Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

29 December 2009

The old year now away is fled

My final blog post of the year seems a fitting time to look back at 2009 and forward to 2010.

Social networking

One of the biggest writing-world surprises of 2009 for me was the abandonment of blogs for Facebook. Many of the writing friends I connected with at the beginning of the year through visiting each others’ blogs I now see primarily on FB. As much as I enjoy reading the tidbits my friends post on FB about their families, their activities, and their progress on a story or book, the trend toward FB dismays me.

If blogs go the way of dinosaurs, I will miss the long essays, thought-out arguments, carefully constructed jokes or photo displays, and tutorials. Although some people do occasionally post longer material on FB, most information is conveyed as sound bites, slogans, and aphorisms. FB works well for announcing one is baking chocolate-chip cookies or has posted new photos of the progress of their barn renovation, but is totally inadequate for making a nuanced argument.

And yet I myself have gotten sucked into hanging out at FB, to the detriment of my blog. My intention for 2010 is to start blogging again every week; please feel free to nag if I don’t.


None of my friends had awful covers this year, and many were blessed by the cover gods and received gorgeous covers. Many of the books I bought also had great covers. Granted, I will buy a book because it has nice cover art, but still, in 2009 cover art seemed to take a turn for the better. Perhaps with the economy still in the tank, publishers felt they needed better covers to entice people to approach and buy their books. Whatever the reason, I was happy for the trend and hope it continues.

The reactions to the cover for Like Mayflies in a Stream have been strong and contradictory. One bookseller thought it was a great cover because the contrast, the tension between the figures, and the lighting all draw the eye to the book. Other people have said that they found the cover repellent. I now routinely ask people at booksignings what they think of it. It’s fascinating to hear how differently people react, and I wonder how many of the covers I loved in 2009 turned other people off.

Dark and stormy night

The trend in both fantasy and romance toward dark books set in grimy, unpleasant places and headed by heroes with questionable moral compasses continued in 2009; I stopped buying most such books long ago. The rise of steampunk seemed to promise a change in direction; instead, I fear we are getting much the same books, only now they are set in a violent, grimy, gloomy Victorian London.

It’s not that I want to read variations on Pollyanna. But life is both glorious and horrible, beautiful and ugly, uplifting and soul searing; I want to read books that reflect the full range of human experience, not just the dark half. My life has enough dark already.


One of my goals for this week is to set writing goals for 2010. What’s floating around in my head is that I want to send out several stories (which will require writing them first), write another novel, and go to a couple of writing conferences. Oh, and get more sleep so I will be rested enough to accomplish the other goals.

How about you? What did you think of 2009’s covers? Or my cover? Are you tired of dark books yet? What goals will you pursue in 2010?

Happy New Year, everyone.

01 December 2009

Clarion Workshop opens for applications

The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop is accepting applications for its 2010 class from 1 December 2009 through 1 March 2010.

For those unfamiliar with the Clarion workshop, it is an intensive six-week-long workshop in which you write short stories and critique the stories of your seventeen classmates. Ideally, you write six stories during those six weeks, but the number is up to you.

Although the instructors come from the world of speculative fiction and the workshop teaching focuses on spec fic, people who write in any genre are welcome to apply.

The lineup of teachers for 2010 is especially wonderful:
The online application process is easy. You submit contact information, a brief summary of your educational background, a few details about your writing habits and goals, and two short stories.

As you may know, I attended Clarion in 2009 and found it worth every penny. My writing improved, my critiquing ability improved, and I made seventeen friends-for-life, most or all of whom will be famous writers one day. I blogged about the experience here and here.

To learn about Clarion 2010 and the application process, check out the Website and the links there.

If you want to know more about my six weeks at Clarion, please feel free to ask questions in the comments or to email me privately at ShaunaRoberts [at]


The blog Suko’s Notebook is having a contest, and the prize is the historical novel Melinda in the Wild West by Linda Weaver Clark. Linda was interviewed at For Love of Words in August. To enter the contest, leave a comment here.


Hadley Rille Books, which published Like Mayflies in a Stream, is celebrating its fourth birthday. If you haven’t checked out its offerings before—mostly science fiction and fantasy—they’re worth a look: