Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Bopping From Topic To Topic

August 7, 2019


This week’s Wandering is going dedicated to chaos.  First a public service announcement, then we’ll hop on the carousel and spin off to where Jane Gets Her Plots.  Warning…  To be permitted on this ride, you need to be able to handle illogical logic!

A recent piece of fan mail lifted my spirits by saying this about Wolf’s Search: “It’s been a long time since I read a Firekeeper book. In fact, I was fascinated at how you worked in things so I didn’t feel I was in too strange a world.”  Big grin!  I guess I achieved my nearly impossible goal of writing the seventh book in a series that doesn’t require a year of re-reading the six prior volumes before a reader can enjoy the new tale!

I’d like to thank those of you who have shared your enthusiasm for Wolf’s Search with me on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail.  Special thanks to those who have taken the time to share their thoughts on Amazon or other bookseller sites.  To a reader, my enthusiasm for my books is potentially suspect, so yours is very important!

Now for that carousel ride…

Late last week, I asked for suggestions as to what I might wander on about this week.  Nan Silvernail asked me to talk about carousels.  Later, Jack McDevitt said he’d like to hear something about how I come up with plots.  Today I’m going to do both…

Some of you might be wondering “Why did she ask about carousels?  I could see wolves or gardens or even guinea pigs, but carousels?”

Well, although I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that features a carousel in a major role, I’ve been a huge fan of carousels, quite possibly since I was pre-verbal.  I grew up in Washington, D.C., and was lucky enough to have parents who thought that taking the kids to the Smithsonian was a good thing to do.  On the Mall was an antique carousel.  Although we rarely got to ride it, we were allowed to stand and watch as it went around and around.

My enthusiasm for carousels was further fed by the collection of figures in what was then called something like the Museum of History and Technology.  For that reason, this was my second favorite of the Smithsonian museums.  (My first favorite was Natural History.)

When I went to Fordham University in New York for college, I had a chance to meet a whole new slew of carousels.  A perfect weekend jaunt was to go to Manhattan to the Complete Strategist gaming store, then for a ride on the carousel in Central Park.  One time I even went to an auction of a carousel collection.  They were impossibly expensive, but it was a once in a lifetime chance to see those figures.  I still have the catalog.

When I was in grad school, I purchased a fiberglass “carousel horse” on Canal Street.  The quotes are because this figure was never meant to be on a working carousel, but to be used as a store display piece.  Originally, my horse was just grey fiberglass but, after I moved to Virginia, I painted it with house paint.  Goliath—yes, named for the horse in the movie Ladyhawke—has been with me since.  In my yard, surrounded by Datura and Russian sage, resides Jerome Girard Giraffe.  He’s aluminum, and probably came off a decommissioned Mexican carousel.

Jerome Gerard Giraffe Among the Datura

Perhaps it’s not surprising that someone who loves carousels, which go round and round and up and down all at once, does not write in a linear fashion.  This definitely applies to how I come up with plots.  Basically, I don’t, at least not in advance.  Instead, I come up with a problem or several problems, then set out to find out how my characters will deal with them.  I don’t know the end of a story until shortly before I write it.  If I did, I’d get seriously bored and probably never finish it.

Character point of view is very important to how a story unfolds for me.  Firekeeper will see events one way, Laria or Ranz another.  None of these points of view are necessarily wrong.  I really enjoy immersing myself in different people, their values, priorities, and even shortcomings.

Organization comes both as I write and after.  As I am writing, I keep what I call a reverse outline that helps me keep track of the flow of time, and makes sure I don’t leave any point-of-view character out of the action for too long.  After I’m done writing a rough draft, I clean up stray bits that didn’t go anywhere and tighten my prose.

About the closest I come to outlining is to pull out crayons or colored pens and do freewriting exercises.  For these, I scrawl random elements from the novel on a blank sheet of paper, then draw lines between them, just to see if there are any links I’ve forgotten or overlooked.

Sometimes I have a revelation.  Other times the end result is just pretty, but at least I’ve had an excuse to play with my crayons.

Maybe I’d work differently if I wrote mysteries like Jack McDevitt’s Alex and Chase novels (I’m really enjoying Octavia Gone), and I needed to know the solution before my characters do.  However, working up an outline, even a very detailed proposal, doesn’t stimulate my creativity. It stops it.

This reminds me that I need to update the reverse outline for Wolf’s Soul, then maybe pull out those crayons and a stack of scrap paper and explore what’s going to happen when…  No.  I’m not teasing!  I really don’t know how the story is going to work out, and I’m very eager to learn.


FAQ: Wolf’s Search

July 31, 2019

Blue Wolf With A Blue-Eyed Wolf

Wolf’s Search, the seventh novel in the Firekeeper Saga, has been an official release for two weeks now.  In those two weeks, I’ve been repeatedly asked several of the same questions.  Here are both Questions and Answers.

1) Will I be able to order a signed copy directly from you?

The answer to that one is “Yes,” but the details are complicated.  Read on!

At least for now, Wolf’s Search will not be on my website bookshop’s list of available titles.  I am considering revamping the form I’ve been using, because—as some of you already know—it has quirks.  Until I have the time and money to mess with the website form, this book needs to be ordered via e-mail from  (See below for more about this.)

Price will be $18.99.  This includes shipping via Media Mail, handling, and autographing, including personalization upon request.  (Hey, lots of fans pay extra for movie star autographs.  It’s worth thinking about.)

You can pay via personal check, but I will hold the order for two weeks from date of deposit to give time for the check to clear.  You can also use money orders, cashier’s checks, or PayPal.

If you use PayPal, any refunds will have PayPal fees deducted from the return.  Send PayPal payments to

As indicated above, my business e-mail is  Please note: My web host has been having difficulties, so your e-mail may not get to me.  If you don’t get a reply within a couple of days, e-mail again or Message me on Facebook or Twitter.

I will get your book in the mail as quickly as is feasible, but I usually reserve one day a week for trips to the post office.

2) Can I order other of your books directly from you?

Yes, you can.  Most of my books are available via my website bookshop.  When possible, I offer hard cover first edition, first printing.  However, not all of my books are available, nor are they all hard covers.  Check the details.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

As above, shipping is included in the price.  See above for other details.

3) What if I already have bought a copy?  Can I sent it to you to get signed?

Yes.  You can, but you need to include return postage.  Also, if you want to send a large order, be sure to let me know.  I am not equipped to handle massive boxes.  If you want me to sign your entire collection, consider attending a convention or bookstore event.

Package the book in reusable packaging (because I firmly believe in “reuse, recycle.”  Enclose the book with any instructions for signing (Ex. “Signature Only” or “To Jessie.”).  You can also include a note saying something like, “This is a birthday present for my spouse, Chris.  Can you say something special?”

Include an address label for the package addressed to you or whoever you want to have the book.

Remember to include return postage or your book will have found a new home with me.

4) Is Wolf’s Search available as a hard cover?

No.  However, I’ve been asked this often enough that at some point I may produce a limited edition hard cover version.  If so, I will probably do a Kickstarter to judge how serious interest is.

5) Is Wolf’s Search available as an audiobook?

No.  This is not because I am not interested.  As a devoted audiobook junkie, I most definitely am.  However, I have not been approached by any vendor who is interested in doing the work.  If you want a Firekeeper audiobook (or any of my works as audiobooks), I suggest you contact the vendor or vendors of your choice and alert them to your desire.  They actually listen to purchasers!

6) Is it true that there is going to be another Firekeeper book?

Yes.  The working title is Wolf’s Soul and it picks up close after Wolf’s Search.  I haven’t quite finished writing it, and then it will need to be polished and proofed and produced, but the nice thing about my using indie publishing is that as soon as it’s ready, I’ll put it in your hands.

7) Now that you’re writing sequels, are you going to write another Artemis book?  Or “Breaking the Wall” book?  Or athanor book?

Maybe.  I talked about plans for the future last week.

8) I’d love to have you do a signing near me.  Is that likely?

It’s more likely if the bookstore contacts me and offers to defray my expenses.  The same goes for conventions.  I don’t live where I can just hop in the car, drive a few hours, and come home again.

