Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

19 December 2011

The Weird Questionnaire

I found this questionnaire at the blog Weird Fiction Review and thought it would be interesting to do as a post here.

Translator Edward Gauvin produced this version based on Éric Poindron's French-language Étrange Questionnaire, which was inspired by the Proust Questionnaire.

1 – Write the first sentence of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
Hetta awoke to discover that not only had she birthed two cubs during her winter hibernation but also the larger cub had already discovered the cache of educational materials Hetta had prepared the previous fall and stood, nose to screen, watching and smelling an instructional video on salmon.

2 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?
10:05 p.m.

3 – Look at your watch. What time is it?
10:02 p.m.

4 – How do you explain this — or these — discrepancy(ies) in time?
I usually have no idea what time or even what day it is, so I am surprised that I have no discrepancy to explain.

5 – Do you believe in meteorological predictions?

6 – Do you believe in astrological predictions?

7 – Do you gaze at the sky and stars by night?
Rarely. Light pollution where I live makes most stars invisible.

8 – What do you think of the sky and stars by night?
In the country, where it truly gets dark, the sky is huge and magnificent and awe-inspiring at night. Being in such a place reminds me of my childhood, when I could hear the angels sing in the silence.

9 – What were you looking at before starting this questionnaire?
The editing work I should be doing instead of answering this questionnaire.

10 – What do cathedrals, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and other religious monuments inspire in you?
The music makes me believe in the divine. Costly furnishings usually inspire anger that some of the purchase price wasn’t given to the poor instead.

11 – What would you have “seen” if you’d been blind?
If I’d been blind, I would have seen nothing. Whether I would have “seen” anything, I do not know; I am unfamiliar with the notion.

12 – What would you want to see if you were blind?

13 – Are you afraid?
Every so often.

14 – What of?
Rubber bands. Homeland Security checkpoints at airports. Helplessness.

15 – What is the last weird film you’ve seen?
I don’t remember. I rarely see films.

16 – Whom are you afraid of?
No one that I can think of.

17 – Have you ever been lost?
I get lost several times a month.

18 – Do you believe in ghosts?

19 – What is a ghost?
I don’t know.

20 – At this very moment, what sound(s) can you here, apart from the computer?
The faint sound of a houseguest watching TV in another room.

21 – What is the most terrifying sound you’ve ever heard – for example, “the night was like the cry of a wolf”?’’
The sound of a dog screaming in pain while I searched for it and could not find it.

22 – Have you done something weird today or in the last few days?

23 – Have you ever been to confession?

24 – You’re at confession, so confess the unspeakable.
You wish.

25 –Without cheating: what is a “cabinet of curiosities”?
A curio cabinet that contains oddities instead of the usual china, glassware, knickknacks brought home from trips, and odd gifts from relatives that one has to display. Cabinets of curiosities were popular in the 19th century.

26 –Do you believe in redemption?
Very much so.

27 – Have you dreamed tonight?
No; I haven’t gone to bed yet.

28 – Do you remember your dreams?

29 – What was your last dream?
I don’t remember.

30 – What does fog make you think of?
Happiness, mystery, clouds. How lovely New Orleans is in the early morning.

31 – Do you believe in animals that don’t exist?
Definitely. During my lifetime, several creatures that were thought to be mythical or extinct have been found. It seems likely that other "nonexistent" creatures in fact are still around somewhere.

32 – What do you see on the walls of the room where you are?
Lots and lots of books and Zuni fetish carvings in the built-in bookcases; a framed ceramic tile decorated with a reproduction of a Hittite design; paintings by (a) Australian aborigines, (b) the ex-husband of a friend, and (c) New Mexico artist Jim Alford; and art from sf/f cons.

33 – If you became a magician, what would be the first thing you’d do?
Be extremely careful what I wish for.

34 – What is a madman?
Someone who has lost touch with reality; sometimes, someone who sees reality when those around them see an illusion.

35 – Are you mad?
Rarely by my first definition; fairly often by my second definition.

36 – Do you believe in the existence of secret societies?
Of course.

