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Author Update 2021: Joyce Hertzoff

Author Joyce Hertzoff writes mystery, science fiction, and fantasy in every length from flash fiction to novels, and for different audiences including middle grade, young adult, and adult. Her newest YA fantasy release is Homeward Bound (2020), the fourth and final book in her Crystal Odyssey series. You’ll find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as on her website at and blog at Read more about Joyce in her 2015, 2017, and 2019 SWW interviews, and visit Amazon for all of her books.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Homeward Bound?
In Homeward Bound, I’ve wrapped up Narissa Day’s story. Nissa, her siblings and friends are sailing back to Solwintor from Fartek with devices and information that the scientists at the Stronghold need. But first, she and her group have to get past an island that wasn’t there before. When they reach home, they’ll have to fight the Legion that threatens to take over the continents of Solwintor and Leara. There are also two weddings that take place.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I had to wrap up a few loose ends. I always have a problem coming up with an ending. And, as usual, I had a hard time with the fight scenes, making them as realistic as possible. I also didn’t want to be saccharine in the romantic and wedding scenes.

How did the book come together?
There had to be at least one more story after the third book in the series. The gang finished their mission in Fartek and had to go home. It took about seven or eight months to write what happened along the way, and then another year or so to get feedback and revise the story. I rely on critique groups, both online and local, and a few of those critique partners helped me.

Tell us a little about your main character and what she has to overcome in this story.
The main character, as in the previous three stories, is Narissa Day, called Nissa. She’s learned quite a bit about her world since her eighteenth birthday when she left home for the first time with brother Blane to find Madoc, her missing magic teacher. She’s definitely grown up. In this particular story, she mainly has to overcome the threat of the Legion on Solwintor, the East Islands and her home continent of Leara. Her sword-fighting skills come in handy in the story, along with the ability to harness the energy all around with her mind.

What did you do to make your story world, with its fantastical elements, believable and logical?
As a former scientific abstracter, I believe in building my story worlds on sound scientific bases. I have a need to explain everything and make fantastical elements scientifically possible. For example, the world of my series relies on crystals to power devices and engines. In the past, crystal radios used similar crystals to change which sound frequencies they were tuned to. In my stories, the crystals are used to focus the energy around us as a power source.

Did what-if questions help shape your series?
All speculative fiction starts with what-if questions. The consequences of those suppositions should be logical, yet interesting for the reader. Those consequences lead to more what-if questions, and so on. For example, if you ask, “What if you find two books written in a strange language that show star patterns different from those where you are?” Then the next question is: “What would you do?” In the second book of the series, Nissa, Madoc and their siblings travel north looking for the source of the books and a place where the stars look like the patterns in the book.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I surprised myself with some of the places the story went, and that I needed four novels to finish the whole story. But my favorite part was brainstorming all the obstacles the characters had to overcome to achieve their goals, and then brainstorming ways to get past each obstacle. Characters, not just mine, have a habit of taking a story places it wasn’t supposed to go. I enjoyed dreaming up ways to bring them back to where I wanted the story to end up. I love solving puzzles, even ones I create for myself.

Looking back to when you wrote book one, The Crimson Orb, when did you know the story was strong enough for a series?
As I wrote the first story, ideas occurred to me that I couldn’t include in the first adventures. But it was those two books that Nissa and Blane found in Madoc’s rooms that made sequels imperative.

If the stars aligned, what past or present television or movie series would you love to write for (or be involved with in any capacity)?
I just finished re-watching the first four seasons of Eureka, and I’m currently watching season five. It appeals to my sense of mixing science and fantasy. Sure, a lot of the science is made up, but so is the crystal-based science in my series. I would have loved to have written for Eureka.

I’ve written fan fiction for other TV shows and movies, including The Princess Bride, Twister, Winnie the Pooh, Northern Exposure, and even the British mystery series Rosemary and Thyme. Always a fun activity. But those were for fanfic exchanges, not as real continuations of the movies and TV shows. Still, I would want to write for them for real.

