Starting off on the cold foot

Ice bubble photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Ice bubble photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Where we are, we usually miss the brunt of winter storms. This means that although we’ve had temperatures into the single digits this week (Fahrenheit) and high winds today, we didn’t get half a foot or more of snow, and we’ve mostly stayed out of the negative temperature range. Still, the kids were home from school today (and they only went back yesterday!), with a two-hour delay in the morning.

I didn’t post a wrap-up of my 2017 here yet, so here goes:

Things I wrote, polished, and/or released

  • Treachery of Doubt (book 2 of Bodyguard of Lies)
  • Ghost Garages (book 1 of Boston Technowitch)
  • Siren Circle (book 2 of Boston Technowitch)
  • Dreamwalker (tie-in novella for Boston Technowitch, only available to newsletter subscribers)
  • Troll Tunnels (book 3 of Boston Technowitch, currently in edits)

Additional things I did

  • Wrote most of a second tie-in novella for Boston Technowitch
  • Worked on a couple of short stories (neither of which is ready for submission yet)
  • Completed a month of ink drawings for Inktober
  • Participated in programming for Boskone and for the Nebula Conference
  • Served part of the year as a Director-at-Large and the remainder of the year as Vice President for SFWA
  • Went to a writing meet-up in Manhattan
  • Went on a lovely vacation where I got to visit my mom, my younger brother and his other half, and my in-laws
  • Spent lots of family time
  • Got the downstairs family room painted and (with the rest of the family) organized and looking comfortable

Words written 2017: 253,721
Average words/day written 2017: 695
Best month for writing: November
Worst month for writing: June

As for 2018, I’m planning to do more of the same — more in every sense: more writing, more books released, more reading, more activity in the organizations I’m part of. I’m doing okay so far, though last year’s January was pretty good, too. It’s the long term where we see how things go.

Words written today: 1,130
Words written this month: 4,310


Grace to end the old year

English cocker spaniel, Grace

This is Grace (aka Gracie). Our daughter has wanted to keep her (stealing the dog from her grandparents) for a couple of years. Now she gets her wish — my in-laws came to visit for the holidays, and they’re leaving Grace here when they go home.

Interview with Continuum author Wendy Nikel

I know I haven’t blogged in ages — which is unlikely to change much this close to the end of the year, with major family commitments — but today, I have a special treat for you, a guest post by Wendy Nikel, whose debut The Continuum comes out in late January (just about a month away). If you’re looking for ideas to spend holiday gift certificates on, The Continuum is available for pre-order.

The sales copy on Amazon says, “For years, Elise has been donning corsets, sneaking into castles, and lying through her teeth to enforce the Place in Time Travel Agency’s ten essential rules of time travel.” This immediately makes me ask two things — why is there only one agency that deals with this, and how did you decide on the ten essential rules?

At the time of my story, time travel is a recent invention, and the inventor has done all he can to limit the number of people who know it’s possible — while still making a tidy profit by sending a select clientele back to “vacations in the past.”

In order to keep this enterprise a secret and keep his clients safe, he’s developed the Ten Essential Rules of Time Travel.

Do you list all ten rules and discuss the reasons behind them? And if you do have them listed, do you have a favorite (as a restriction on what your characters can do, for example)?

The Ten Essential Rules of Time Travel are listed at the beginning of the book. My favorite would have to be #4 – “Travel within the Black Dates is prohibited.” These are periods of time that are too dangerous or too pivotal in history to risk traveling. Linchpins, one might say, and it’s the breaking of this rule that sets Elise on her journey in this story.

Is Elise Morley an expert on a particular era in the past, or is she more of a generalist historian? What kind of training did she have before the Agency recruited (or hired, as the case may be) her?

Elise has to have a working knowledge of all the places where her clients travel, so although she knows a lot about history in general, she has more hands-on experience in some eras than others. The turn of the twentieth century, for instance, is a very popular travel destination and the one that Elise specializes in. As you may be able to tell from the cover, this era plays an important role in this story.

When you were developing Elise as a character, what sort of impact did Elise’s family and friends have on her decision to work for the Agency?
At the time of THE CONTINUUM, Elise is a loner. Keeping the truth of her job a secret and being away in the past for lengthy periods of time make it difficult for her to develop or maintain meaningful relationships in the present.

I tend to think of time travel as having two primary flavors: the past is immutable, or the past can be changed. Since you have an agency that works to be sure the past isn’t abused, I’m assuming THE CONTINUUM falls into the second category. Why did you make that choice? Conversely, if there’s a single future that Elise gets sent to, I have to wonder why they can’t just make changes in Elise’s present to prevent that future. Can you talk about that, or would that involve spoilers for the book? Also, a single future seems to ignore the Many Worlds hypothesis. Was this a deliberate choice on your part? Is it something your characters care about?

Without getting too spoilery, I think it’s safe to say that different people in the story have different ideas about how time travel works and their assumptions change throughout the story. Because time travel is such a new development, at the beginning of the story, the Place in Time Travel agency operates based on the assumption that the past could be changed, and this definitely influences how Elise approaches her assignments.

