Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

29 April 2008


My Mitzvah Madness: Pay It Forward contest ends soon. You have until midnight, PST, on 30 April to enter. Four lucky people will win free books. Click rules to find out how to take part.

Winners will be drawn and their names posted on Thursday, 1 May.


Farrah Rochon, independently of the Mitzvah Madness contest, has posted ten things she will do to help the environment. Check out her Earth Day post to get more ideas of good deeds you can do.


Christine Eldin will be holding contests on her blog, ABenchPress, as part of her Author’s Week, which will run 3–9 May. Several authors will make appearances during the week. Sounds like fun.

If you mention her Author’s Week on your blog and let her know that you did so, you’ll be entered in a contest to win a gift from Dubai.

Find out more at


Those of you who do not belong to the Romance Writers of America may be unfamiliar with Brenda Novak’s yearly online auction to benefit diabetes research. Last year, she raised more than $140,000 and has set her goal even higher this year.

Her 2008 auction runs from 1 to 31 May. Hundreds of people have donated prizes for people to bid on. Of most interest to readers of this blog are evaluations and critiques by authors, agents, and editors. But even if you already have an agent and an editor, you may wish to check out the other items, either for yourself or for gifts: jewelry, autographed books and memorabilia, gift baskets, trips, antiques, a Kindle, and much else.

Learn more at


At right is what I look like Simpsonized. You too can waste valuable writing time Simpsonizing yourself. Visit


I posted recently about a talk by Joyce Carol Oates on 8 February on the depressing and lonely life of a writer. I learned this week that her husband of forty-five years, Raymond J. Smith, died ten days later of complications of pneumonia. Perhaps his illness explains the sadness of her talk.


Coming soon to For Love of Words:
  • an interview with mystery writer June Shaw
  • a discussion of my favorite punctuation mark, the semicolon, and how it can be used outside smileys

23 April 2008

Taking a bite of Orange (County)

On Saturday, 5 April, I attended the Literary Orange conference in Garden Grove, California. The conference was put together by librarians, and boy, could you tell it! It went off without a hitch. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks were fresh, bountiful, and on time. It was the first such event I’ve attended at which the coffee didn’t run out early. The book sales and signings were well organized. The printed program was logically laid out and easy to use. Everyone received a commemorative coffee mug, sturdy canvas bookbag, and bookmark. The graphics on the program materials—done by students on quality stock—was excellent. Hurrah for librarians! I could use one in charge of my life.

Forget the food and paper quality, you’re probably thinking. What about the conference? Well, I could have done a better job investigating it beforehand. I went expecting a workshop for writers, where in the science fiction panels I would learn about worldbuilding and how to get ideas for stories from current science. Instead, it was a venue for librarians, fans, and writers to hear writers talk about their work and their lives, get books signed, and meet other book lovers.

For what it was, it was a lot of fun. Elizabeth George and Janet Fitch each spoke about their lives as writers to the whole group. Despite my knowing almost no one in Southern California, I bumped into several of the few people I do know, and we sat together for these talks and lunch.

In-between these talks were panel discussions. I attended the two science fiction panels. Thus, I was lucky enough to hear David Brin and Vernor Vinge discuss Dr. Vinge’s concept of the Singularity and how every science fiction novel now has to either assume the Singularity has occurred or explain why it has not, as well as Gregory Benford and Larry Niven talking about the space elevator, among many other fascinating topics (about which I would go into more detail if I had not displaced my notebook—I wasn’t kidding about needing a personal librarian).

These four guys have won a lot of Nebulas and Hugos, and I was in awe to be sitting only a few feet from such giants of science fiction. They were all quite gracious during the booksignings. I talked to each for a few minutes, so I can now brag I’ve met them all.

I finished the day at a panel that included screenwriter Stephen Cannell, whose hand you’ve seen ripping a page from his typewriter and flinging it away hundreds of times.

Will I go to Literary Orange again? Maybe, if I'm flush with funds or my favorite writers are there . . . . or, dream of dreams, I'm invited to be a panelist.

For a different take on Literary Orange from science fiction writer and editor Jude-Marie “Kelly” Green, visit her blog.


Just a reminder that my Mitzvah Madness: Pay It Forward contest is still going on. You have until April 30 to enter and possibly win free books. Rules are in last week’s post.

For those who’d like to enter but need an idea for a good deed to do, here are five.
1. This one is fast, easy, and costs you nothing. Each day you “click here to give” at the following sites, sponsors contribute money to a good cause. (Note added 28 April 2008: Please see Lana Gramlich's comment and the Website she recommends.) 
2. Prevent unwanted pets. Spay or neuter your dog or cat.

3. Help rebuild New Orleans’ homes, culture, and environment by donating time or money to one of these organizations:
4. Pick up litter on your street.

5. My niece Amber will be walking 60 miles in August to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure and National Philanthropic Trust. If you would like to be one of her sponsors and help fund breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment, her site is at Donations are tax deductible.

Check out the Daily Mitzvah blog for more ideas.

Oh, and once you've chosen your good deed, please don't forget to come back and enter my contest!

14 April 2008

Mitzvah Madness: A pay-it-forward contest

I had the amazing luck of winning pay-it-forward contests at both Charles Gramlich's Razored Zen blog and Angie's blog, Angie's Desk. Now it's my turn to host a pay-it-forward contest in which you can win free books.

Yes, free books!

As Charles and Angie did, I will change the rules a bit. However, the goal of the contest remains the same: To introduce you to authors you have not read before.

The Rules

Comment on this post between now and 30 April, start your post with the words CONTEST ENTRY, and tell me what you will do (or have done) this month to make the world a better place. This can be as small as one small good deed or as big as running a Website for a good cause (hint, hint, Lisa K.).