9) As of this moment, there is no Number Nine.  Feel free to ask, though, and I’ll answer either in the comments or next week!

Want More?

July 24, 2019

Keladry Lounges With Blind Seer

When I decided I was going write a new Firekeeper novel, I’ll admit, I was scared.  Not about writing the novel.  I was ready and eager to return to Firekeeper and her world.  What scared me was the investment in time and expense I was going to make in the hope that people would buy another Firekeeper novel.

When I shared my apprehensions with a variety of people, I was amazed at how many said something like “You should do a Kickstarter” or “Sign up for Patreon or Drip.  Everyone is doing it.”

I’ll admit it.  I balked, but not because I didn’t think I would finish the novel.  I’ve written many novels based on a proposal or even just a verbal pitch.  As long as I have an idea I’m enthusiastic about, I will write the story.

No.  I balked because I didn’t have any idea how long it would take me to write the novel. Asking people to fund me for an indefinite period of time didn’t seem fair.  I’m relatively new to indie pub, but the one thing I’ve learned is that, if you’re going to do a good job, the process takes time.  Indeed, as I revealed back in January, the writing of Wolf’s Search didn’t follow the path I thought it would.

So now Wolf’s Search is completed and is available for sale.   You can acquire the ebook at the following on-line retailers: Amazon; Barnes and Noble (Nook); Kobo; Google Play, and iTunes.  The trade paperback is also available at Amazon.  I talked more about the story itself last week, so I won’t repeat myself here.

What can you do if you want more original works by me?

Buy Wolf’s Search.  Don’t search around for a pirated copy.  Don’t pirate.  Let me know if you find someone who is selling or even just giving away a pirated version.  Pirates are only romantic and dashing in the movies.  In reality, they are just petty thieves.

Don’t buy one copy and share it with your five closest pals.  Sure, I appreciate the compliment, but I can’t make a living from shared copies or used copies.  This may be a shock to you, but libraries don’t pay me when you take my book out.  I only get paid for the one purchase – and institutions usually buy at a discount.

What else can you do?

Write on-line reviews and post them at the vendor of your choice.  Although many people think it is disgusting when writers request on-line reviews, while writing is an art, publishing (which enables writers to make a living) is a business.  Especially when a book has been independently published, the author doesn’t earn a single penny until you buy the book.

Still with me?

Tell your friends about Wolf’s Search.  Feature it in your book club. Word of mouth—or of electron—is still considered the best way for the word to get out about a book

Another thing you can do, if you haven’t already, is sign up for my mailing list.  That way you can be first to hear about special offers, contests, or get a sneak peek at the cover art for forthcoming works.  You can sign up from my website or by using the link on the left side of my Facebook page.  I never share my mailing list information, and I post only occasionally, so you don’t need to worry about weekly spam.

Let me be completely honest.  Whether or not I can afford to publish more novels, as well as how quickly those novels become available, is in your hands.  With your backing, I can afford to concentrate on writing, because I can hire help for the mundane business details.  Without your help, there’s only me acting as writer, editor, marketer, art director, and all the rest.

Not a fan of Firekeeper?  That’s okay.  Some of you have asked if I’ll be writing more novels in some of my other universes, such as that of the “Artemis Awakening” series, the “Breaking the Wall” series, or the athanor series.  I definitely have some exciting new sequel projects planned.

Even better, I also have some new, never before published, works in progress.

However, whether I can afford to pursue these projects, as well as how quickly they become available, depends on you and your support.  If you don’t want to buy a Firekeeper novel, then consider buying one of my other novels or my short story collection, Curiosities.  Have all of them?  Buy one of my books as a gift.

Don’t buy used.  My website bookstore offers many of my novels in hard cover first editions.  The bookstore page will be undergoing revision and expansion, but you can always e-mail me if you are wondering about the availability of a certain title.  Contact information is on my webpage.

Many of my older titles are also available as e-books.  More will become available as I have time and finances to produce them.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for the Firekeeper Saga and my other works.  I hope you’ll be part of making sure that my stories – both your old favorites and new material – remain available in the years to come.

