Author Archives: Gwen Mansfield

About Gwen Mansfield

Gwen Mansfield loves words, and the thought of a good story sends ideas capering through her mind until they sift into characters, settings, and plots. Roll Call, Book #2 in the Roll Call Trilogy debuted as Gwen’s first post-apocalyptic, sci-fi survival thriller, and the surprises she found on the pages made it impossible to say goodbye to Avery DeTornada and her comrades. So—Welcome Book #2, Inside The Third and Book #3, Reluctant Warriors. Characters drive the creative process of Gwen’ writing. She says, “I can’t escape the quirky characters who romp through the pages of my stories—I guess ‘cause I’ve had so many of them in my own life. Almost every week I discover someone whose idiosyncrasies are a trigger to a character in a still-to-be-written story. And then, there are those people who wander through my life on a regular basis. Through the eyes of others, they may seem quite ordinary, but the influence they’ve had on my life is extraordinary. They too are the catalysts my books are made of. My kids always say, ‘If you stick around long enough, you’ll end up as a character in one of my mom’s books.’” Author of the Roll Call Trilogy, the novel Experiment Station Road, the stage play Grace Diner, and the musical Resistance! (based on the book Tales of the Resistance by David and Karen Mains)—Gwen Mansfield continues to bring the creation of new worlds to her latest release, Reluctant Warriors, Book #3. Gwen is an early recipient of the New Harmony Project, finalist in Reverie Productions’ Next Generation of Playwriting Contest, and a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Historical Fiction. She holds a BA in Theatre from Seattle Pacific University, an MA in Theatre Production from Central Washington University, and an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from University of New Orleans. She lives in the forests of Washington with her family. “Maybe it’s only in my dreams that I’ve descended into post-apocalyptic danger, run from dystopian challengers, chased threatening asteroids, and climbed into a romantic relationship with my soulmate—but for my readers—I launch it on the page!”—Gwen Mansfield


Why reviews matter.

For years, one of the subjects I taught at the high school and university level was Fundamentals of Public Speaking. I loved teaching Speech. My first comment to each terrified class was “Be prepared to have an opinion about everything.”

That comment was driven by the images of my students when they were called upon to express thoughts or give opinions.

  • Slumped shoulders. Translated this means I’m not confident enough to answer–or even open my mouth. I want to disappear.
  • Shrugged shoulders. Translated this means I don’t know. I am pretending I don’t know. I’m terrified. Don’t look at me.
  • Sagging shoulders. Translated this means I had a traumatic public speaking experience or a classroom event that damaged my confidence. I’m going to vomit.

Over the course of a semester, I would teach–not just the skill of public speaking–but how to retrain minds to be actively thinking every moment of life–especially in the classroom. Be prepared to have an opinion about everything. Your opinions matter.

As an author, opinions matter to me. There are two kinds of reviews (opinions) I treasure. The first and most highly respected is the reader’s review. It is an honor to know there are those who have committed time to read my books and have taken the additional steps to post their opinions about their interactions with the characters and plots. While I may never meet these readers, there are connections formed that will outlast the time it took to do the actual reading. Each day, as my characters and I are breathing life into the pages of the stories, I think of my readers and the importance they play in the story itself.

The second kind of review is what is commonly know in the literary world as the editorial review.Perhaps one of the most respected editorial reviews is an American book review magazine founded in 1933, Kirkus Reviews. Headquartered in New York City, the reviews are used for agents, libraries, booksellers and indie authors who need a professional and reputable company to give a review without prejudice. Yes, indie authors pay a fee for a review, but Kirkus has no buy-in or reason to write good reviews. They are straightforward and can be know to write without mercy. If they trash your book, you have an option of not publishing the review, hiding it in a box, and burying it under an apple tree. No one will ever know Kirkus panned your book. However, if you get a strong review, you can publish it, and you have a great new tool to add to your toolbox arsenal.

I chose to publiish.

Enjoy some Kirkus Reviews from each of the Roll Call Trilogy books.

