Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

31 December 2008

And you thought writing was hard?

British artist Willard Wigam is a microsculptor. His sculptures are so small that they can fit on the head of a pin, or inside the eye of a needle, or sometimes even on a human hair. He has to be careful when creating his art: He lost one piece, he thinks, by inhaling it.

For an interview, visit For pictures of his sculptures, go to

Believe it or not, Wigam is not the world's only microsculptor. The late Egyptian musician Hagop Sandaldjian turned to microsculpture in his later years. At right are five birds sitting on a baby hair balanced on the eye end of a needle. You can see more of his amazing work at

May 2009 be a happy and successful year for you, and may all your books be bestsellers!

23 December 2008

Death the revelator

With its bare trees, long, cold nights, memories of Christmases past, and avalanche of holiday cards bearing good and bad news, late December is a dark and bittersweet time.

I hesitate opening the Christmas cards. They may contain good news about a marriage or a new baby. But as we get older, they more often contain bad news about someone who is fatally ill or has died.

Yesterday I opened a padded envelope to find a CD and a note from the wife of a friend who died eight years ago. Our friend was a music editor and composer, and the CD was a recording of some of his chamber music—but not any of the music he was known to have composed.

And so I learned a 30-year-old secret. I had played the very pieces on the CD, but the publisher had attributed them to an obscure German composer of the 1800s. The printed music contained a long description of the discovery of the pieces, a bio of the composer, and commentary on the pieces themselves, all written by the editor, who happened to be our friend.

Our friend’s wife had now chosen to reveal to a few people that our friend had written the music himself in what became an elaborate practical joke on his publisher.

I’m leaving out the entertaining—and identifying—details to keep the secret going. But after a few minutes of sadness that our friend had died so young, I listened to the CD with great pleasure, happy to have a new memory of him and to be in on the joke at last.

After my father died last February, my stepmother revealed to my siblings and me that my father, too, had had a secret: He could use a computer. In fact, he even had a PayPal account and bid on things on eBay.

The four of us were flabbergasted. My father rarely cussed, but when he did, it usually was about the computer he had been forced to have at work (and which precipitated his retirement). He hated the things and vehemently rejected all our offers to help him become computer savvy. We learned to stop offering.

Apparently as the years passed, he realized it would be useful to check his investments and do other things online. Too embarrassed to admit to his kids that he wanted to learn to use a computer after all, he swore our stepbrother and stepmother to secrecy, and they got him up to speed.

After getting over our shock, my siblings and I had a good laugh and another good memory of our father to savor.

Do you have any secrets that when you are gone will entertain your family and friends and ease their grief?

18 December 2008

Taking the bitter with the sweet

The sweet

I’ve sold a novel!

Speculative fiction publisher Hadley Rille Books will publish a series of historical novels set in archaeologically important times and written by archaeologists. (I squeezed in because I’ve worked on archaeological digs and have a Ph.D. in the sister discipline of anthropology.) Although these books will not be speculative fiction, the publisher does want them to induce the same sense of wonder that spec fic does.

My novel, tentatively called Like Mayflies in a Stream, takes place in Uruk, the largest city in Sumer, during the reign of Gilgamesh. The novel’s heroine is Shamhat, a priestess of Inanna (later known as Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite, and Venus). I sold the novel on proposal, so I still have to write it.

I first fell in love with ancient Sumer in high school and took classes in college in Mesopotamian archaeology and art with top-notch scholars in those areas. I’m really looking forward to writing this novel, and if I write fast enough, it may be out by the end of 2009.

Although this is my third published book, it’s my first novel. I’m at last a novelist! Thank you, Hadley Rille and Eric Reynolds!

The bitter

My cat, Dulcinea, died early Saturday morning of pancreatitis and an undiagnosed lung disorder. She would have turned 17 on December 20th. She wasn’t a constant writer’s helper like her brother, Susato. But she was sweet and extremely smart. She loved to sunbathe and followed the sun from room to room. She also loved to wash Susato and my husband’s legs.


Last week’s contest

Farrah Rochon won a copy of the Hadley Rille anthology Return to Luna in my contest last week. Congratulations, Farrah! Disappointed nonwinners can buy a copy at

06 December 2008

Contest! And a short story published!

My short story “Coyote and the Gamblers” is in the anthology Return to Luna (Hadley Rille Books), which was released December 5. All stories in the anthology illustrate the same theme: What will life be like for the first moon colonists?

In my story, Pueblo Indians who had left Earth in tears 50 years earlier to build a moon colony for another tribe now want to stay on the moon and have to figure out how to do so.

Return to Luna will be available online at a discount at Hadley Rille Books and at full price at

CONTEST: One person will be drawn at random to win the book from those who comment on this post. To enter, post a comment that includes one essential you would take to the moon. The ten entries I enjoy the most will be entered twice. The contest ends by December 13 (a week from today) at 11:59 pm Pacific time.

03 December 2008

Share the joy of books

The ladies of The Writing Group Blog—Lynne Griffin, Amy MacKinnon, Lisa Marnell, and Hannah Roveto—are encouraging people to buy books as holiday presents to help independent bookstores survive and to support the industry many of us are trying to make a living in.

They’ve even come up with these three pretty images that they welcome you to post on your own blog.

Almost everyone on my Christmas list (as well as those with birthdays around the holidays) is getting books. How about you?

Carleen Brice of the Pajama Gardener blog is also urging people to buy books as Christmas gifts this year. To help and encourage everyone to read books by black authors and to give them as gifts, she has started a second blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors, at Each Tuesday, she posts about books by black authors that white readers should try out.

Carleen's post last week is especially interesting to many readers of For Love of Words because Carleen’s topic is science fiction, fantasy, and horror by black authors.

Carleen even made a video for her crusade:

I bought some books to give as presents that I found through the recommendations on White Readers Meet Black Authors (and I found a bunch that I’d like to read myself).

Happy shopping! I hope you discover some reading treats for yourself as well.