publication news

My book review of I Have This Nifty Idea . . . Now What Do I Do With It?, edited by Mike Resnick, is up at Vision magazine. (This book was a 2002 Hugo nominee for Best Related Book.)

My short story, “Essence of Truth,” will be e-mailed tomorrow (November 5) by Daily Science Fiction. If you haven’t subscribed, it will be up on their Website next week. (But you don’t really want to wait a week to read it, do you?)

I now return to my regularly scheduled NaNo insanity.

Wednesday drabble: NaNoWriMo

“Whatcha doing?” Gena bounced to a stop next to her dad’s desk.

He didn’t look up from his laptop. “Writing.”

“Whatcha writing?”

He sighed but still didn’t look up. “I’m working on a novel.”

Her eyes widened. “Are you going to write it all today?”

“No, but I’ll get a good start this month — 50,000 words. It’s NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.”

“Is that a lot?”

“Enough to start, although I’ll have to keep going. I promise we’ll do something together when November’s over.”

“You say that every year.”

He didn’t answer; he’d gone back to his writing.


In other words, I do apologize for not posting on Monday, but I’ve signed up for the madness yet again (eighth year in a row). I will try to be better about posting.

Halloween Q & A

It’s a bit of a trite idea to write about Halloween this weekend, I know, but I’m not going to stay away just because all the popular kids are doing it. Or because they’re not. As a quick trip to Wikipedia would tell you, Halloween is our current form of Hallowe’en, from Hallows, Even, from All Hallows’ Eve — in other words, the night before All Saints’ Day. Yes, this wonderful day is rooted in Catholic tradition, including the tradition of taking customs that existed before they converted the locals and putting a Catholic spin on them.

This week’s questions:

Q: What’s your favorite Halloween moment?

A: That’s easy — I met my husband at a Halloween party.

Q: How old were you when you stopped trick-or-treating?

A: Stopped? Wait, you mean I’m not supposed to carry a bag, too, when I go out with my kids?

Q: Seriously?

A: Okay, okay. In grad school. I took the kids out for the family I lived with, and I wore a costume, too. I wound up giving my candy to the little girl, who had dragged her bag on the ground.

Q: What’s your favorite candy to get?

A: Can I pick two? Smarties and miniature Reese’s.

Q: And to give?

A: Oddly enough, that’s what I have to give away, too. That way, if we don’t get too many trick-or-treaters, I’m set!

Q: Favorite bit of Halloween trivia?

A: Nevada was admitted to the Union as a state on October 31, 1864. Thus, Halloween is a holiday — Nevada Day (a fact I appreciated growing up!).

Q: Are you wearing a costume this year?

A: I just found my pointy ears, so anything’s possible.

That said, trick-or-treating here is Friday night, so I need to make sure my kids are ready. Have a safe weekend, everybody, and as always, thank you for reading!

(Don’t forget — you can still enter my Hadley Rille Books book giveaway!)

All it takes . . .

When you start writing (and even if you keep on doing it), you hear “All you absolutely have to do to be a writer is write. Everything else is extra.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Then they start in with, “If you really want to write, you need to read. Extensively. In and out of your genre,” and “You need to focus on improving your craft, whether through critique groups, workshops, classes, conferences, writing books . . . ”

Wait. I thought all I had to do was write?

Except it makes sense, really. First, if you don’t like reading, why would you want to write? Because you think it makes you look smart? There are easier ways. Second, it’s true in any creative endeavor.

My son took up trumpet this year. He (mostly) practices every day. But he listens to music, he hums theme songs he remembers from movies, he tries to work out how he might play them himself (“I need to know a couple more notes before I can try the Harry Potter theme.”), and he pays attention to what other people have done. He also listens to the songs he’s playing on a CD and tries to play along to get the pacing correct.

I’ve done a couple of quilts. This year, I decided to do a mystery quilt presented in American Quilter magazine. I knew it would be stretching my ability (it recommended having completed six to eight quilts before tackling this one), but I figured it would expose me to techniques I might not willingly try on my own. (I’ve decided I don’t want to do a postage-stamp quilt. I don’t like working with one-inch strips.) I also check out winners in the American Quilter’s Society’s shows, as well as those in state fairs.

All it takes . . . is three steps. See what others have done. Figure out how to apply it to what you want to do. Then do it, over and over again.

Monday drabble: Desperate times

In 2015, prototype neural enhancers, built to interface “better than Bluetooth” opened to beta testing. By 2020, they were commonplace. In 2015, hackers figured out how to use them to mimic telepathy.
Some of us adjusted better than others. My older brother, Tim, wound up as an inpatient in a psych ward twice before he decided to learn the enhancers’ programming code. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. No one will have time to respond before I release the worm.”

I stabbed him. He didn’t see it coming; the worm was in his system already. Desperate times, as he said.

housecleaning Q & A

Housecleaning, I hear you asking yourself, really? Well, yes, but mostly because I’m going to run off to do some (guests coming over) and realized I hadn’t posted a Q&A today.

Again, doing the mock-interview format.

Q: Do you dust or vacuum first?

A: What makes you think I do either? I might swipe a dust cloth when people are coming by, but there’s a good reason to prefer hardwood floors to carpet: I don’t have to vacuum!

Q: Hardwood floors? How do you keep those polished?

A: The kids run around in socks, which does wonders for the floors.

