Aug 30 2018

What I will say if you ask me to read your unpublished manuscript.


If you ask me politely, I will — regretfully and politely — say No.

If you just go ahead and send me your material, without even the simple courtesy of asking me before doing so, I will  also say No — but I will not bother being polite about it.

For the polite people:  I know it’s tempting, but please consider the fact that reading, evaluating, considering, and critiquing manuscripts is work.  I already have a job.  It’s writing! If I don’t do my job, it doesn’t get done.  Also, if I don’t do my job, my income suffers. Additionally, there are other aspects of my life that need time and attention. While I’m very flattered that you might regard me so highly that you’d want my input, please don’t put me in the position of disappointing you by refusing your request.  That would just make us both sad.

For the impolite people — hm.  Well, you puzzle me.  It’s hard for me to imagine how someone could just forward their stuff to a stranger without a even simple, “Hey, would you mind?” first.   But if you send me hard copy, I’ll either refuse delivery, or return it unopened, or shred it, unread; if you email it, I’ll delete it, also unread.

For a more extensive and much more entertaining treatment of the subject, check out John Scalzi’s blog post here.  While I am nowhere near as busy or successful (or well-paid!)  as Mr. Scalzi, most of  his general principles apply in my case, too.

There used to be a great book on professional etiquette for writers, but alas, it’s out of print.  Also, it’s out of date, being pre-internet and pre-email.  But if you find a copy, the ideas are certainly still applicable.

That said, back to Book 5 — which still seems to require an inordinate amount of wrestling to get it to behave…




Aug 22 2018

Hugo awards


I find it impossible to believe that you haven’t already seen the list of this year’s Hugo Award winners somewhere else… It’s all over the Internet, of course.  However, just in case this is your only contact with the world of SF/F fandom and publishing, here are the winners:

Best Novel : The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella : All Systems Red, by Martha Wells ( Publishing)

Best Novelette: The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)

Best Short Story: Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)

Best Series: World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)

Best Related Work: No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)

Best Editor, Short Form: Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas

Best Editor, Long Form: Sheila E. Gilbert

Best Professional Artist: Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine: File 770, edited by Mike Glyer

Best Fancast: Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace

Best Fan Writer: Sarah Gailey

Best Fan Artist: Geneva Benton

And the non-Hugo Awards also presented at the ceremony:

Award for Best Young Adult Book: Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Rebecca Roanhorse

For a list that includes all the nominees, head over to the official Hugo Awards website where they also have a link to the detailed voting results.

Or you could pop over to, where the comments stream also has some interesting info.

And as you probably also already know (but just in case you don’t) N.K. Jemisin just made history by being the first person to ever win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row.

And here’s her acceptance speech, which made me cry:


I had planned to watch a live stream of the Hugo ceremony on Sunday, but  forgot to set an alarm.  Somewhere along about 2AM I looked up from my work and said, “Wait — did I miss it?”  And yes, I had.

On the one hand, alas; on the other (as Ms. Jemisin states most definitely, above) the way to get ahead is to work your ass off.  So, I regret nothing.  Well, I do, a bit.  But it was a good night of work, so it was worth it.

And I should get back to it.  I’m going to be at a four-day social event starting on Friday, and I need to rack up enough word-count to justify the inevitable resulting word non-count.



Aug 11 2018

In which the weather refuses to cooperate. Also: little window into my brain.


The Perseids are here!  My favorite annual meteor shower.   In fact, I amuse myself by pretending that it’s my personal meteor shower, falling, as it does, on the days around my birthday.

Perseids meteor shower

And this year it’s also the dark of the moon for those days, so we won’t have that nasty ol’ moonlight brightening up the night sky, and washing out all the meteor-trails.  Excellent!

Check out this very cool rotatable visualization of the debris left by comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the Perseid meteors.

Now, let’s just check on the weather…Hm.

Friday night: rain

Saturday night: rain

Sunday night: thunderstorms!

Monday night: more thunderstorms.

Tuesday night — well, it’s all over, but even so: thunderstorms.

