Monthly Archives: March 2023

The Price of a Pigeon…

How a “piece of poultry” became beloved, funny, and the reader’s friend.

While Pasha’s appearance transforms through each book of the Roll Call Trilogy, one thing does not change—her love for pigeons. There are plenty of quirky characters moving in and out of the pages of books 1, 2, and 3, but none more unusual than Pasha Lutnik. Or should I say “Dr. Lutnik.” That moniker itself is kind of scary. Would any of us really want to visit Pasha for a neurology appointment? I don’t think so. At least I know I wouldn’t!

Pigeons serve several purposes in the trilogy. They become a major plot twist in Book #1, Roll Call, and they become a catalyst for characters and action in all three books.

Sorry—I’m not discussing that major plot twist in Book #1, as you would all be screaming at me “Spoiler! Spoiler alert!”  

The pigeons allow Pasha’s character to develop it’s quirky traits. I mean how many people in a post-apocalyptic world build a pigeon roost on  top of a housing unit roof and invent the zips to travel back and forth from one roof to another? But the pigeons—Herman and Orbit, specifically—also provide an opportunity for the reader to see a gentler side of Pasha that is rarely visible to those around her and instrumental to her character.

Pigeons provide opportunities for younger characters to tease and torture Pasha, developing both their characters and hers. These cooing birds serve as motivators to reveal characteristics for those who hold keys to plot related items. While some refer to Herman and Orbit as “pieces of poultry,” Pasha is seen caring for them, loving them, and setting them free to accomplish missions you will only understand when you read Book #1.

Pigeon handlers at the farm.

Working with actors to create the book cover for Roll Call involved visiting a pigeon farm and using a pigeon handler to make sure we didn’t mess up the protocol for the birds’ training.

The pigeon farm.

I found out that pigeons are pretty amazing, and, yes, they really do return home—such a great metaphor for one of the themes that extends throughout the entire Roll Call Trilogy—defining home—the search for home—experiencing home—both the failures of its creation and the satisfaction of comprehending the scope of all that home is.

Pigeons—I grew to love them just as Pasha did. They provide an ongoing humorous string in the plot, but also bring serious moments to the forefront of the story. You’ll note, as you read the entire trilogy, that the poultry cast grows from the beginning to the end of the series, and I hope, as readers, you find out pigeons were worth the risk of my engagement. Happy reading!

Let me take you for a ride on a zip or two in my next blog…

Children raised their voices in the Roll Call Trilogy. How I learned to listen…

What was trash to The Third became a gift to The 28 United.

Early on in the creation of the Roll Call World, I kept hearing the words, wit, humor–the calling of children’s voices. As I gained an understanding of how The Third demonstrated malicious intent. How strategic their lack of close relationships reflected their ultimate plans. And how the devaluation of family and children took high priority in their government—well, I couldn’t help but hear the children rising up.

(Just a note: It’s really hard to write a blog on a book series without dropping spoiler alerts all over, or overcompensating with a bunch of general drivel. I’m hoping, if you’re reading these blogs, you’ve at least started reading Book #1 in the Roll Call Trilogy, and the references will make sense. As the months roll on and you become a regular reader, the posts will reflect Book #2 and Book #3. Then, those references to Inside The Third and Reluctant Warriors will help illuminate my writer’s journey in the creation of the Roll Call World.)

Annalynn, an 8-year-old orphan, befriends Avery, Shaw, and McGinty at their housing unit. She’s available to do pretty much anything she wants. Her caretaker—a pocket watch—shows responsibility only for peps to feed her, water to drink, and shelter. No wonder she needs friends. She’s full of spunk, “like a standup comedian for a kindergarten class.” Yeah, Annalynn pretty much rules. Until she meets the Library Boys.

They slide down the banister of the deserted Foxglove Library where a drugged-out pocket watch—Degnan—is supposedly their caretaker. Afterall, supervision is a necessity for these abandon sons belonging to the commanders of The Third. Their wacky combination of circus-like clothing and ultimate-risk behavior decorates every page they scamper across.

