Worlds within Worlds by Janine M. Donoho

Horton Hears a WhoDon’t you simply love Dr. Seuss’s HORTON HEARS A WHO? For me the story served as a watershed event as I grappled with string theory and quantum mechanics. HORTON also informs my approach to storytelling.

We writers yearn to create places that we’ll miss when we’re away. To finish our stories, our worlds need to cause a relentless itch that brings us back each and every day. Once we finish our stories, we intend that our readers find our world-building irresistible, too.

To engage our audience, certain features prove vital. Primarily our readers need to suspend their disbelief. That means seamlessly arranging entire worlds of physical systems, societal taboos and mores throughout a complex landscape. Let’s make this our starting point.

My foundation in MISTBORN CHRONICLES? A bucolic world lacking in magic and advanced science. When the curtain MB Bk 1 Kindle Coverbetween worlds rips open, wild magic invades like a viral attack. Ah, you recognize ‘the call to adventure’? Rather than revisit what others like Joseph Campbell and Vogler explain so well, let me focus on the aspect that proves most interesting to me—the ‘what if’ game.

So my friends, time to put on your critical-thinking-hats. Begin with the magical influx…

What if certain species and individuals prove genetically sensitive to transformation? What if some cannot mentally or biologically handle the change? What if the one person who understands the linkage between science and magic has lost her abilities and is trapped in this world? What if her skills make her suspect? What if she cannot diagnose the harm done to her without cueing a rapacious predator to her location? What if a master merchant, who sees himself as average and anything but heroic, finds himself a repository of the extraordinary?

You see how this process works? This drama continued for over 1500 manuscript pages. Yes, a series was born. The trick? How to apply this ‘what if’ practice to each level of conception, including species’ physiology and cultures along with suites of universes bumping up against each other.

We writers set the rules, then play within those parameters. Otherwise our readers cannot suspend their disbelief. If we fail, they’ll toss our stories across the room in exasperation. As an abused reader, I learned this response firsthand.

Many books take us into their worlds, shape us, then ensnare us as return visitors. For me, Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, Guy Gavriel Kay’s FIONAVAR TAPESTRY, Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN, Patricia McKillip’s RIDDLEMASTER OF HED and George R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (1st three novels) exemplify mastery. First came my appreciation for these stories along with a willingness to immerse myself in them. Later I returned to read them more analytically. Even now, I lose myself in their preeminence.

So what’s your key approach to world-building? How do suspend your reader’s disbelief?Horton's Who Flowers

Since I’m visually driven by seasonal changes and travel with eyes wide open, you’re invited into glimpses of my textured and colorful writer’s journey. Simply click on each link and enjoy. Virtual conversation is always welcome.


What I love to create


My Writer’s World = Readers Welcome


Who I am at heart


A Quality of Light by Janine M. Donoho

Warbling VireoDo color and texture equate with sound for you? Consider the warbling vireo

Panting whippetIf we allow ourselves to do so, we humans revel in sensory input. Then there’re those extreme moments when our survival depends upon paying attention to our environment. As writer and fledgling artist, I try to capture sensory qualities. This presents an ongoing challenge.

For whatever reason, today’s hike focused on visuals accompanied by sound. Have you allowed yourself to become Sunlight through leavesfully engaged within properties of illumination? At different times sunlight through leaves captivate as a zephyr Black-chinned Hummingbird, adult malerustles an aspen branch. Or the sheen off my whippet’s brindle spots and my greyhound’s tortoiseshell coloration enchant me even as their panting ripples light along their coats. Then there’s the bending of light that gives feathers their iridescence as a black-chinned hummingbird shrilly claims his territory. Texture combines with color and sound to draw me. When that happens, my breath catches and the pace falters.

During my final edit of CHOSEN BY MIST, book 3 of the MISTBORN CHRONICLES, I attempt to infuse detail into story without losing pace or scene focus. Sometimes it works. How do you incorporate sensory detail into your writing and visual art?Mariposa lily with lupine

Feeding Hope by Janine M. Donoho

Planting the moundsEach spring I plant my annual fruit and vegetable gardens. While winter offers the joy of seed catalogs and visions of succulent melons, eggplant and tomatoes dance through my mind’s eye, the real application starts once frost’s threat ends. During the planning stage, I dream big–think Mediterranean shoreline big.

Then I get a grip and narrow my choices to the reality of intense gardening-by-the-square-foot. At this stage companion plants come into play. That denotes matching cucumber with pole beans and radishes, which belly up to peas and carrots before leading into tomatoes, basil and…

Poster for Companion PltgWell, you get the idea. Separate mounds hold my hopes for watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe, and brassicas. Since I love kale, beets and mescuns, you’ll find those, too. I mix basils, nasturtiums, and marigolds among plantings that benefit from their association. You’ll find spinach amid my strawberries, too.

So what do I relearn each growing season? Why how much groundwork, planting and harvesting a garden has in common with writing. It becomes a litany:






Yes, a garden benefits from editing much as stories do. In the final stages I force myself to be ruthless in both while taking the useful and transplanting it elsewhere for superior impact. It’s how I approach my current edit of MISTBORN CHRONICLES, book 3.

As often happens my process makes me curious about yours. How do your life practices move your writing from here to there? Is your life shaped more by how you approach writing? Or does writing mold your life choices?

IG in the greens

Guest Post with a Reiki Master by Janine M. Donoho

Gorgeous caveA few months ago Reiki Master and sublime writer Imogen Knight, author of The Reiki Circle, and I connected via an author site. She invited me into her world for a guest blog and I thought, ‘This could be fun’. Today my blog The Writer’s Cave goes live. You’re invited to visit Imogen’s site, read my blog and take a virtual walkabout at her site. Let us know what you think.

