Resolution Q & A

It’s January. Of course, the topic is New Year’s Resolutions. Everyone’s either doing that or a top-10 list from 2010. I don’t have strong enough opinions to have a top-10 list. Either that, or I can’t think of 10 anything I’d put on such a list. You decide.

My dad always had two fall-back resolutions:

  • I resolve not to punch any tigers in the teeth.
  • I resolve not to make any other resolutions.

They worked well for him, but he always thought he didn’t need to improve at all. As it’s true that he excelled at being himself, he may have had a point.

I’ve made resolutions in the past. I’ve also written myself letters to read five years in the future. (I really should find those and read them, since it’s been over fifteen years now — maybe even twenty.) Currently, I tend to create goals, rather than resolutions — it gives me something more concrete to work toward, and a single mis-step isn’t a failure.

On to the questions:

Q: Shouldn’t you have posted this last week, before the new year started?

A: Would it help if I resolve to be more timely at the end of this year?

Q: Should I tell other people what my resolutions are?

A: Only if you’re willing to listen to them mock you.

Q: My friends/family/significant other wouldn’t do that!

A: If that’s a question, you’re not going to like my answer.

Q: Should I make SMART goals and resolutions?

A: Well, that would beat DUMB ones, wouldn’t it?

Q: Are you ever serious?

A: Yes. Second Tuesday of every week. Also, when facing a stack of bills.

Q: Do you have any resolutions this year?

A: Sure. I’ll resolve not to punch any tigers in the teeth.

If you have any questions or thoughts, leave them in the comments. As always, thanks for reading!


What is POV? Point of view in a story is whose eyes you’re seeing the story through. Sometimes, it’s a narrator. Sometimes, it’s several different people. And it can vary in how “deep” you are — how immersed you are in that character’s mind and emotions.

Some writers prefer to write in a first person point of view — Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, for example. Third person point of view tends to be the most popular on the market, generally limited to a single person per scene or chapter, although some writers can transition smoothly from one character to another. Omniscient just means that you can see what everybody is thinking to some extent; it used to be quite popular and still enjoys some use.

And now, my usual tongue-in-cheek questions.

Q: What about camera view?

A: Camera view is as if you’re a camcorder sitting on a particular character’s shoulder. Sometimes you can pan back, but you generally don’t see into someone’s head. Note that unlike in modern cameras, this does not come with GPS information or time and date stamps as a standard feature.

Q: Isn’t it pointless to talk about point of view, anyway? Readers either like the story or they don’t. Why fuss about with talking over details like this?

A: That’s certainly one point of view. And to some extent, it’s accurate. However, some readers do care whether a story is told in first or third, and sometimes the reason they don’t get into a story is because it’s not a deep enough point of view or a point of view they can sympathize with, so it’s worth bringing up as a discussion point.

Q: Can you have first-person omniscient?

A: I knew you were going to ask that.

If you have any questions about point of view, my Q & A topics, or something you’d like to see here, leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

P.S. Don’t forget — today’s the last day to enter the book giveaway!

Chocolate chip cookies Q & A

Chocolate chip cookies? Goodness, what is there to ask about them? Is this really worth a blog post?

Why not? It’s a topic I know.

In college, I was required to take a class in public speaking. I’m so not into talking to a group of people, but I did it. One of the class assignments was to give an informative talk — how-to, something like that — with appropriate visual aids. I did baking chocolate chip cookies, and I passed around samples of the dough at the various stages of preparation, with plenty of chocolate chip cookies for everyone to demonstrate that I knew what I was talking about.

On to the questions:

Q: Do you have a favorite chocolate chip recipe?

A: For the longest time, I used a modified version of the Tollhouse Cookie recipe (half-melted butter), and then for a while, I tried the one that comes with butter-flavored Crisco sticks. These days, I glance at the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package, use a mix of butter and shortening, and occasionally even add baking powder for a more “puffy” cookie.

Q: Do you have any favorite brands that you use?

A: King Arthur flour. For the chips, not as much, although I’ve stopped using Nestle — they don’t melt properly for other recipes, so I don’t buy them. (Love oatmeal fudge bars, must be able to melt the chips!) For vanilla, not a brand, but a condition: No sweetener added.

Q: Cookie dough or cookies?

A: Both! I usually bake a couple dozen cookies and keep the rest as dough for people to munch on.

Any other questions? Leave them in the comments! As always, thanks for reading!

Rejection Q & A

Being rejected, like anything else in life, is something you have to practice. Fortunately, it’s something other people are often more than willing to help you practice. Don’t believe me? Quick, send your resume to half a dozen multinational conglomerates, along with a cover letter stating that you’d like to be their new CEO. See, now wasn’t that easy?

As a writer who wants to be professionally published (more on how to define “professionally published” some other time), I get a lot of practice at being rejected. This year alone, I have been rejected more than 100 times.