Now, off to do some business stuff, but soon I hope to be running with Firekeeper and Blind Seer again soon.

Take Flight With Wolf’s Search

July 10, 2019

Back and Front Cover!

As you’ve probably guessed, the image accompanying this post is the official cover for Wolf’s Search.  The art is by Julie Bell, who gave her talents to the art for the first six books, and let me use her “Andre” for the cover of Wolf’s Search.

Many readers of Fantasy and SF are already familiar with Julie Bell’s art, but did you know that doing the covers for the Firekeeper books brought her to doing wildlife art as well?  You can read all about her journey—including the ups and downs along the way—here.

If you’re interested in seeing the original of “Andre,” here’s a link to the proper page on Julie Bell’s site.  You’ll see that her image is just a little different from the one on the cover, but it’s still magnificent.  Even more fascinating, Julie Bell’s painting actually perfectly fit something I’d planned for the book long before I started looking for art.  There is such a thing as serendipity.

Wondering what Wolf’s Search is about?  Let me spare you trying to read off the photo and give you the blurb here!

Transformative Journey

Blind Seer has run at Firekeeper’s side since the wolf-woman first crossed the Iron Mountains into human-held lands.  Now it’s her turn to run alongside the blue-eyed wolf as he sets out in search of someone who can teach him how to use his magical gift—on his own unique terms.

The pair’s search will take them to the far side of the world in the company of allies who include a young woman scarred by war, a falcon who believes himself a traitor, and an old friend… or possibly enemy.  Together they will fight battles from before they were born, climb mountains, cross badlands, eventually unveiling a threat that will reshape not only Blind Seer, but his belief in what he most desires.

As I write this, I’m waiting for the print proof for Wolf’s Search to arrive.  It’s scheduled to get here tomorrow.  Proofing that is the final Big Step before the book is ready for release.  Depending on whether any new errors cropped up in printing, Wolf’s Search could be available as both e-book and trade paperback within a few weeks.

I’ll announce when Wolf’s Search is available as a Wednesday Wandering.  If you can’t wait even a moment, sign up for my Mailing List, since I’ll post the information there as soon as it becomes available.  You can find a link to the mailing list at my website.  My mailing list is only used for important announcements, and I never share the list, so you don’t need to worry about being inundated except by the sort of news you want!

Now, off to see if the proof has arrived.  I know it’s a day early, but I’m very excited!

Isn’t Necessarily Right

May 29, 2019

Mama Gets Ready

Despite the picture, this Wandering isn’t about birds, it’s about writing.  Well, it’s about birds, too, because the birds are what started my thoughts wandering down this trail.

When I was a kid, everyone knew that animals—especially “simple” animals like the sparrows featured in these photos—were basically organic computers programmed by that mysterious force called “instinct.”  Simple animals didn’t teach their young.  At best the young “imprinted” and thus became organic photocopies of their parents.

Turns out, what everyone knows isn’t necessarily right.  Even sparrows—like the delightful family Jim photographed on our bird block—teach their children.  How well in this case is an interesting question, since bird blocks aren’t exactly natural, but we watched for quite a long while as Mama Sparrow taught her kids to feed themselves.

Isn’t That Delicious?

I hope those lessons will extend to encouraging them to sample the plants we have growing in the backyard, many of which we let go to seed to provide food for the birds.

It turns out that “bird brained” birds aren’t the only animals who teach or at least learn by example.  I’ve seen many guinea pigs teaching their young what is and isn’t safe to eat.  Even when they’re not related, younger ones will look to their seniors for guidance.  This can cause a few unintentional ripples down the chain.  We’ve had a couple very dietarily opinionated guinea pigs convince their associates that something perfectly fine—even beneficial for guinea pigs—is “yucky.”  Currently, it’s carrots.  Sigh…

Many types of wild canines not only teach their young to hunt, they take advantage of their ability to regurgitate at will to carry back live prey—small rodents are a favorite choice—so the kids can practice in the safely of the home.