Roll Call, Book #1 in the Roll Call Trilogy “Mansfield begins her new trilogy by dropping readers into a future that’s as propulsive as it is miserable. In marvelous, staccato prose, she describes Avery’s world as ‘Gray. The sky. The factory. The conveyor belt. The little pills that feed us, heal us, alter us–stabilize us.’ The GEBs are reminiscent of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers but are used so cleverly here that they feel totally fresh…sophisticated jolts of turmoil charge the narrative, as when Avery has ‘lost the time to let beauty perform its work on [her] spirit. Overall, this masterful series opener is in better company with William Gibson’s Neuromancer than safer fare such as The Hunger Games. An exhilarating ride, full of sheer drops and whiplash curves.”–Kirkus Reviews

Inside The Third, Book #2 in the Roll Call Trilogy “Mansfield (Roll Call, 2015) shifts her focus from the space-operatic threat of GEBs and other genre tropes to the complex emotions of loving someone you can’t fully understand. Though Chapman is only 5 years old his odd behavior makes Avery wonder. ‘Am I raising a son or a weapon pointing at me?’ This question isn’t posed lightly in a nation that leads the world in gun-related deaths. Later, the author’s optimism bleeds through when the test of a fishborn rattles her heroes. McGinty’s affection prompts Avery to say, ‘How can you kiss me right now?’ He replies: ‘In a world like this, every moment must be the best moment.’ Concepts like Pepper, an unfinished GEB who’s pregnant and unable to give birth, and a nightmarish cliffhanger prove Mansfield has boldness to spare. Radiant concepts, dialogue, and prose elevate this dystopian tale.” —Kirkus Reviews

Reluctant Warriors, Book #3 in the Roll Call Trilogy “Mansfield’s finale deftly addresses how relationships evolve over time and under extreme duress. When Annalynn and Raghill, who grew up together, begin working closely on curtailing the asteroid, new emotions overtake them. Only Avery’s chapters are first person yet the prose never fails to instill the ‘ticking of the world’s clock’ in readers. Combining this warning with mentions of natural beauty (‘We venture…into the midst of multiple groves of hemlock trees’), the book echoes the present-day call for urgent action on climate change. Some of the conceptual play from the prior volumes persist in the ‘repwas,’ creatures that are a blend of reptiles and wasps. While many of the emotional turns are grim, the powerful narrative offers quiet hope with Avery’s line, ‘We may always disagree about our methods, but I trust you to…[s] eek a world of words and not weapons.’ A strong series finale that celebrates the growth of both individuals and societies.”–Kirkus Reviews

Join me next time when I ask: What is is about that spinning salad bowl?


How the zips of Roll Call deepen character, add to the new world setting, and provide suspense.

Years ago, I attended a leadership conference in the woods. You know, bonding in the great outdoors. (It wasn’t my idea.) Standing at the base of the ladder leading to the fifty-foot-high bridge I examined my initial task. The sign near the first wrung read: Concentration Tester–Earthquake Bridge. Hmmmm–should have known this might present some problems.

Okay, a series of wooden planks suspended by cables–I walk across the planks–how hard can it be? And how does a person unafraid of heights, over the course of an hour, become paralyzed to face the great outtdoor challenge for the rest of her life?

The planks moved with each step I took, and the rope hand lines, that I thought would stabilize me, became a meager protection to keep me from plunging off the bridge to the earth below. You’re kidding–this is meant to challenge my focus and footwork while maintaining balance? Try this–meant to recapture my abandoned focus while summoning my dissolving sanity.

I love going first. You name it–first in line at Home Depot–first to give a speech–first to hand in the most difficult English exam–I love first. In this case, my anxious ascent up the ladder to be the first created a logjam. Halfway across the bridge, my enthusiasm turned to terror, as I inched–not stepped–forward. Behind me, the others on the leadership team, chomping at the bit get going. Some team.

I took Pasha Lutnik from the Roll Call Trilogy to my memories of the earthquake bridge. Little did I know, she was about to cancel out my fear with her no fear and creativity. Even though it wasn’t me that conquered my recent fear of heights–Pasha was the next best thing. After all, she was my creation.