If you are too modest to post about your good deed, comment with just the words CONTEST ENTRY and then email me your good deed at ShaunaRoberts [at]

After the deadline, 30 April, I’ll put everyone’s name into a hat, draw four winners, and announce them on this blog.

Winners pay it forward by running some variation of this contest on their own blogs. Winners may use the Pay It Forward logo or not, as they choose.

The Prizes

Each winner can select one of the following:

1. Try something from me. If you choose this option, you will receive a copy of the forthcoming science fiction anthology Barren Worlds (which contains my science fiction short story "Elessa the Restless," based on the Child ballad "The Maid on the Shore") and a copy of the Fall 2006 issue of Continuum Science Fiction magazine (which contains my science fiction novelette "The Hunt").

2. Try something from my favorite authors. Choose as many books as you like from the following authors, up to a price of $20 at

Barbara Hambly (fantasy, horror, historical fiction, historical mysteries set in early New Orleans)

Y Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy, most based on European history; poetry)

Y Ursula LeGuin (fantasy, writing instruction)

Y C.L. Grace (mysteries set during the Renaissance)

Y Candace Robb (mysteries set during the Middle Ages)

Y Caroline Roe (mysteries set during the Middle Ages)

Y Kate Sedley (mysteries set during the Middle Ages)

Y Sharan Newman (mysteries set during the Middle Ages)

3. Try something from my friends and blog visitors. Choose as many books as you like from the following authors, up to a price of $20 at

C. S. Harris a.k.a. Candice Proctor (romance, mysteries set during the Regency)

Farrah Rochon (contemporary romance)

Y Laura Joh Rowland (historical mysteries set in Japan during the Shogunate and in 19th century England)

Y Carleen Brice (women's fiction, self-help)

Y Christee Gabour Atwood (humor, nonfiction)

Y Rexanne Becnel (romance, women's fiction)

Y William "Billy" Hammett (uh . . . magical realism?)

Y Charles Gramlich (fantasy, horror)

Y Therese Fowler (women's fiction)

Y Carolyn Woolston (Western romance, medieval romance)

Y Karen DeGroot Carter (general fiction)

Y Timothy Hallinan (mystery, thriller)

Y Bernita Harris (dark fantasy story in the anthology Weirdly)

Y Barbara Colley (romance, contemporary mystery, saga)

Y Hailey North (contemporary romance)

Y Sandra Landry (time-travel romance)

Y June Shaw (mystery)

Y Robin Wells (contemporary romance)

Y Sabrina Jeffries (romance)

Y Pamela Kopfler (nonfiction essays)

Y Jennifer Blake (historical and contemporary romance)

Y Caryn Carter (erotic romance)

Y C. J. Parker (fantasy mystery)

Y Jude-Marie Green (science fiction story in the anthology Desolate Places)

(If you're my friend and I've left you out, please let me know and I'll add you.)

That's a great round-up of books you might win, so take this chance to do a good deed and possibly get free books!


Next week: an overview of the recent Literary Orange conference

09 April 2008

Happy birthday, blog!

This week marks the first anniversary—and 55th post—of “For Love of Words.”

The first post appeared 11 April 2007. That post announced that I had had a novelette published in the magazine Continuum Science Fiction, and, more exciting, my name was above Greg Benford’s on the cover! Coincidentally, I met Greg Benford in person this past weekend at a literary conference (more on the Literary Orange conference next week). Two faithful friends commented on the post, Sphinx Ink and Farrah Rochon. Thank you for sticking with me for the year since.

Other posts in April 2007 included a discussion on 12 April about the value of a reading list, a commentary on 19 April on the science fiction novel The Carpet Makers, a post on 26 April about properly punctuating dates, and a rant on 30 April about FEMA refusing aid for New Orleans offered by foreign countries. Although my blog description promises rants, I think that may have been the only one so far.

I started using Google Analytics to track hits on 17 June 2007. Since then my blog has been visited 3,446 times by 1,473 unique people (in both senses of the term).

In general, the grammar posts have been the least popular (but that does not mean I will stop doing them), and the author interviews have been the most popular.

Thank you all for visiting, and a special thanks to those who also commented. Some of you have become good friends during the year, and I hope to get to know the rest of you better over the coming year.

02 April 2008

The writer’s soundtrack

Microsoft Word or black gel ink pen and lined yellow legal pad? Coffee shop or home office? Webster’s Third New International or the Complete Oxford? All writers, it seems, have strong preferences for the tools and working conditions they need to produce well, down to the music they listen to.

One friend of mine chooses a theme song for each of her main characters and listens to it as she writes each one’s scenes. That seems a really cool idea, but I’ve never tried it. Other friends thrive on the chatter and clatter of coffeeshops.

My own soundtrack varies with my mood and what I’m writing. Sometimes, I need silence to get the focus I need, particularly with nonfiction. Often, I choose Baroque or Renaissance instrumental. If I do choose music with singing, I’ll pick something that’s not in English. Otherwise, the words in my ear interfere with the words in my brain and fingers. If I'm doing background research rather than actually typing words, I listen to many kinds of music: early music (music of the Baroque era and earlier), folk, blues, Cajun music, Zydeco, gospel, Celtic, R&B, bluegrass, New Age.

Although I have a large CD collection, I tend to be lazy and tune in a station on iTunes or Live365 so that I don’t have to make choices or get up to change the CD. If you’ve never heard of Live365, it’s an Internet site with thousands of stations in every genre—and even subgenre—imaginable. For example, I have several early music stations among my fifty-one presets, including a station that plays only European sacred music of 1400–1600, a station that plays only Gregorian chant, and a station that features archguitar, lute, and theorbo music.

What is your soundtrack when you write, and why?