Nonetheless, despite ample evidence to the contrary, humans continue to superimpose their preconceived notions on animals, rather than viewing the animals as distinct individuals.  Not all cats cold-shoulder their humans when they’ve been away.  Mine tend to follow me around, apparently to make sure I won’t do it again.  But who knows?  Maybe they’re more like teenagers hiding the pizza boxes and beer bottles so their parents won’t know they’ve had a party.

My friend (and fellow writer) Walter Jon Williams once pointed out to me a minor error in one of my novels.  I sighed and said, “Well, I guess that makes this an alternate history, then.”  He laughed and very kindly replied, “It’s not what you know you don’t know that’ll get you; it’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you every time.”

That’s a good piece of advice to remember when writing.  Next time you start writing a standoffish cat or an eager-to-please dog or a faithful steed or a stupid cow or…  Well, you get the idea.  Next time you start to write what everyone knows, take a closer look.  It’s highly likely that what everyone knows isn’t actually true.

Now that I think about it, that’s good advice for life as well.

Storyteller, Not Only Writer

May 22, 2019

Past Adventures In The Court Of The Faceless Tyrant

People—especially other writers—often ask me why I run a roleplaying game (and have been for many years) when prep for the game takes up some of my writing time. Last Sunday’s game demonstrated one reason.  I’m still grinning at the memory as I type this.

Sunday night I sprang a plot twist on my players. It was terrific watching eyes widen as, one by one, people caught the implications of what was unfolding.

Dominique, the unwitting foil for my revelation, did a brilliant job of playing her part as Persephone who, daring to hope for a very special Midwinter gift from her long-time crush, instead realizes that he’s proposing to her – in the form of inviting her to join a conspiracy.

I had no idea what Dominique/Persephone would do or say.  Being ready to react appropriately was definitely an adrenaline high.  She gave me a lot to work with.  After everyone left, Jim said he half-expected Dominique to really burst into tears. It was improv theater at its best.

My fiction-writing self usually waits years to see how a novel will be received. Often, I never hear.  Worse, when I do hear, most responses are not about what I wrote, but about what I didn’t write.  By contrast, my game master self gets to see the response in real time.

Running my weekly game jazzes me for my daily writing, maybe because my players are such excellent collaborators.  Nonetheless, I have no desire to reveal a novel until it’s done. Why?  Different type of storytelling, I guess.

I often define myself as a storyteller, not a writer.  I realize that’s not precisely true.  I am a writer.  I love the process of finding the right words to portray a character or describe a setting.  I love refining these elements until they’re as close to perfect as I can get them.

My earliest stories were told aloud, mostly to my two younger sisters.  Later, I daydreamed elaborate plots with only me as an audience.  My current two favorite forms of storytelling are descendants of those early experiences.

Now I’m off to be my prose writer self, who has been busily scribbling all over the manuscript of Wolf’s Soul in a quest for the perfect words and cadence.  Nonetheless, my oral storyteller self is already anticipating next week’s game when…  Well, we’ll just need to see!

Skinny Has Friends!

May 15, 2019

Skinny Shares Lunch With A Friend

Our co-resident Skinny the thrasher has been expanding his social circle!  As I told you in a Wandering about a month ago, we first met Skinny when he was using our bird block as a source of food during his struggle to survive after being orphaned.  He has since claimed our yard as his territory.  Until this spring, Skinny didn’t seem to have many friends, but now things are changing.

Last week, we saw Skinny not only sharing “his” bird block with another thrasher, but actively feeding it.  We think, but aren’t certain, that Skinny’s friend is a juvenile.  However, some courting behaviors mimic parent/child behaviors.  Our guess is based on how, in the photos Jim took, the bird being fed seems to have a shorter, less curved beak, which is one of the few ways young thrashers differ from fully mature.  If so, then Skinny may have a family.  Adult thrashers take turns minding the nest and the young, which might explain why we haven’t seen two adults foraging together the way we did the two thrashers we assume were Skinny’s parents.

Skinny has also come to something of an agreement with P.F., the cottontail who likes to hop up on the bird block and stuff himself.  Possibly because an earlier incarnation saved his life, Skinny considers the bird block “his.”  Although he has never seemed to mind sharing it with the sparrows, finches, quail, and doves, he was not happy to have this large, furry creature plop himself on top and munch away.

