Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

31 October 2010

World Fantasy Con: Days 4 and 5

I mentioned in my last post how I met several interesting people at the booksigning. What I forgot to say was that I also sold several books and gave out bookmarks to people who were interested but not ready to commit. So it was a great signing all around.

My one con obligation for Saturday was to read for 5 minutes as part of the 9:30 pm Broad Universe "rapid reading." I read the scene of Like Mayflies in a Stream in which Shamhat the priestess first attempts to turn Enkidu the wild man into a civilized man by introducing him to bread and beer (two essentials of civilization according to Sumerian thinking). That was fun and good practice to talking in front of people. I was excited to meet two fantasy authors—Elaine Isaak and Carol Berg—whose novels I had read in September and enjoyed.

Saturday I was able to go to several panels, all of which were excellent. I think I'll save discussing them for future posts so that I can go into more detail when I'm less tired.

Some people came up to introduce themselves because they recognized my face from Facebook. Unfortunately, I embarrassed myself by not recognizing two people I've talked to many times on FB. It wasn't my fault, though: Their FB pictures were years out of date, and they no longer looked like their pictures. So if you're wondering what picture to put on your social media sites, consider choosing an up-to-date picture that looks like you.

My husband complained that my World Fantasy Con posts have had typos and misspellings. Please forgive any problems you stumble over.

I skipped going to any parties last night because the BU reading got out so late. I figured I would go to the parties tonight. When tonight came, though, it seemed more important to soak up some solitude and pack my bags so I can leave as early as possible tomorrow morning for the drive to my sister's.

This morning I went to a half-hour talk by Mary Robinette Kowal on how to give a reading. I'm not sure why the con scheduled this talk at the end, after everyone but four people had done their readings. It was a useful talk that will help me with future readings. The information from the talk—and more—is at her Website at

I don't usually go to readings, but Saturday I went to some because I knew the people. Paul Park read from a YA book he's writing based on Dungeons & Dragons as a way of interesting his son in his work. Edge Books had a two-hour reading-with-chocolate. I got there for the second hour, just in time to catch two new friends, Andrew Penn Romine and John Nakamura Remy, reading their zombie erotica stories with remarkable aplomb. The stories are in the newly published Rigor Amortis.

This afternoon I dropped off Clarion friends Heather Albano and Leonard Pung at the airport and then took my niece back to Ohio Wesleyan. OWU is about 40 minutes north of Columbus, and I had a beautiful drive through the countryside, which I hope to write about for my blog post at Novel Spaces on 5 November. Afterward I took a long nap, a perfect end to a con that could have only been more perfect if it had lasted longer.

30 October 2010

World Fantasy Con: Days 2 and 3

I wanted to go to panels at this year's con. Really, I did. So far I've made only two. One was on fairy tales and whether one can write modern fairy tales or make up new fairy tales, a question that seemedto boil down to, what is the function of the fairy tale and do we still need that function in the modern world. The other panel was very interesting, but I was sleep deprived and couldn't follow what was going on.

As usual, the bag of books was large, and I've doubled my stash by frequent checks of the reject table. I was so excited to open my bag and find an ARC of Brandon Sanderson's newest novel. I had so much wanted to buy it , but it was $30 or $35, so I decided to wait for the paperback. Still lots of dark fiction this year, but perhaps not as much as usual. Several books I'm veru excited about reading.

I haven't been through the dealer's room yet. I'm hoping to find some cool small press books there. I also haven't been through the art show. I spent much of of Thursday ferrying friends from the airport to the hotel, and today I went up to Ohio Wesleyan U. to pick up my niece, who's interested in being a fantasy writer. I had some commitments today, including the evening mass book signing, so I sent my niece off with some young people I knew and she had a fun time.

I enjoyed the trips. I grew up only 50 miles from here, so the scenery is familiar and conforting. The bitter cold, though, reminds me of a major reason left and never moved back.

The book signing was fun. I chose a good spot and had a good number of people passing by. Several stopped, lured in by the candy, and I had some interesting conversations and met interesting people, including two surprise meeting with Madeleine E. Robins, whose two fantasy novels about a swordswoman in Regency England I love.

I finally finished my obligations about 11:45 pm and headed to some parties in search of chocolate. It was already gone. So now I'm about to go to bed to get a little sleep before I get up early tomorrow morning to start the cycle all over again.

27 October 2010

World Fantasy Con: Day –1

After a short flight and a long flight, I arrived in Columbus, Ohio, and settled into the WFC hotel. The room is decent-sized with a nice view, but it's $9.99 a day for Internet service.