If you could travel to the past or the future, what time period would you choose?
Like Elise (and many of her clients), I’m fascinated with the turn of the twentieth century. There were so important events, especially in the United States, between the 1860s and the 1920s, that I’d love to jump around in those decades, seeing what the world was like then.

Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and elsewhere. For more info, visit or sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a FREE short story ebook.

THE CONTINUUM is available for pre-order via World Weaver Press! Release date: January 23, 2018. (LINK)

Noisy neighbors 

This morning, I heard quite the fuss outside and had to go out to tell them to quiet down. But then what can you expect from the local murder?

crows in tree and on the wing
more crows in trees

I got a slow start on NaNoWriMo, but I caught up today — today’s count was 3,744, putting me at 5,262 for the month. Yay for being back on track!

Part of what helped (though not all of it) was checking out — a gamified site where you defeat monsters and gain loot by writing a certain number of words in a given time frame. If I’m still enjoying the site at the end of the month, I might subscribe — $4/month isn’t an unreasonable price. One more tool in the productivity quiver!

Inktober finale

This post is late, for which I apologize. I actually did the drawing first thing in the morning after getting the girl on the bus to school. No words today, just outline work.

Prompt was “mask.” This Noh mask is in the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison. Done with brush pen. The face is too elongated, but I’m still pretty happy with it.



Never lost

I wrote more than 300 words today, adding to the beginning of Troll Tunnels, and I really like the way it’s shaping up. Signed up formally on NaNoWriMo as a NaNo Rebel, too, to finish this up, then maybe start up a novella if there’s time.

If I nap tomorrow to stay up until midnight, however, it’s so I can listen to the final episode of Steal the Stars when it drops, not to get a head start on my writing.

Today’s Inktober prompt was “found.” This tiny white flower was on I found underfoot while at Rocky Mountain National Park, although “discovered” might be a better term.

drawing of small flowers

small alpine flowers

It might finally be autumn

Temperatures have been in the 60s for a few days, and it’s been raining all day. Very autumnal.

Friday was trick-or-treating, yesterday I took the boy for an eye appointment (new glasses ordered!), and today was hanging out watching my husband game. But I figured out a new opening chapter for Troll Tunnels, which will make the entire book stronger — and wrote 168 words today!

I’m behind on posting my Inktober sketches. Friday’s prompt was “climb,” Saturday’s was “fall,” and today’s was “united.” So my drawings are a pair of ring-tailed lemurs from the Henry Vilas Zoo, some shergottite originally from Mars that fell in Morocco and is currently housed in the geology museum of the Colorado School of Mines, and a mosaic from an Iowa rest stop along I-80.

drawing of lemurs
photo of lemurs
srawing of rocks
Mars rocks
drawing of mosaic
photo of mosaic


Tonight was the kickoff party for the local NaNoWriMo region. It’s always amazing to see how it’s grown over the years. Nicki (and Andrew, while he was here) did a great job of breathing life into the region and started awesome traditions, like the motivational beads. Now Roxi and Jamie (and Katie, the new bead goddess) are set to do even more. It was fabulous seeing so many motivated and eager people tonight.

Dress for daughter’s costume is done. Need to tweak the wings in the morning, but she can do the costume parade at school and trick-or-treating in the evening.

No words, but did get some freelance-related stuff done.

Inktober prompt was “squeak.” If I’d had a picture of my mom’s former cat, I’d have drawn her. Alas, no. So I went with prairie dogs at the Henry Bilas Zoo in Madison instead.

sketch of prairie dogs
photo of prairie dogs

Waiting for godet

Still working on my daughter’s Halloween costume, and the skirt is supposed to flare. So today I learned the difference between godets and gores. Almost done — need to get a zipper and do the hem, but it should be ready for Friday.

Listening to podcasts while I work. Today the penultimate episode of Steal the Stars came out. If you like listening to fiction, I recommend it. If you prefer to read, the novelization comes out next month. Also catching up on Writing Excuses. Lots to listen to there — judging from my saved episodes, I stopped listening sometime in 2015 (thought it was longer than that!), so I’ve still got 25 months’ worth to go.

No words today. But using different forms of creativity refreshes me, and the podcasts let me think about my work in new ways, so I’m anticipating feeling fresh and ready to go next week.

Meanwhile, today’s Inktober prompt was “ship.” I used the brush pen again to try to capture some of the strokes from Piet Mondrian’s “Waals-Eilandgracht with Bridge and Moored Tjalk Barges,” which is in the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison. Perhaps barges aren’t really ships, but close enough for me.

ink drawing of barges, after Mondrian
Piet Mondrian, Waals-Eilandgracht with Bridge and Moored Tjalk Barges, 1895-6


Most of today was spent on my daughter’s Halloween costume. still more work to go, but I think it’s coming along nicely. Might be done already if she and I hadn’t both decided on alterations to the pattern (she wants appliqué; I think pockets would be good).

So no words today. Likely none before Saturday. It’s that sort of week.

Today’s Inktober prompt was “blind.” This skull sculpture (“Ancient Fishing” by Jim Dine) sits outside the Chazen Museum of Art.

drawing of skull sculpture by Jim Dine
Ancient Fishing sculpture by Jim Dine