However, last week, Jim got pictures of P.F. and Skinny sharing the bird block.  This doesn’t mean they don’t still compete from time to time.  We’ve seen Skinny sneak up on P.F. and poke him right on his fuzzy rump.  And we’ve seen P.F. launch himself for the top of the block, never mind who else is there.  All in all, Skinny seems the more territorial, while P.F. is simply opportunist.

Skinny and P.F. Have A Lunch Date

Our toads are also back, and our teeny-tiny pond is once again hosting both nightly singalongs and copious quantities of tadpoles.  We saw one of last year’s tadpoles perched on the edge of the pond, contemplating whether he could manage to leap down into the water.  Hey, four inches is a long way when you’re only about half an inch tall!

Wolf’s Search is now off to the copy editor, and I’m reviewing Wolf’s Soul before moving along to writing the conclusion.  Time to curl up with a stack of paper and a red pencil or three.  Catch you later!

Catnip, Italian Parsley, Zinnias

April 24, 2019

Alyssum, Hollyhocks, Marigolds

Catnip, catmint, Italian parsley, garlic chives, tomatoes, alyssum, blanket flowers, cardinal vine, chocolate flowers, Cyprus vine, hollyhocks, marigolds, portulacas, zinnias.  Other than all being plants, what do these have in common?

If you guessed that these are all domestic plants that already have or can be expected to volunteer in my yard this year, you’d be right.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, my yard does not provide the most gentle of climates.  Over the years, I’ve come to treasure those plants that seem to have domesticated us as much as we have domesticated them.   The results are often surprising and even quite lovely.

Often by late summer the vegetable bed on the east side of our shed looks as if portions have been quilted because of the amount of alyssum that volunteers from seeds scattered by past generations.  Yes, the alyssum takes some of the water that could go to my peppers and eggplant, but the plants also provide a natural organic mulch that keeps our sandy soil from becoming burning hot during the day.  And, well, they’re pretty, too.

Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy these volunteer plants quite a bit.  Sure, some get weeded out, but a lot more get transplanted or just enjoyed where they’ve sprouted.  Does this make for a rather chaotic and disorganized yard?  Only superficially.  I tend to think of it as working with nature, rather than forcing nature to work with me.  And since I’m the one who introduced the majority of these plants to the environment, well, this strikes me as making a compromise.  Maybe the parsley isn’t growing quite where I intended but, hey, I have parsley.

Not surprisingly, my stories come to life in a very similar fashion.  I come up with ideas, but how they germinate and the way they fit together often surprises me.

That happened this past weekend.  I’d been sliding elements for the final section of Wolf’s Soul around in my head, waiting to see how they would fit together.  Then, last Friday, as Jim and I were putting dinner together, I had one of those “aha” moments.  Leaving Jim to handle the final touches, I went and scribbled all over a piece of scrap paper and tucked it under my monitor.  I pulled it out on Saturday morning, crossed out one line, added a couple more.  Now I’m merrily writing away.

Is the story what I thought it would be when I started writing it?  Absolutely not, but like my alyssum quilted vegetable bed, the results are turning out surprising and even quite lovely.

Easter Bunnies and Beta Readers

April 17, 2019

PF As The Easter Bunny

First, a follow-up to last week’s WW about Skinny the Thrasher.  The day after I wrote about Skinny’s rivalry with PF the Cottontail Rabbit for access to the bird block, we spotted them both eating from the block at the same time.  If we see them again, we’ll try for a picture.  In the meantime, as we lead into Easter, here’s a picture of PF as the Easter Bunny!

As some of you already know, last week a short post on my FB and Twitter feeds accidentally triggered something I feel is only courteous to address in more than a few sentences.

When I posted a brief comment about how I’d just realized that I’d forgotten to put chapter breaks into the manuscript of Wolf’s Search that I’d sent to my secret beta readers, I expected to be teased about my forgetfulness.  What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of requests for information about how to become one of my beta readers.  Some requests were from people I recognized as long-time readers, but others were from people for whom this was the first time I remembered seeing a comment.