What are the key issues when writing a series to keep readers coming back for more?
At least two things are needed: a premise large enough that it can take you through a series and characters that readers can relate to. Recurring details can also be good. And, of course, the world building has to be solid and consistent.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to my award-winning novella A Bite of the Apple. I have two near-future/post-apocalyptic series in the works, one for middle-grade students and one for adults. I even have a crime/mystery series that’s partly finished. Finally, I’m writing a few short stories.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Joyce Hertzoff

Retired from over four decades in a science-based career, author Joyce Hertzoff now writes flash fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels in several genres including mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. She released two books in 2018: So, You Want to be a Dragon, a middle-grade adventure, and Beyond the Sea, book three in The Crystal Odyssey series for a YA audience. You’ll find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as her website at and blog at Read more about Joyce in her SWW interviews for 2015 and 2017, and visit Amazon Central for all of her books.

What is your elevator pitch for So, You Want to be a Dragon?
When three children succeed in turning themselves into dragons to parlay with real ones and protect their town, how can they change back?

How did the book come together?
I honestly don’t recall the spark that ignited this story. I had an image of a teenager selling shellfish and her little sister alerting her to the dragon attack on their harbor town. That’s basically still the first scene in the book. I had to put it together after that. What would they have to do to reason with the dragons? What process would they need? That was all based on the characteristics dragons have. It’s not a long book, so it took less time to write than my novels, but there was a lot of thought and research necessary to bring it together. And then I got the services of the amazing Rik Ty to give me drawings I could use and even a cover design.

Tell us a little about your main characters.
Bekka, the fourteen-year-old first-person POV character, is the responsible one, but she’s caught up in her little sister’s enthusiasm. She also learns during the story that her sister has skills and abilities she’s never known about. Cora is described by Bekka as seven going on forty, full of energy and enthusiasm. She’s the one who comes up with the idea to shape-shift into dragons. Derry, the third of their group, is a next-door neighbor, the kind of boy mothers are wary about. Additional characters include a revered mage, a self-styled shape-shifter, a boat captain, and the girls’ mother, as well as dragons (of course).

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
Finding ways for the kids to turn into dragons when the shape-shifter failed them, and then ways to turn them back.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I had fun writing the story, and my enjoyment doubled again when I saw Rik’s drawing of the dragons and the kids, both for the cover and the inside of the book.

The Crimson Orb, the first book in The Crystal Odyssey series, follows teenager Nissa on a journey to find the wizard Madoc, her missing magic teacher. The series continues in Under Two Moons with Nissa searching for the source of Madoc’s strange books which leads her to discover secrets about her world and its lost crystal-based technology. What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in book three, Beyond the Sea?
It continues the story of Nissa’s growing awareness of the world she lives in. Traveling beyond the sea to Fartek, she has more new experiences and learns how divided the people of that continent have become since the fall of the artificial satellites a thousand years before. Finally, she and her companions find the source of the strange books Madoc got from a traveler from Solwintor.

Each of the books in the Crystal Odyssey Series takes place in a different part of your story world. How did you decide on the settings for this book?
I wanted it to have a somewhat Asian influence, as opposed to the Scandinavian features of Solwintor and the British feel of Leara. But the setting had to have inherent dangers too, like the chasm and the tigers.

What do you like most about Nissa, the main character in the series?
She is open to learning new things and accepting new people. She’s also a feminist, encouraging other girls and women to take charge of their lives.

What unique challenges did this project pose for you?
I wanted to make Nissa’s experiences different from those in The Crimson Orb and Under Two Moons. I also wanted each group of people to have unique characteristics and knowledge.

How do you meld science with fantasy elements to make this series work?
When I wrote the first book, I referred to it as crystal punk. Rather than electricity powering the machines, everything works using crystals. But they had to focus energy for that to be true. I based part of it on things like crystal radios, and the rest on the characters’ abilities to use their minds to focus the energy all around them. I wish we could do that. Many fantasy stories refer to the ley lines supposed to exist all around the Earth. The energy is strongest at certain places.

You help facilitate online courses for Writers Village University. What do many of the beginning writers you deal with misunderstand about storytelling?
Many don’t know how to bring out the emotions in their characters. That’s part of what engages readers. I struggle with that skill myself. Also a few rely too heavily on descriptions that have nothing to do with the plot or characters.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on several projects: the fourth book in The Crystal Odyssey series; a sequel to my award-winning portal novella, A Bite of the Apple; a story about a train disaster that turns out to be apocalyptic (I’m writing the third novel of that series); and an enviro-apocalyptic story about a girl exiled from a domed town.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’ve also had a few short stories published. The latest story, “A Woman Hobbles into a Bar,” appears in the charity anthology Challenge Accepted.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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