I’ve been rejected so often that I’m starting to get more acceptances. That’s the way rejections work. The more you put yourself out there, the better your chances of being accepted.
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NaNoWriMo Q & A

I debated off and on whether this was too obvious a topic to blog about, but I realize not everyone knows what it is, and I can offer my usual quirky opinions.

Q: So what’s the point of trying to write a novel in a month?

A: What’s the point of trying to write a novel at all? We’re creating!

Q: Have you done this before?

A: This is my eighth year. I’ve only missed the target once, the one year I got five days in and decided to change books. I only wrote 15,000 words that year.

Q: What’s the most unexpected NaNoWriMo connection you’ve ever had?

A: This year, I wore a NaNoWriMo winner’s shirt while flying across the country with my family. A man in an airport convenience shop looked at me and said, “Congratulations.” I had no idea what he was talking about at first, and he said, “NaNoWriMo. I tried one year and only got five thousand words.” I told him that was better than if he hadn’t tried, and encouraged him to make another go at it. I hope he’s out there NaNoing right now.

Q: What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up writing?

A: Um. I know there have been some up-until-3 binges. I don’t remember pulling an all-nighter, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Those things tend to blur the memory, after all.

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever put into a book to hit your word count?

A: The strangest thing? Last year, I wrote about a guy traveling across the South with his zombie coonhound, a back-up singer, and a Neanderthal. It doesn’t get much stranger than that.

Q: What helps your word count the most, then?

A: Definitely the dead bodies.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions of your own, leave them in the comments.

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!)

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.

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.

Q & A and blog contest

"Hadley Rille 5k"Hadley Rille Books is celebrating 5 years of publishing, and one of the things they’re doing is having a giveaway contest for a Kindle 3G. Clearly, I have a soft spot in my heart for this publisher, since Eric had the good taste to select stories I had written for two of his anthologies (Barren Worlds and Ruins Metropolis). The truth is, though, that they’ve published a lot of good writers, and they’re working on publishing more.

I’ve been looking at Lawrence Schoen’s Buffalito Destiny for a while, and his collection Sweet Potato Pie and Other Surrealities looks good, too. And there’s Push of the Sky by Camille Alexa, and Destination: Future, edited by Z.S. Adani and Eric Reynolds. Or The Best of Abyss & Apex. And I’m keeping my eyes out for Cate Gardner’s book, Theatre of Curious Acts, which isn’t even available for pre-order yet. Lots to choose from!

Which brings us to both the contest and the question for the week. Go look over the catalog of their books, browse, see what grabs you, maybe order something, then come back here and answer the following question: What one book from Hadley Rille would you most like to win?

One winner, to be announced December 6, will receive the book they want (trade paperback). Winner will be decided in a nice, low-tech, random fashion (either rolling of an appropriate polyhedral die or the traditional number drawn from a hat — with your number corresponding to your comment number in the thread for this post). Yes, I will ship anywhere.

This contest is actually staying open for a while — until December 3. (I’m planning to order a couple books for myself as a prize for completing NaNo this year, and it’s easier to order everything at once.)

Any questions, let me know. And please — support a great publisher. Oh, and leave your entry below.

fall planting Q & A

Okay, so this has nothing to do with writing. Or maybe it does, if you have characters who worry about their cottage gardens. Bear with me — the weather is cool, it’s been raining, and I got the first of my new fall plants put in this week.

My favorite things to plant in the fall are bulbs and bulb-like plants (corms, rhizomes, and so forth). Toss them into the ground at the appropriate depth, let the falling leaves and the snow cover them, and wait until they spring forth the following year — and the year after that, and the year after that, and so forth. My gardening motto is “You can never have too many daffodils.” I also love crocuses, tulips, and snowdrops. This year, I put in some hardy cyclamen, too, although I don’t expect to see them blooming until next fall.

Perennials also do well planted in the fall. They can establish their roots and overwinter, then start growing anew in the spring. If possible, I even look for plants on clearance; they may look horrible in their containers now, but odds are they’ll be lovely next year. Trees are the same way — fall is the best time to plant them, when they won’t be stressed by extreme heat and a possible lack of water as they get used to their new environs. (Of course, knowing this, nurseries never have trees for sale at low prices in the fall.)

I haven’t actually planted cool-season vegetables, such as broccoli, peas, and cabbage, but I might next year, if we get our raised beds in finally. (Big if. We’ve been talking about it for three years now, I think.)

What doesn’t do well in the fall: tender annuals that need heat to grow, bulbs that are not hardy (gladiolus, dahlia, canna), and long-season vegetables.

Okay, that’s a quick overview. Your turn now: Hit me with your questions — need to know details about planting something? how cold hardy a bulb is? what should be spring planted instead? Or tell me what you like to plant in your garden.