The Writing Process Blog Hop

Thank you, Jessica Knauss, editor, translator, and author of Seven Nobel Knights, Providence stories, and other works, for inviting me to participate in this blog hop about the writing process.

What are you working on?

I’m currently getting A Meeting of Clans, the third book in the Misfits and Heroes series, ready for publication. In this book, members of the two original settlements – one on the southern coast and one on the northern coast of what is now southern Mexico – meet for the first time.  The book, like the others in the series, is set about 14,000 years ago.

Editing and polishing are the little known step-children of the writing process, but they’re important.  With this book, I was lucky to have the help of a professional proofreader who not only spotted wording and spelling errors but also marked problems with consistency and pace with margin notes like “Wow, this action comes out of the blue,” or “You’ve been going over this argument for four pages now,” or “This character died fifty pages ago.  Did you mean her sister?”  Very helpful.

How does your work differ from others of its genre? 

Since the Misfits and Heroes stories are set 14,000 years ago, they fall into the Prehistoric Fiction category, but since nothing is really pre-history, I suppose they’re speculative historical fiction with elements of fantasy.  Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, Valley of Horses, and other books are also set during the Ice Age, but they take place in Europe and tell very different stories.

Why do you write what you do?

I want to show early explorers in the Americas as complicated, flawed, yet ultimately heroic people.  While 12,000 BC seems like a long time ago, it’s really not, in terms of human history.  Archaeological finds in Blombos Cave, South Africa, show humans making pierced, dyed jewelry out of shells and mixing red ochre, fat, and ground limestone to make a red paste probably used for body decoration 80,000 years ago. Blombos Cave jewelry (See photo)

The fabulous cave paintings in northern Spain and southern France were created 32,000 – 40,000 years ago. (Photo)

Lascaux horse with dots

The first mathematical tally stick, the Lebombo bone, is at least 35,000 years old (South Africa/Swaziland). (Photo)

Lebombo bone

Open water navigators

It’s now clear that our distant relatives crossed open ocean into Australia at least 50,000 years ago, into Okinawa, Japan 32,000 years ago, and into Flores Island, Indonesia, at least 80,000 years ago.

Migration into the New World

In the Misfits and Heroes books, groups of explorers come from West Africa across the Atlantic and from what is now Indonesia across the Pacific.  They meet in the third book, A Meeting of Clans.  In the fourth book (not yet written), a small group from the north of Spain will join them.  All of these explorers cross the sea to reach the New World.

While I don’t doubt that some people walked across the Bering Land Bridge to the New World, the theory that everyone came to the Americas by that route doesn’t fit the evidence.  The earliest settlements in the Americas are in coastal South America (southern Chile and northeastern Brazil).  The oldest settlements in North America are on the east coast (South Carolina and Virginia).  If everyone came through Alaska, why aren’t the oldest sites lined up along that route?  The coastal settlements seem to indicate access by water, not land.

We sorely underestimate the abilities of ancient people, partly out of an ingrained sense of superiority.  One person asked me if people were even talking 14,000 years ago.  Well, they organized hunting parties and trade routes, built villages and boats, navigated rivers and open water, learned game patterns and plant characteristics, preserved food, even painted images on walls and carved series of notches into bones.  It’s hard to imagine any of these being possible without an accurate and sophisticated communication system.

Actually, the ancient peoples had far more abundant natural resources than we do.  All they had to do was learn to work together to harvest them.

Pedra Furada deer

Rock art deer from Pedra Furada in northeastern Brazil, first occupied over 40,000 years ago (photo)

How does your writing process work?

Like Jessica, I like a routine.  I work in the same place and listen to the same pieces of music all the way through the writing of a book.

I also talk to myself as I write (as long as no one else is around).  I just say what I want to write and my fingers type the words.  When I taught composition, I encouraged students to try this technique.  Interestingly, some tried it with their children who were struggling with writing.  They started by having the child talk about something while they wrote the words down, then moved to having the child talk into a tape recorder, play it back, and write down the words.  In the last stage, the children learned to slow down their speech and speed up their writing so they could write (or type) their words as they spoke them. The technique worked very well, even for children with learning difficulties.