Q: Do you wash dishes by hand or with a dishwasher?

A: By hand only if it can’t go in the dishwasher — crystal, cast iron, the pizza pan that’s too big to fit, that sort of thing. I’ve got better things to do with my time than stand at the sink. Besides, dishpan hands are hard to type with.

Q: Do the kids help out?

A: Define “help out.”

Q: Do they do chores, pick up, that sort of thing?

A: The younger one is better about cleaning up, except she seems to think toys belong on the floor, not in the box. The older one is very good about specific chores (except the bathroom and his bedroom), but sort of ignores the rest — kind of like his mom, who figures that if there’s food on the table, dishes to eat it on, and clothes to wear, she’s done her job.

Q: What about yard work?

A: What about it? We’re talking about housecleaning.

Q: Do you do windows?

A: No, I’m a Mac person.

Q: What about –?

A: Sorry, gotta go. The house won’t clean itself, you know.

A real author

Today’s post started sounding like another Poor Pitiful Pearl post (Mom always said that — I think after the doll, though William Steig created the character), so I deleted it and started over, very tongue in cheek.

  • A real author doesn’t need a day job.
  • A real author has sold a book.
  • No, a real author has sold more than one book.
  • A real author has someone else to clean her house so she has time to write. (And a real author’s desk is never messy.)
  • A real author wears tweed with pearls or a pipe, depending on inclination.
  • A real author doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.
  • A real author doesn’t need editing.
  • A real author’s genius is recognized by everybody.
  • A real author sells everything she writes.
  • A real author has editors knocking on her door to see if she’s written anything they can publish.
  • A real author has a gold-plated keyboard, works one hour a day, and jets around the world every weekend.
  • A real author has a matched pair of dodos trained to walk on leashes and pick up after themselves — and they dye their feathers to match her outfit every morning.
  • A real author keeps emeralds in the crisper drawer with all the other greens.
  • A real author has a chauffeur to take her to book signings, and a masseuse to make certain her hands don’t cramp up from writing by hand too much.
  • A real author doesn’t have to tell anyone that they’ve just got another book or story out because everyone knows.
  • A real author is the ideal weight, gets plenty of exercise, and always sleeps eight hours each night, unless she’s out dancing until dawn at an embassy ball.
  • A real author never gets papercuts.
  • A real author is instantly recognized at every library and bookstore, even the library at her children’s school.
  • A real author creates in perfect isolation, never accused of taking an idea someone else has used, and all of her peers acknowledge her craft to be of the finest.
  • A real author has to decide which Silver Ghost to take to opening night when they make movies from her books.
  • A real author never dies because the universe can’t bear to lose her creative genius.
  • A real author is enjoyed on planets we haven’t even heard of yet.

Above all, a real author makes up lies about herself as much as she does about the world around her.

Monday drabble: Firelight

The fire didn’t burn. It never had. It sat on her hand, an extension of her, mesmerizing with its color. Her father tried to keep her away. She was not allowed in the kitchen or near the tribe fire or even near a torch. She had to sneak her moments.

No longer. Lightning had started this fire, and no one stood nearby to naysay. Lakeisha stepped into the flames, letting them wash over and through her. She heard her daughter’s cry, but she didn’t look back. Her mother, grandmother, and all the ages past welcomed her to the fire’s dance.

indexing Q & A

I’m in the middle of hitting an indexing deadline. (Yes, right now I have the PDF page proof open in one window and my preferred indexing program, SKY Index, open in another.) Having been asked a couple of questions about indexing this week, I thought it would make a good topic to discuss here. I’m going to do it in question and answer format, using questions I’ve been asked over the years. If you have any others, feel free to ask in the comments. As always, thank you for reading.

Q: What does an indexer do?

A: Indexers create the indexes in the back of nonfiction books, including cookbooks, textbooks, gardening books, how-to books, biographies, and more.

Q: You mean people do that for a living?

A: You might be surprised at some of the things people do for a living. (Check out Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel — owl vomit collector?) But, yes, there are people who specialize in creating indexers for others. For many technical books or in some micropress houses, the indexing is done in-house. At other presses, some authors do their own indexing, but if they don’t, either the publisher or the author can hire an indexer to do the work for them.

Indexers even band together in national societies and have e-mail mailing lists!

Q: Do you have to read each page?

A: Yes.

Q: When you read each page, do you say, “That looks like a word that should be in the index?”

A: Sometimes. Indexing is more nuanced than that — the indexer has to pick up on the “aboutness” of the material, often using words and phrases that aren’t actually on the page. Synonyms have to be considered, as well as whether to double-post (post the same references under two different entry points) or cross-reference material. In addition to all that, the indexer should note the use of jargon or terms of art and include those.

Q: Can’t a computer create the index?

A: A computer program, such as Microsoft Word, can create a concordance, which only uses words that are on the page and does not consider alternate methods a reader might look up material. To use Word to generate an index, the document has to be tagged with what the entry word should be, and ranges need to be marked (by the use of bookmarks) for terms or ideas that are discussed over a range of pages. One of the simpler ways to create a decent index in a Word document is to index it in an indexing program, edit the index to produce a final result, then go back to the Word document and insert all the index field codes.

Q: Is it hard?

A: Some projects are easier than others, but I’ve learned a lot over the years from books I’ve worked on.

Q: Shouldn’t you be working on that deadline instead of making this blog post longer?

A: Yes.