when a person believes even people they care about can’t be entirely trusted? Stir well. Stand at a safe distance and watch what happens. No. Further back. See the boulder over there? Try that.
3. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I’m a caregiver and I have a 17-year-old dog. I’ve learned to write/stop/write/stop. If it gets too intense I write when everyone is asleep and live on caffeine.
4. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book using lined paper and a blue ink pen in high school about age 15. Or maybe it was only most of a book. School ended for the year and I was working on the farm. No idea what happened to it. Mom probably threw it out with my Fantasic Four #1 comic book in pristine condition in a protective case. (Sounds of sobbing) Highest sale price on that issue was $300,000. I forgive you, Mom.
5. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I bake custom cupcakes with buttercream frosting in flavors like key lime for friends. My 17-year-old senior pup and I are in each other’s pockets. In good weather I love taking her on jaunts. She’s traveled the length and breadth of the country with me previously and would adore being on the road again. I enjoy teaching writing and related topics on a rotating basis at Open Door Writing Group. In my down time I read copiously about a wide variety of topics spanning most genres of fiction and quite a bit of non-fiction. Despite hearing loss I use adaptive technology to listen to audiobooks using a high-end Bluetooth enabled hearing aid, a ComPilot II, and my iPhone. It’s a miracle of technology.
6. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? In this series?
I have written extensively under my legal name in non-fiction. My favorite is whatever I’m working on at the time. What I produced then belongs to the firms I worked for with the exception of a legal workbook.
As Journey Windrow, I have one Mage of Boston Series urban fantasy, The Reluctant Mage, in publication. The mage series is best read in order but will have a catch up segment for people who get them out of order.
Born-witch novellas (projected release September/October of 2023) are interconnected but with different stories and characters revolving around Salem Witches Council. Same universe, some of the same characters. More potential stand-alone quality.
7. Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
It depends on the type of writing. I mentored college students and took them from F to A grades by showing them how to write what was required. Did the same thing in law school. On March 22, 2023, I gave a brief overview at Open Door Writing Group on how to transition from non-fiction to fiction writing. I can flex between legal, non-fiction, technical, journalism, and fiction. It’s a matter of learning expectations in any direction. I admit it took more time for me to flex to fiction because the rest of the writing types hang on very specific, fact-based structures.
Everyone hears: write. Let’s go deeper than that.
Determine what genre and sub-genre you want to write. Read the trad and indie best sellers and outline the structure. What? Outline? You bet. Casual reading causes us to miss subtle clues if we’re trying to replicate style structure. It’s critical to absorb the genre so you can (1) replicate and then (2) deviate. Do it repeatedly until you get it right. It’s not a short process. Keep your old material because it can be reworked into magnets.
8. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Not many people know about the Mage of Boston Series. Some readers on Facebook have joined the Journey Windrow page. One widowed reader commented that Mage Miranda Hunter has “widow’s brain” which is a disconnect after the death of a spouse.
I recently inquired if Mira’s hellhound, Lilit, should have puppies. The overwhelming response was yes. It’s become something of a group project. Thus, I envision puppies in book 3 or 4 since there’s a consensus it happen. Yet to be determined is what would that do to the dynamics of established relationships. Will Lilit be a single mother? Introduce a male hellhound to the mage universe? If there’s a new male hellhound what would that do to the relationship bond between Mira and Lilit? Would Elorie, Selene’s Castle Peel Doog be jealous or an auntie? What dynamic would the puppies create between Mira and Lilit? Would Mira welcome puppies or worry about how to manage without “her sooty girl”? Would Mira end up with a hellhound pack? Good questions all. The readers and I will bat it around a little longer, I’m sure.
I also hear things (in terms of reviews) like these: It’s full of relatable characters. | A love story that goes beyond space and time. | The sense of humor and descriptions sucked me in. | Wow! Knocked my multidimensional socks off! | Full of action and heartwarming. Mystery and intrigue. Battles and heartbreak. | I don’t read much UF, but I loved this book! Especially the surprise ending. | It sucks you in like so few books can do.
9. What do you think makes a good story?
Depends on the genre. LitRPG is different than paranormal romance which is different than hard science fiction which is…
The Mage of Boston Series is a character driven heroine’s journey told from first person deep point of view. It’s all about emotional connections on a rollercoaster that sometimes goes upside down—without a safety bar.
One of my readers is retired military. He said this novel made him feel things. David went on an emotional journey with Miranda Hunter, which is why he felt with her rather than thinking about her. He gets why she’s traumatized by going through a war where she lost everything. In first person, deep point of view, he experiences her world from inside her head and body. It’s an immersive experience.
That would not work in LitRPG.
10. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was eight-years-old my father asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to know everything. He responded that he wasn’t sure Plato or Aristotle knew everything, but it was an admirable goal. I haven’t made it yet, but I keep trying.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
You have to write to improve, so stop saying you’re no good. That’s self defeating. Read more. Write more. Rinse and repeat. Stop avoiding critique groups because you think you’re no good. When I see some of my old writing I could cringe. Instead I say: Wow! I’ve improved so much!
12. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I adhere as much as possible to the expected tropes. I deviate by taking readers on an emotional rollecoaster through issues such as profound loss, addiction, and other real life problems.
It’s a complicated book that has a glossary in the back to assist the reader in figuring out who all the characters are, how to pronounce Welsh and Irish words, learn who the deities are, as well as how to find locations such as Brú na Bóinne. I have linguistic consultants for pronunciation issues, two psychologists for mental health issues, and one female martial arts expert for complex fight scenes.
There are a quirky characters, a semi-sentient inn, and a lot going on with several sub-plots. All the chapters are short enough to read on a coffee break unless someone is a slow reader. They all have strong entrance and exit hooks to keep the reader interested. One reader complained he didn’t want to set the paperback down to use the bathroom he was so engrossed.
I split the difference between what readers expect and what I want them to think about. Urban fantasy can deliver a great deal of information using subplots.
13. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Patting seat beside me: Okay babycakes, let’s do this. No, don’t take notes. Trust me on this, you’ll just lose them. Be a Druid and cultivate your memory. Forget journaling. You’ve left a trail of notebooks with writing on one page. You could create a college sports team bonefire with them. I’m serious as death—develop your long-term memory skills.
Live life fully. You’re not a conventional person, never will be, and that’s fine. Travel as often and as far as you can. Meet people from other cultures and respect their truths. As a rolling stone you won’t have deep roots anywhere, but you’ll feel as at home with a Siberian shaman as you will with your co-workers. Cultural anthro studies will do you more good than you can imagine.
Cherish life’s challenges including needing to learn to break down and reassemble your daughter’s wheelchair. You don’t know it yet, but she’s a model for all heroines.
Act on your commitment to live the quote: I shall pass this way but once. Therefore any goodness I can do, any kindness I can show to any human being [expand it to animals]; let me do it now. Let me not deferit nor neglect is, for I shall not pass this way again. (Etienne de Grellet QUAKER MISSIONARY)
Stand up for the weak and defenseless. Be the woman who does the next right thing, even against the odds. It can be scary, but you’re tougher than you know. Become the person who can write from the heart and the gut because you’ve been there and done that. Everything counts. Now, go out there and change the world one person at a time until you can write something that reaches more people. Make a difference.
14. What’s the best way to market your books?
You tell me. I need to build a reading base and to do that I need people to find out about the book(s). I have a Facebook page, minimalist website, and am starting a newsletter. Word of mouth is where it’s at, but I need more mouths. J
15. What do you have coming next?
Stone and Bone, Book 2 of the Mage of Boston series is due to issue the end of July.
I have reader magnets issuing for subscribers to the Pack Some Snacks Newsletter in March (Dumpster War), April (Ghostly Demands—previously published in an anthology), May (Reflections), etc. Each about 5000 to 7000 words. Early July will see the prequel to The Reluctant Mage released as a magnet titled Soul Deep. There’s a lot in the pipeline.
There is also going to be a Young Adult spinoff by a YA author after Stone and Bone. That’s right, the universe is opening up to another writer! There will be a short story from Hannah’s point of view at the back of Book 2. Then she’s off on her own teenage adventures with Lisa at the helm. What a ride that’ll be to follow a manifesting mage girl who’s the only known timewalker in this realm. Perfect fit as Lisa writes time travel.
Thanks so much for giving me this opportunity!
Excerpt from The Reluctant Mage
Miranda, get down! Raven’s voice shouted in my head. Yeah, I know, how many people have their sort-of-dead husband giving them directions? It gets better. Wait and find out.
I was in motion before the mental warning. After all, who in their right mind stands around and has a please-don’t-eat-me convo with a troll? Not the Mage-in-Charge of Boston. Nope.
My body hit the ground in a baseball player’s slide. I careened over cobbles, leaves, and ground covering. My shoulder slammed into a boulder with a bone-jarring impact.
The bridge troll’s limbs whooshed over the space I’d been, arms wrapping around a forest guardian cedar.
Furious at missing his Hangry Man Meal, he yanked the evergreen into the air. The tree’s roots ripped. Enraged, he shook it like a baby rattle, writhing roots pelting me with debris.
Harpies and hornpipes! I’d watched too many nature programs on my smartphone when I compared the troll ginsuing a motorist to a coyote eating a chicken escaped from a pen.
How did I get to this point in my life? It’s not my fault. Pinkie swear. I don’t know how Boston’s Big Dig, sometimes called the Big Boondoggle, ruptured the veil between the realms of magic and the mundane. Or when a preternatural first found the opening. Since then, mythological and craptastic beasties have been crossing over.
Believe me, if I had a way to find the sign in Underhill that says: THIS WAY TO MUNDANIA, I’d flame it to ashes. Sadly, the trail must now be two lanes wide. And listed on tourist maps because it doesn’t require a realm walker. That leaves me, the magical gunslinger of Boston, few options.
A story for a different time. When I’m not in danger of being turned into troll chow.