I was hoping to check in and get my registration materials tonight because the con starts tomorrow afternoon, and I'm spending the morning ferrying people from the airport. But the organizers weren't as organized as they expected, so no registration tonight.

I'll at least get unpacked and get a good night's sleep so I can be fresh tomorrow.

I should have more interesting news to report tomorrow.

20 October 2010

Interview with literary fiction author Zohreh Ghahremani

Zohreh “Zoe” Ghahremani’s second novel, her first in English, debuted in September. Sky of Red Poppies (Turquoise Books) is the story of the friendship between two young women coming of age in a politically divided Iran in the 1960s under the rule of the Shah.

Welcome, Zoe, and congratulations on the release of Sky of Red Poppies!

Thank you, Shauna. It is a pleasure to speak with you.

How closely does the story in the novel follow events in your life and your friends’ lives in pre-Revolution Iran?

This novel was inspired by a true story, and I have done my best to stay true to the events. However, it is a work of fiction, and I have colored many of the scenes and events so that the reader will remain interested and not find it too mundane.

Are there certain themes or topics you’re drawn to in your writing?

I love the innocence in my characters and enjoy writing in the voice of people who would not speak for themselves. During the past two decades, we have seen the rise of many good Iranian-American writers, some of whose work have become bestsellers. However, a majority of their novels revolve around personal dilemmas, and stories pertain to the changes brought about by the current regime. I left Iran years before the revolution and don’t share the same experience. Sky of Red Poppies is the story of a friend and the voice of the good people I left behind, a voice that longs to be heard.

What writers have had the greatest influence on you?

I can’t remember at what age I began to read stories, or to write them! All I know is that literature has always been part of me. Among Iranian writers, I’ve always enjoyed Hedayat and more recently, Saidi Sirjani. When I moved to the United States in early 1970s, I was drawn to the work of Anne Tyler, perhaps because we both put character before story?

When you told your husband that you had put your dental practice up for sale and were now going to be a full-time writer, what was his reaction? Do you recommend or discourage this surprise approach? Did you do anything before you stopped practicing dentistry to prepare for your new life as an author?

I’ve always been a writer-poet whose hobby was dentistry! My husband understood this. He also knew that I planned on being a full-time writer at some point, but maybe not so soon. A liberated man, he respects my decisions, even when his right-brain logic rejects them. He adjusted, changed jobs, and moved to California with me!

You write English better than most native English speakers. How did you develop your style and voice? Is it anything like your style and voice in Persian?

I learned English at a young age, but also took some creative writing courses at UCSD to learn the details of writing. I also joined San Diego Writer’s Ink—yes, “Ink” with a “k”—as well as a few read&critique groups for the needed support. However, I write from the heart and think the readers see that, no matter which of my two languages I use. There’s a good Persian poem that says, “A word that comes from the heart, has no choice but to settle into another.” I like to think that my heartfelt words settle in the hearts of readers.

What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?

Only a writer knows how much hard work is involved in the creation of a novel. I write all the hours that I can, that is, when I’m home, when my other work is done, and if that doesn’t leave me enough time, I sleep a few hours less. If you can’t commit to writing, then you need to aim for smaller goals. For years I tried to be a dentist and a writer. Finally I had to choose because I found it impossible to focus on two goals!

Do you have any other advice for my readers who are working on their first novels?

All the inspiring clich├ęs you’ve heard were based on someone’s experience. Keep a few around your work area and let them empower you. Mine was, “Never lose sight of your goal and you’ll be sure to reach it.” How true that is, for I am now living the life I dreamed of when I was only eight!

When will your next novel, The Moon Daughter, come out, and what will it be about?

A very good teacher at Santa Barbara once advised, “Write what you know best!” As an Iranian woman, and a writer who wants to continue to write from the heart, the story once again revolves around what I know best. The Moon Daughter is 350 pages and has two parts. Part one, “Rana’s Story,” is about a woman living in Iran: her childbearing years, her womanizing husband, and her three-daughters-no-sons dilemma! Part two is Yalda’s story, a first-generation Iranian-American woman, having only seen the free world, looking into her mother’s—Rana’s—past and present and questioning her rights. Although this novel deals more with women’s issues, once again I’ve tried to be neutral to headlines and stay away from stereotypes. The Moon Daughter is ready for publication and I expect it to reach bookstores in the summer of 2011.

Zoe, thanks for visiting my blog, and best wishes for the success of Sky of Red Poppies and Moon Daughter.