When these requests continued, even after I’d responded in the Comments, I decided I’d better explain.

Here’s the short answer.  You probably cannot become a beta reader for me.  Unlike some authors, I don’t solicit comments about my work from the general readership.  I never have.  I am not likely to change.  My first reader has always been my husband.  After Jim, I usually ask a few friends for feedback.  Who these are varies widely, according to the project.

(If you’re still interested in why I work this way, read on…)

For example, one of the people I asked to read the manuscript of Asphodel was Alan Robson, with whom I collaborated on the Thursday Tangents for close to seven years.  From our many discussions, public and not, I knew that Asphodel was the sort of book Alan didn’t usually read.  When he read it and liked it, my feeling that I had something special in Asphodel was reinforced.

For Wolf’s Search, you’d probably be surprised to learn that none of my secret beta readers were fanatical about the series.  One hadn’t even read the last several books.  This was because I wanted to make sure that Wolf’s Search could serve as a “gateway book” into the series.  (Admittedly one with some spoilers, but still more a stand-alone novel than otherwise.)

Yes.  I do know some authors regularly send out copies to beta readers who are strangers or rabid fans of the series.  For some authors, especially those writing long series with long, long books, this helps them to catch continuity errors so they can focus on the new material.  For others, I am sad to say (based on hearing them say this), soliciting beta readers is merely a marketing ploy – an attempt to make readers feel they have been part of the writing process, even if they have not.

Maybe my attitude toward showing a book before it is polished was influenced by my relationship early in my writing career with Roger Zelazny.  Roger generally didn’t share his completed manuscripts with anyone except his editor.  When he did, he usually had a specific reason, up to and including impulsiveness.  (Full disclosure: I read the manuscripts of his last several novels well before publication.)  Roger also didn’t belong to any writers groups.  Hard as it is to believe in these days when social media makes it seem as if every writer shares everything, including deleted scenes and false starts, there are many writers who want their readers to see only the finished story.

More likely my choice then and now to keep unfinished drafts to myself is simply one of the many ways that Roger and I were alike.  Writing for me is not a collaborative process.  I don’t belong to writers’ groups because comments on a work in progress would stall me, not encourage me.  Even Jim doesn’t hear much about a story until it has been completed.  And after the work is completed, a very few readers are all I need to assure me that I haven’t missed some really obvious error.

Writers are very different in what they need.  I am the type of writer I am.  I hope you will not be offended if I continue as I have for these twenty-five or so years that I have been offering you my stories and unveil my works only when they are complete.

What You And I Want

March 27, 2019

This Will Make Sense

Monday I woke up with no idea what to wander on about for this week.  I did know what I wanted to be doing.  Last Friday I left Firekeeper and her associates in the middle of a very complicated situation.  As much as I wanted to keep writing into Friday evening, I’d wrenched my shoulder (either throwing atlatl darts or carrying buckets of water), and I had to get away from the keyboard.

So Monday (which is when I often draft the Wednesday Wanderings) came around, and I didn’t have any idea what to natter on about.  I really didn’t think you’d want to know that Jim and I drew plans for where to plant what in our garden, which is very complicated because this year we’re not only trying some new things, we’re rotating crops.

Or that I had a lot of fun coloring with special gel pencils a picture that had been printed on black paper.

Or that my RPG went well this past week, despite the fact that my players seem to be rolling a record number of fumbles.  (Jim is in the lead.  He’s being a very good sport about this.)

And I didn’t really want to spend a lot of energy trying to justify why these things should interest you, just because they really interest me.

Then it occurred to me that what most of you and I have in common is my writing, and that you’d probably like it if I didn’t put off getting back to that very complicated scene because I was trying to write a clever (or at least not hugely boring) essay.

So, I will leave you here and go and do what I want to do…  And I hope that it’s what you want me to do as well.

As always, I welcome suggestions as to topics for the Wednesday Wanderings.  Please feel free to make a suggestion in the Comments wherever you’re reading this or, if you’re shy, you can e-mail me at

Now, off to continue dealing with complications and consequences!  Woo-hoo!