Ah, but not everywhere in the country!  I could drive to…

Okay, it would be a four-hour drive for me, at the least, to reach some place with non-cloudy skies.  And then four hours back.  I don’t think I can manage that…

But you might be luckier — find yourself on the visibility maps, here.

I see, for instance, that Michigan should have a nice view on Sunday night.  I know people in Michigan.  I’ll be happy for the people in Michigan.

Of course, thanks to the 21st Century, you can watch a livestream of the sky somewhere over Colorado, on Sunday night.  I plan to do exactly that.

In other news: same old news, as I push onward, wrestling Book 5 into shape.  I’m devoting as much of August as possible to the task.  (Minus, of course, the 3-day celebration of the birthday of my pal Brian Bambrough, who is turning 80 this month.  And who, by the way, actually wrote a diet/lifestyle book, so that you could stay as fit as he is for as long as he has.)

My latest point of writerly ditheration (minor spoilers for Book 5!):

An extremely important chapter containing: much cleverly-embedded incluing about Rowan’s world; introduction of a new character, Sarah;  expansion and deepening of an existing character not seen much previously, whom I plan to make the reader love (Artos); set-up of the current situation, to be executed (one hopes!) in such a way that it naturally launches everything  else that follows, as surely as an arrow leaves the bow; and spooky foreshadowing.

At some point I realized that I should not be introducing a new character there at all –  I should be using Keridwen, the chart-mistress instead.  We were in the chart-room; she should be there. Seemed natural.  So, I changed Sarah to Keridwen.

And the chapter stopped working.

I had to change every sentence of dialog, because Keridwen is a different person from Sarah, and they do not speak alike.  And I had to change every physical movement, because how one moves reflects one’s personality.  And then I had to change what Artos said, because his relationship to Sarah is different from his relationship to Keridwen.

And then I lost the spooky foreshadowing.  Keridwen is an extremely definite person!  She has many facts at her command, and is active and practical.  Sarah has a deep well of wisdom, and moves and speaks with quiet, graceful strength.  A conversation with Keridwen would be lively and enlightening, and make you think about cool stuff.  A conversation with Sarah might point in many directions, and make you wonder about deep things.

I love both these women.

I decided that it was Sarah in the chart-room, after all,  and not Keridwen.  Keridwen was busy doing something else.  Possibly chopping wood.  Keridwen is sixty-one years old, and Sarah is.. Hm… Seventy-four?  About.  If wood needed chopping in the dead of winter, it would probably be Keridwen doing it, not Sarah.

Problem solved!  Okay, problem created, and then solved.  By going back to the original version.

Now, the question for the class is: Why was this not a waste of time and effort?   Because, you know — it wasn’t.

By going through all this testing and analysis, I :

  • clarified the characters in my mind
  • clearly identified their interrelationships,
  • understood better why the spooky foreshadowing mattered, and how not to overdo it
  • established Sarah now, when there’s space, instead of later, where there’s none
  • learned a few extra things about Artos, which will serve me later
  • gained an extra level of insight in how words on the page transform into characterization, mood, plot, theme, milieu

All of this will help not only this book, but subsequent books in the series, any parallel books — and probably everything I ever write from now on.

Not a waste of time. Worth every moment.

In other news:

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson.

Jim Henson: The Biography by [Jones, Brian Jay]

It was simply amazing.  What an incredible life of creative genius he led.  What a privilege it was to have him on Earth with us for a while.

Jones did a fantastic job with this book.  And he had access to all the information: the people Henson knew, all of his projects, even his personal journals and letters.  It’s revealing, and stunning, and inspiring, and heartbreaking.

And I can’t say enough good things about the narrator, Kirby Heybourne.  He has a very graceful touch with the voices.  And he did do the voices: when Henson is quoted, he sounds like Henson; when Kermit is quoted, he sounds like Kermit. When no one is quoted, Heybourne’s own voice is natural and engaging.

Only problem with an audiobook: no photographs.


(Edited to correct a mental blip that made me write “Sharon” instead of “Sarah.”  It’s Sarah.)