Thank you, dear Shauna. I appreciate your time and interest. Good readers are what make or break a book. I’m thrilled at the way readers have embraced my Sky of Red Poppies and realize that the time some thought I wasted, was by no means wasted time!

You can learn more about Zoe and Sky of Red Poppies by visiting her Website at and her blog at Sky of Red Poppies is available online from, Barnes & Noble, and Turquoise Books.


Coming next week: I'll be trying something new: blogging daily from World Fantasy Con in Columbus, Ohio. The days will be busy, but I hope to post something on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (27 to 31 October).

Coming soon: Author interviews with:

* historical fiction writer Kimberly Todd Wade
* fantasy writer Terri-Lynne DeFino

14 October 2010

Win a Kindle 3G!

Hadley Rille Books is celebrating five years as a publisher of sf, fantasy, and historical fiction with a contest and a sale.

The contest prize is an Amazon Kindle 3G, a wireless ebook reader that weighs only 8.7 ounces (less than a paperback book), has a battery life of up to a month, can hold as many as 3,500 books, and has free 3G wireless. It retails for $189.00, but one lucky registrant will win one on 1 January 2011.

To enter to win the Kindle, please see the rules here:

During the sale, which goes through the end of 2010, all books are 10% off and shipping is free when you order them directly from Hadley Rille Books. This includes preorders of books that have not come out yet.

In addition, for each book you order from Hadley Rille during the sale, you are entered again in the contest.

Hadley Rille's goal for 1 October to 31 December is to sell 5,000 books. Take a look; you'll probably find something that intrigues you in their catalog, which you can find at

The cover pictures are all of new or forthcoming Hadley Rille books.

In other Hadley Rille news, people outside the United States can now buy Hadley Rille books too. They are available online now from Amazon's Canadian and U.K. stores and Boomerang Books in Australia.


Coming soon

Author interviews with:

  • literary fiction writer Zohreh Ghahremani
  • historical (or should that be prehistorical?) fiction writer Kimberly Todd Wade
  • fantasy writer Terri-Lynne DeFino

06 October 2010

A full-time fiction writer: my first update

When I became a full-time fiction writer (except for one small ongoing editing job) this summer, I promised you updates on my progress. Here's what I've learned so far on my journey through territories unknown:

Volunteering is good, but a writer should give favorite organizations money, not time. I drastically underestimated how many hours it would take to do a couple of volunteer stints, and I spent more time on them this summer than on writing.

I was really burnt out on my job. I didn't realize how tired I was of medical writing until I stopped and found I needed time to decompress and rest. That, too, cut into my writing.

Ideas come fast and furious when my brain isn't preoccupied with work projects. Now I need to learn to control the ideas. I started several short stories, but abandoned each as a new idea caught my fancy.

Having lupus really is, as the rules of thumb have it, like having an extra kid or a part-time job. I already knew I spent a lot of time filling prescriptions, going to the lab, taking meds, and going to doctors' offices, but I didn't know how much time until now. All that stuff is no longer a break from work, but an interruption of writing I want to do, and it's very annoying. There's little I can do about it, though.

I spent too much time trying to figure out a good exercise schedule. I discovered exercising in the morning cuts into my writing time too much.  I'm now trying to schedule exercise only at times I wouldn't be writing anyway.

To sum up, I didn't tear out of the starting gate like a greyhound, as I expected. More like a slump and then a collapse to rest. But I've picked myself up and am getting things done.

Total writing career accomplishments:

✥ One short story written, critiqued, revised, critiqued, revised, critiqued, revised, and almost ready to send out

✥ Started three short stories

✥ Jotted down ideas for several more short stories

✥ Answered interviews for two blogs

✥ Had long discussion with Hadley Rille Books' new publicist about marketing ideas for Like Mayflies in a Stream

✥ Fleshed out a historical novel; printed out Web research and bought several scholarly books on the time period and people involved

✥ Researched several short story markets

✥ Volunteered myself for panels at three conferences

✥ Created goals

I hope and expect that the coming three months will be much more productive than the past three. I've got most of the volunteer duties behind me, and I've rested and gotten beyond the burnout. I can take comfort in that I accomplished at least a few things.

My goals for the next three months are:

✥ Revise all my completed and critiqued stories and send them out to possible homes.

✥ Finish one or two new stories.

✥ Do a lot of background reading and brainstorming for my next novel.

✥ Start my next novel.

Your advice is welcome. Kicks in the butt as well. I am determined to be successful at this, but I am floundering more than I expected.


Coming soon: interview with author Zohreh Ghahremani