Avery DeTornada from Roll Call describes Pasha’s zips: “Zip cords have replaced taxis, limos, cars and motorcycles in the City of Reichel. Since the government failed in its most recent attempt to provide transportation, Pasha stepped in. She figured with a little careful planning that a brain surgeon should be able to lay out a spider web of cable routes for city transport. Most of us carry registered hook-ups on the backs of our uniforms that allow us zip transport through the laser scanning of an invisible number on our right knuckles. There are no VATs, visual-audio trails, tracking conversations or actions when we ride the web of cords all over the city. It is far too difficult to bug a zip.”

If you travel with Pasha on her roll call journey you will find she is a character to love, laugh at, and frequently becomes an irritation. Pasha’s creation of the zips that traverse the skies and building tops of Reichel increase her character depth, showing her scientific ingenuity and her willingness to risk. I should add that part of that willingness to risk comes from the narcissism that is constantly whispering in her ear.

In the Roll Call Trilogy, settings become characters too! Imagine–there’s been an apocalypse that’s severed half the country, so what’s left of the country looks different–bizarre at times. So, if you’re not afraid to travel Pasha’s zips, it might be your best way to slip through the city without notice.

As the final pages of Roll Call unfold, the thriller climax combines the quirky character of Pasha and her unmistakable mark on the zips. The reader envisions the dangerous images of the cable network, seeing the personification of the sky-highway as a protector for Avery DeTornada and her comrades.

Juxtaposing what is happening above on the zips with the plot twists occurring below–suspense grows like my hour of hell on the earthquake bridge. So, alas, I must say thank you for my terrifying experience at the leadership event, which brought me absolutely no bonding but buried the idea of Pasha’s zips deep in my memory to bring them to my readers years later. As I tell my creative writing students frequently: Never waste a moment. Never waste a word. Hopefully, my readers will feel the thrill and the terror of hooking up to those zips with their favorite characters!

Join me next time…in a cartwheel for Kirkus!

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.

The Roll Call World…what a wonder to write!

A Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-Fi Survival Trilogy…

Avery must confront three reluctant warriors…
…Raghill, Annalynn, and Morris…
…who accuse Avery of giving too much attention to war and not enough to corralling the aggressive asteroid menace. (Photo by Sherri M. Miller)

Haunted by the Roll Call story, I jumped into the post-apocalyptic universe only to find it totally empty. I asked the muse—who sat laughing on the edge of Jurbay—my imagined asteroid—“What’s up? You expect me to write a story and create a new world too?”  

Mischievous eyes captured my attention. She nodded and whispered, “Yes. Not only do I expect you to ‘write a story and create a new world too’ but the new world is your story.”

I scoffed at Glenda for a moment. (I’ve called my muse many things over the last nine years including “harbinger of death,” “the Whisperer,” “crazy,” “angel,” “imp,” “ass,” “friend”—until finally I gave her a name for the sake of this post. I’m calling her Glenda. (No—not the good witch of Oz. Just Glenda.)

By the time I’d finished scoffing Glenda and turned to face her again (sitting on the edge of Jurbay)—she was gone, and I needed to start living up to my commitment of writing a new-world-creation. I found that ideas, when creating a new world, could come from anywhere—and did.

For example, very early on in my slowly forming post-apocalyptic, sci-fi world—I entered a second-hand bookstore in a small historic town. Ooops!  I thought this was a new bookstore where I could scout current books in genres like the ones I was now writing. You know—what’s current in the market.

But no, these were used books that smelled like the old piano in my Uncle Ivan’s tack shop—the one no one knew how to play. “No thanks,” I murmured and turned to go. Then—I saw it. An old book that featured a dozen authors who were scientists. These were legit people—not the made-up-university-doctorate-degree types found in Google searches. These scientists were offering their predictions for fifty years in the future. Had to buy it.

Living on the pages of that book were catalysts that would prompt me to create the brain-swappers in Book #1. Little did I know new brain-swappers would appear in each book to follow in the trilogy. Some of those brain-swappers would eventually be instrumental to the climax of the trilogy. (No—that’s not really a spoiler-alert—it’s not enough info to give away anything!)

Creating the Roll Call world turned out to be more than a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi learning curve.