My writing frequently births quirky characters who romp with and throw the challenge flag at the protagonists. As I discover and grow these characters with funny actions, buzzy relationships, and quippy dialogue, I also uncover serious themes developing in this cast of characters.

You will find Morris, Raghill, Carles, Prospero, and Lear –the Library Boys—to have layer after layer of hidden traits, memories, and dreams that make them more than a passing moment of humor. Perhaps that’s why some of them wouldn’t leave me alone and insisted they accompany me from Book #1 to Book #2, and as they grew up in age, they wrangled major page time from Avery DeTornada and became major players in the final book Reluctant Warriors.

Growing up in a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi world of war, the children in the Roll Call Trilogy, while advanced in thinking skills beyond their adult counter-parts, always cling to a sense of wonder, humor, and hope like only children can. How do they walk in the middle of the unspeakable and still wield their sarcasm in a heartbeat? How do they propose social change when many have forgotten the value of community? They are the definition of humanity’s continuance—and they will not be silenced. How I love hearing their voices and morphing what I hear into action, dialogue and a story that invites you to be a part.

Join me on my next blog when we take a look at…the price of a pigeon.

Why Doesn’t This Coastline Look The Same?

Try counting the submerged states—22—Thanks, Jurbay.

This artist’s rendering of the New Coastline in the post-apocalyptic, sci-fi survival thriller, Roll Call Trilogy, maps out Avery DeTornada’s new world and why her father and mother—Carles and Quinn DeTornada –bravely named what they believed would become a world of justice—The 28 United.

When we as readers choose a genre to read—enjoy—fall in love with—we jump in with both feet. So it is with the post-apocalyptic, sci-fi survival genre. (Map Design: Denise Mahoney. Map Edits: Sherri M. Miller.) I spent considerable time with a map of the 50 states on my desk, designing endless combinations of which of the 22 states would be severed and sink into the Pacific. Knowing my readers would never see a mention of a state name–I needed to know for my own peace of mind, so that my references made sense. For example, when looking at the map you can see that Lake Michigan is gone as is Lake Superior and part of Lake Huron. Names were changed–Lake Erie became the Waters of Erie–Lake Ontario became the Waters of Ontario–to reflect the Roll Call World. Deciding which states remained gave me the freedom to research the settings further and continue the creation of my new world.

Let’s take my idea of placing the headquarters of The 28 United inside a defunct zoo in Book #2, Inside The Third. That’s when the fun began! Researching zoos in Ohio, which was a state that “hung on” after Jurbay, brought all sorts of catalysts to contribute to both the setting and plot. Pictures of several zoos and their layouts began to point to the beloved character of “Gizzie” the gazelle that preferred “pet-hood” with The 28 United, instead of fleeing with the rest of the animals when the zoo became defunct, due to infrastructure decline of The Third’s world.

The settings of all the Roll Call Trilogy books became characters themselves. The window without panes in Pasha’s housing allotment at the zoo became a metaphor for the ins and outs of Pasha’s arrogant plan to infiltrate The Third and the chaos in her mind. The broken and open window space allowed Morris and Annalynn to climb in and out with humor and tension until Pasha’s final decision to abandon her post and sneak Inside The Third.

As a writer, I love how a small thought–let’s use a zoo for a headquarters–Colony G–can become a Whisperer and draw my creative spirit through the zoo and on to the Healing Caves (also in Inside The Third) where the enormous painting on the ceiling of the caves depicted Avery and Gizzie, demonstrating to the broken Avery what peace might look like to her.

Creating the new world–the Roll Call World–was an adventure that changed my life forever and convinced me that everything is possible.

Join me on my next post as I explore the importance of the child’s voice in the Roll Call Trilogy, and how I learned how to hear the children speak.