It also helps with proofreading.  Try it. If people give you strange looks when they hear you mumbling over your papers, tell them it’s “speech-directed writing.”  That sounds more impressive than talking to yourself.

Look for Emma Right’s post in the blog hop on her blog, Books for Young Adults, on March 17, and check back with Jessica Knauss to read about her thoughts on the writing process at her blog at   And cheers to all the writers out there!

Sources and interesting reading:

“Ancient Humans Crossed Ocean Barrier?” Popular Archaeology Magazine,

Bednarik, R.G. “Replicating the first known sea travel by humans: the Lower Pleistocene crossing of Lombok Strait, Human Evolution (journal) 16, 229 – 242 (2001)

Bellwood, Peter.  “Special Report: Ancient Seafarers,” Archaeology Magazine March/April 1997,

Mayell, Hillary. “Early Humans May have Crossed Sea to Leave Africa” National Geographic News, 13, May, 2005

Pringle, Heather. “Did Humans Colonize the World by Boat?” Discover Magazine, June, 2008,

Than,Ker. “World’s Oldest Cave Art Found – Made by Neanderthals?” National Geographic News, June, 2012,

“Very ancient mariners: Early human ancestors were more advanced than first thought and sailed the high seas,” The Daily Mail (UK) 19 August 2011,

Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop

Thank you, Jessica Knauss, for inviting me to join this blog hop about fiction and food.  I’ve asked Carol Anita Ryan, author of Right Now Is Perfect, <> to join the hop too.

When I started writing a series of prehistoric adventure novels, I didn’t know I’d end up learning about many subjects, including wild foods.  A local foraging guru showed me a fabulous world of wild edible and medicinal plants out there.  I’ve found I love the adventure of finding, preparing, and eating wild foods.

We’re surprisingly ignorant about the plants that surround us, but ancient people knew all about the wild foods available each season; they had to.  Elders warned young people not to eat the fruits or one plant, to peel those of another, to cook and mash another.  Their accumulated knowledge allowed the tribe to survive.

This is the world I write about in Misfits and Heroes: West from Africa and Past the Last Island, the second book in the Misfits and Heroes series, both set 14,000 years ago.  The first book follows a group of travelers from the coast of West Africa across the Atlantic.  The second follows explorers island-hopping eastward across the South Pacific until they decide to pass the last island and head out into the open sea.

Now, for the questions:

Do you snack as you write?  Sadly, yes.  Sweet or salty?  Both.  The current vice is blue corn chips, but chocolate cookies are never very far away.

Outline or seat of the pants?  Both.  I have a general outline and section guidelines, but once I’m writing a scene, I tend to just go with it, or “pants it,” as one writer put it.

Do you stick to a recipe or wing it?  I always begin thinking I’ll stick to the recipe then find I’m missing some ingredient but I have something sort of like it that might work if I just adjust those other ingredients, and so on.  Sometimes it works out very nicely, but then I can’t remember exactly what I did to make it work.  With wine, I find I have to take careful notes.  Otherwise, I just repeat the same mistakes on the next batch.

What’s next?  My WIP is the third book in the series, where both groups meet in what is now known as southern Mexico.  Beyond that, a fourth is lurking in the wings.

How hot is it?  Like Ginger Myrick, I tend to suggest sex rather than describe it.  Some sections are romantic, but the book’s accent is on adventure rather than romance, though romance is certainly part of the adventure.  I guess it’s a 3.  Maybe.  I’d love to hear from a reader on that score.

Now, for the recipes:

Wild foods can be very simple to prepare or incredibly complicated.  I tend to go with the easy stuff.  Here are two very easy possibilities:

dandelionDandelion fritters

Pick fresh dandelion flowers from an area you think is safe from chemicals and pets.  Rinse off any visiting bugs, shake the flowers out and let them dry on a towel.

Heat oil in a heavy pan.

Mix up one cup of flour, one egg, and one cup of milk.

Swirl dandelion flowers in the batter and fry them until golden brown, then flip them over until the other side is brown.  Then remove and set on paper towel.   While they’re still hot, dust them with kosher salt.  Enjoy!  Even people who have never eaten wild foods will (probably) love them.  They have a very mild flavor, not bitter like dandelion leaves, though they’re great too.