I love how ideas are born through unexpected avenues, and surprises are often found buried deep in unusual places—ridiculous circumstances. I hesitate to use the word destiny or the phrase divine appointment, but I have to admit there just might have been some of that hovering—guiding—tempting me to find the characters I fell in love with who led me to the plot that drove the Roll Call Trilogy.

My very comfortable genre until 2013 wrapped around stage plays and screenplays heavy with humor, plot twists, advocacy for justice, and light historical fiction. There was also a spattering of characters from the past and the future roving through some of the pages of my work.

What Glenda the muse taught me that day in 2013—in the middle of the empty universe—was that everything and everyone is a catalyst. Take a simple idea—a new world thought—a brain-swapper. Play with it. If you fiddle with it long enough—evolution begins. And the more you play—the bigger and more specific the new world becomes.

It has been my joy to learn how to play! It’s opened my eyes—and, hopefully, yours—to the ever-emerging world—the world of Roll Call.

Join me on my next blog post as I step out on the edge of the New Coastline, 2067. You’ll be surprised by what I find!

Finish Line–Inside The Third

IMG_6882Artist’s finishing touches on the map for Book #2 in the Roll Call Trilogy,  Inside The Third

Getting toward the finish line on Inside The Third. For me, it has been a fierce and passionate journey of discovery to accompany the characters as they jump forward in time to 2088, five years after the first book. Their adventures intensify. Their conflicts ramp up. Their relationships flex between unholy alliances, strategic complexities, and unconditional love. And the surprises–well, they just don’t stop.  We’re making final adjustments to the map on the inside cover of the book. Here’s a peak. Take a look at where you’ll be traveling when you open page one of Inside The Third

*Ash, the new capital of The Third, looming at the north end of the receded Waters of Erie.

*Colony G and The 28 United, at the west end of the lake, hidden in the savanna grasses of a deserted zoo.

*The Baloon-tech Colonies, to the south of the lake, unknown and undiscovered by the warring forces of The 28 United and The Third.

*The New Coastline, the carved out coastline after Jurbay fell, submerging and sinking twenty-two western states in 2067.

*The Anteater’s Nose, a remaining section of the Waters of Michigan, hanging off the New Coastline.

*The Dark Market, Degnan’s creation, thirty-five miles of submerged cars, housing his commerce giant, unmarked weapon cars for The Third, and perverse offerings for the pleasure of the upper tier clients.

Launch date…early May, 2017! Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Nobel.

Writer’s Groups Inspire

Love speaking to writers group. The time I spent this month speaking to “Penning on the Peninsula” inspired me! The topic “Character Movement” was intriguing, and I enjoyed putting together the materials to teach. However the passion of these writers left an impact on me.
One writer asked me, “What is your writing passion this month?” Bam! Didn’t have to plan that answer. It haunts me daily. It’s the surprises I am finding along the journey while writing book #2 of the Roll Call Triology–Inside the Third.
Read more this week about what those surprises are, including: “Avery and McGinty–It’s Not a Love Triangle Anymore,”  “Avery–the Temper That Taunts,” and “Pasha–Even a Self-Proclaimed Genius Can Take a Fall.”





“Mansfield begins her new trilogy by dropping readers into a future that’s as propulsive as it is miserable. In marvelous, staccato prose, she describes Avery’s world as ‘Gray. The sky. The factory. The conveyor belt. The little pills that feed us, heal us, alter us–stabilize us.’ The GEBs are reminiscent of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but are used so cleverly here that they feel totally fresh. Although the novel is aimed at young adults, sophisticated jolts of turmoil charge the narrative, as when Avery has ‘lost the time to let beauty perform its work on {her} spirit.’ Overall, this masterful series opener is in better company with William Gibson’s Neuromancer than safer fare such as The Hunger Games. An exhilarating ride, full of sheer drops and whiplash curves.”

A Word from Valerie Veatch, Director “Love Child” (HBO 2014)

Roll Call strikes at the fundamental nature of the human story. With humor, imagination, and gripping realism, Mansfield transports us to a world in which essential myths of our time play out and we are compelled to reexamine where we are as a society.” ~~Valerie Veatch,Director “Love Child” (HBO 2014) and “Me @ the Zoo (HBO 2012). Sundance Film Festival 2012, 2014.