F is for family, friends, freelancing, and fiction

I had an epiphany this morning at 5:00, but I can’t use “epiphany” because E was yesterday. I suppose I could have used “F is for five o’clock,” but the time isn’t as important as the content. I was awakened by the girl fussing (she got herself back to sleep), and I started to complain to myself that I was just barely going to fall back asleep before it would be time to get up and get the kids ready, then start on my day — same old, same old. That’s when it hit me — I chose this life.

Okay, that may be obvious to others. Epiphanies do tend to be personal, after all. Still, I’m going to explore what I mean.

I chose marriage and children. I chose work that I could do anywhere we lived because I didn’t have to look for a new employer. I chose to start telling the stories in my soul. And, if it comes right down to it, I choose to do our taxes because I’m a bit of a control freak.

Every part of the day before me is a direct consequence of something I chose, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m married to a wonderful man whom I love, we have incredible kids, and my work allows me to be who I am.

There are downsides — the only family here is the one my husband and I have made; our closest relatives are several states away. I don’t have any close friends where we live, though certainly part of that is that I’m not good at reaching out. With the Internet, though, I’m in touch with friends and family that I haven’t seen in decades, and I’ve made several excellent new friends through on-line communities (especially Forward Motion).

This is my life, and I’m grateful for it.


You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted as much the past couple of weeks. I’ve been under the weather and feeling like it was taking all I had to get my work done, spend time with my family, and try to get some words in for NaNoWriMo. Monday, I finally went to the doctor’s office and found that I have acute bronchitis. So the less energy, less oxygen for the brain feeling? Perfectly normal.

I now have a plethora of medications, and they’re beginning to help. Meanwhile, I’m going to try to be here (I have a review I need to post later today for a poetry chapbook), but if I’m not on as much, it’s because I’m still recovering.

What have I gotten done in the last couple of weeks? Proofread a book, read three books (Kraken by China Miéville, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold), spent Thanksgiving weekend with my family (lots of cooking and movie watching), and wrote almost 1,000 words per day on average for NaNoWriMo. No, I didn’t win this year — second year I haven’t — but I feel good about the story so far. Fortunately, reading books and watching movies don’t take much energy.

Now I’m looking at December and seeing what I need to wrap up for the year, as well as looking ahead to 2011. I won’t post my 2011 ideas yet, but here’s what I’m looking at for this month:

  1. Get well. This may take a week or two, possibly even longer for the cough to fade completely.
  2. Finish writing the novel I started for NaNoWriMo. It’s a cozy mystery, estimating final word count around 60,000 words, which means I’m over half done with it.
  3. Finish the short story I started in November and send it off to its intended market.
  4. Round up the stories that I currently don’t have out at markets (I wasn’t particularly good at resubmitting things during November) and get them back out the door.
  5. Family time — birthdays, concert, holidays, luminaria, getting Christmas cards mailed.

That should keep me occupied.

Other things happening this month:

  • My book giveaway contest ends Friday, and I’ll be choosing a winner this weekend. If you haven’t entered yet, do so!
  • My drabble, “Heartbeat,” will be the e-mail story for Daily Science Fiction on December 7th.

What about you? What are your December plans?

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.