Orange daylily

Daylily salad

When daylilies (aka ditch lilies) are in season, pick a couple of handfuls of buds and four open flowers from an area away from car exhaust and lawn chemicals.  Remove the stamens and pistils from the flowers.  Cut the stem ends off the buds rinse them off and let them dry.  Include the buds with the tossed salad fixings you like best.  The buds have a very mild flavor, a little like asparagus, and go with almost anything.  Fill the cup of the flowers with herbed cheese and put them on top of the salad as an edible garnish.  Their very mild flavor goes well with something stronger, like garlic or pungent herbs.

Then I hope you go crazy with more wild foods.  So delicious – and free!

Be sure to check out the other blogs in the hop!

Historical Fiction Blog Hop, Part II

Omedieval bunnyur assignment was to include exactly ten sentences from a story.  My contribution this week is from Past the Last Island, the second book in the Misfits and Heroes series on ancient explorers.  This section describes the transformation of Owl Man, the shaman, who has chosen to remain behind on the island while the others continue their journey.

In the days and nights that followed, he never moved.  The yellow-eyed boat blew over in a storm.  Rains fell on him, and sunlight and moonlight and spray from the waves.  His hair grew so long it reached down his back to the ground; his toenails twisted into the sand.  A swift perched on his shoulder.

Inside, he discovered a great space filled with sky that he rose up into, pushing through it with his uplifted arms, stretching out his fingers until he reached the very heart of the sky.  Just before he had it under his fingers, the swift stopped him, saying, “It is not given to you to know the heart of the sky.”

So he returned, sending out roots into the earth, solidifying into a guardian tree near the shore, its trunk greater around than the reach of six men, its branches reaching higher into the sky than those of any other tree.  Red macaws claimed the tree and tiny wax bees, grey monkeys, a python, a wide-eyed tarsier. Most of all it belonged to the swift, who, as the shaman’s other, gave him the gift of flight, even as he took root deeper into the ground.

Don’t forget to check out the other blogs on the hop!
Jessica Knauss – The Seven Noble Knights of Lara

In a Milk and Honeyed Land

Misfits and Heroes

Ascroft, eh?

Jenna Jaxon

Tree Soldie

Historical Blog Hop

medieval bunny

Misfits and Heroes is happy to be part of the Historical Fiction Blog Hop organized  by Jessica Knauss.  Today’s assignment was to provide exactly ten sentences from a  piece of historical fiction we had written or were working on.

Here’s my  contribution, taken from the end of the first chapter of Past the Last Island, set in the South Pacific Islands, 14,000 years ago.   Naia, the chief’s servant, has promised to “take care of” the misshapen baby born to the chief’s wife.

      Out where the light of the old sun still warmed the flat rocks, she set him down carefully and sat back on her heels.  The reddened sky seemed very close above her, arching just over her head.  She knew she shouldn’t stay.  This place was dangerous; people sometimes felt the sky so close here that they slipped away into it, never to return except as shapes in the clouds.

     “Don’t be an old fool,” she said as she pushed herself up.  “You’ve been sitting here too long.  It’s time to go home.”

     Bending down, she tucked the long leaves around the infant, reached one hand under the misshapen head and the other under his back, and settled him back into the fold of her sling.  Above her the flaming colors of the sky dome hid the world of the spirits but she knew they could see through holes in the clouds.

     “I said I’d take care of him,” she said, looking up, “so I will.”

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs in the hop:

12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour

Welcome to the Blog Hop!

Misfits and Heroes is participating in the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour set up by Intoxicated by Books.  We’re giving away four copies of Misfits and Heroes: West from Africa and fifty handy notepads.  All you have to do is leave your name and address in the Comments section.  No, they won’t be sold or given away to anybody!  Please add how you heard about the Misfits and Heroes blog.  Thanks.

Misfits and Heroes: West from Africa is adventure/exploration/magic/spirit intervention.  It was recently named one of Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011, one of only 51 independently published books to make the list and one of only four indie adventure novels.

The winners have been notified by email.  The prizes should be in the mail tomorrow (Friday, December 30).

Thanks for your interest in the blog and the book!

Kathleen Rollins