Sending love deviant artists

Sending love to deviant artists

Kate’s Garden by Janine M. Donoho

Madrone CommunityAlong my way to an oceanfront writers’ retreat, this parched desert woman received the gift of Kate’s garden. Fitted like a jewel in the bezel of coastal Washington, her garden’s the opposite of dry. I sipped coffee surrounded by lush morning filled with intricate songs from MacGillivray’s and Wilson’s warblers, Swainson’s thrush, and the ubiquitous Robin. Cacophonous geese winged northeast–perhaps toward my high desert.

Serene PathKate’s artfulness shows in her placement of azalea, stone, rose and bench. Prayerful seating maximizes natural connections. Her latest Mother’s Day hydrangea–deepest pink–confirms how much she’s loved. Even the air smelled green with plant exhalations and floral abundance.

Her stunning historical FOR SUCH A TIME from Bethany House Publishers launches April 1, 2014. Even though her novel’s been endorsed by heavy-hitter Debbie Macomber, Kate’s too shy to tout her own bona fides. Besides that’s what fan-friends are for…

Like many of us creatives, she balks at misrepresenting herself.Serenity What that equates with? We fail to reach out to the very readers who want and need our work. Since she writes inspirational fiction steeped in history, I’ve no doubt that her readers will come. To help that happen, watch for updates both here and at

Mature garden spaceI hope you enjoyed this pictorial journey. Right now Kate’s wrestling with how to make her next novel as life-enhancing as FOR SUCH A TIME. Meanwhile I’m infatuated with editing my next MISTBORN CHRONICLE.

So I shared–now it’s your turn. What’s riveting your attention and getting you out of bed each morning?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

True North by Janine M. Donoho

Anna's Hummingbird

The science of true north

Bundles in magnetic snouts

Of rainbow trout or the 

Cryptochrome eyes of Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Even cows align along axes north-to-south.

Lacking their animal magnetism

I face into polar winds

Cascading from icy fields

Where Auroras shimmer.

My shivering hounds race toward me–

A locus of heat and comfort.

Aurora Borealis

Really? Moderation in all things… by Janine M. Donoho

Our Immoderate Daffs

Our Immoderate Daffs

At various time this phrase has taken on political and religious fervor, but that’s not where I want to go. Instead I ask you, “Really? Moderation gets us to awesome?” Just sayin’.

Immoderate White-tailed Deer

Immoderate White-tailed Deer

Perhaps before Terence’s death in 159 B.C.E., life demanded restraint. If you start your life as a slave as he did, that could bank your fires. It might have led to his early death, too. Plus those Roman robes required sweeping gestures and a measured pace. Still it’s tough to feel ardent about moderation.

Granted self-restraint’s necessary in any number of arenas—when you’re a martial arts expert, cleaning a garbage disposal, teaching a child, dealing with fringe elements…. I get that. Transplanting my seedlings takes self-control, although I’m more driven by reverence for life. How cool is it that entire forests begin with a seed?

When it comes to other passions like dance, writing, reading, or artwork, I’m more of a full throttle woman.

Immoderate Mountain Bluebird Male

Immoderate Mountain Bluebird Male

Even when gaining competency, don’t you need to push yourself—immoderately? The sense of our firefly existence drives me. So many choreographies, stories and visual renditions percolate that I’d have to live another century or two to finish them. Besides how can anyone approach the work of completing entire novels or series unless your vision’s intensely engaged?

Thus let me modify Terence’s words to ‘moderation in those things necessary, exuberance in all else’. I don’t think he’d mind. His Woman of Andros (Andria) was a romantic comedy after all. As in most New Comedy, he relied upon frequent external solutions to smooth the path to resolution. Very soap opera, don’t you think?

Moderate Blue Grouse Female

Moderate Blue Grouse Female

So I leave you, dear reader, with another Terence quote that works much better for me as a world-building writer of fantasy:

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”                 

“I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

With that you’re invited into my world with FORGED IN MIST, book 2 of MISTBORN CHRONICLES, coming soon to an e-reader near you.

Immoderate Blue Grouse Male

Immoderate Blue Grouse Male


Call of the Pack by Janine M. Donoho

The Roo TeamMorning and night, my three hounds often indulge in what I dub ‘The Call of the Pack’*. From a biologist’s perspective, it seems to hearken back to their wolf ancestry of 10,000 years ago, when pack meant food, shelter and protection. I can vouch that the local coyotes go silent when my hounds raise their needle noses to the sky and release their inner wolf. Enjoy this window into their world.Howling Coyote

*Wanted to post my own hounds rooing, but this version of WORDPRESS wouldn’t let me :~{.

Snow Day by Janine M. Donoho

Doe in conifer parkWhat do you do on snow days? Seven inches of new snow fell overnight. Fresh pillows buffer the earth’s bones. In one of our conifer stands, a white-tailed doe lies along the leeward side.

I wish for a greater vocabulary for snow–like an Inuit’s. Then my poetic side could roll around in aniu or qanikcaq, Blue morningsnow-on-ground, and muruaneq, soft-deep-snow. Or I could make snow seraphs in nutaryuk, fresh-fallen-snow-on-the-ground.

This storm arrived after a thaw–so the YakTrax are back. Since the revision process of FORGED IN MIST feels stale, I’m treating myself to well-earned holiday. That means a sweet-and-sour reading combo of library books: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman and Al Gore’s THE FUTURE. Later I’ll strap on the Trax and it’s off to the luge course we go. Perhaps I’ll spike the hot cocoa afterward with homemade Irish cream.Doe leaving to browse

Then tomorrow I face my desk with renewed enthusiasm. On, on…

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