37 – What was the last weird book you read?
I can't think of any because weirdness is defined relative to normalcy. I live a life so statistically unlikely that it's rare I read a book more bizarre than my life.

38 – Would you like to live in a castle?

39 – Have you seen something weird today?
Yes—a beautiful photograph that made me catch my breath.

40 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever seen?
“Don’t Look Now” with Donald Sutherland.

41 – Would you like to live in an abandoned train station?

42 – Can you see the future?

43 – Have you considered living abroad?

44 – Where?
Wales, Italy, Istanbul.

45 – Why?
Because I want a deeper, richer experience of some places than a visit provides.

46 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever owned?
My husband owns lots of strange, violent Asian movies. We live in a community-property state, so I assume they belong to me as well.

47 – Would you liked to have lived in a vicarage?

48 – What is the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
I don’t remember its name. I read it perhaps twenty years ago. It was a poorly written humorous fantasy romance with many gruesome sections. I think of it often when I write as a reminder to match my tone to my material.

49 – Which do you like better, globes or hourglasses?

50 – Which do you like better, antique magnifying glasses or bladed weapons?
That’s a hard one, but I’ll say bladed weapons.

51 – What, in all likelihood, lies in the depths of Loch Ness?
Warm-blooded, medium-sized hadrosaurs. Also, mud.

52 – Do you like taxidermied animals?
Very much so, although I feel guilty about it.

53 – Do you like walking in the rain?
Not usually.

54 – What goes on in tunnels?
Subways run and sometimes get stuck, and the passengers scream when the lights go out. Cars drive and sometimes explode in terrible fireballs. Spelunkers squeeze through looking for new caverns.

55 – What do you look at when you look away from this questionnaire?
Books, knickknacks, a snow globe my grandfather got in New York City in the 1960s.

56 – What does this famous line inspire in you: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him.”?
A desire to write the story that accompanies that line.

57 – Without cheating: where is that famous line from?
It’s famous? Huh. Are you sure? I never heard of it. I will pretend it isn’t famous so that I can write its story anyway.

58 – Do you like walking in graveyards or the woods by night?
Yes; I like the solitude and the silence and the soft, swishy noises that occasionally interrupt the stillness. Also, it brings back pleasant memories—of how as a child I often played at the edge of a woods at night, catching fireflies, looking at stars, and daydreaming; of how I played in graveyards as a child and teen, wondering about the people who were buried there.

58 – Write the last line of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
The girl stood on the dirt road and sucked her thumb, watching the last of the wraiths depart.

59 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?
11:00 p.m.

60 – Look at your watch. What time is it?
11:06 p.m.

If you decide to do this questionnaire at your blog, Jeff VanderMeer invites you to let Weird Fiction Review know:
Neddal Ayad just told me peeps can send him their answers as a .doc or .docx or links to their replies on their blogs to wingandclaw (at) gmail DOT com. He’ll compile them and format them and we’ll have a nice feature for for January.

20 November 2011

Los Angeles appearance

I will be at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Convention (LOScon) this Friday, 25 November. I speak on the panel "10 Beginning Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" from noon to 2 pm; I sign copies of Like Mayflies in a Stream from 3:00 pm to whenever the next scheduled author shows up; and I will be on the panel "Short, Short Stories" (about writing ultraflash fiction) from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm. I hope to see you there.

26 October 2011

Read the first chapter of Like Mayflies in a Stream for free!

I've just posted the first chapter of my novel Like Mayflies in a Stream at my Website at

This stand-alone chapter, entitled "Protector of Gazelles," takes place approximately 4750 years at a water hole in the desert of Sumer (present-day southern Iraq). It tells the story of the boy who would one day be Enkidu the wild man, companion of King Gilgamesh of Uruk.


05 August 2011

On hiatus

I will be posting only rarely to this blog for a while. My brain is full of ideas for stories and novels, and I'm eager to get them down on paper and out into the world.

In the meantime, I continue to blog about writing-related topics twice a month at Novel Spaces at on the 6th and 21st of each month. Please visit me and my fellow Novelnauts there.

If you're interested in what I'm publishing, please visit my Webpage at My newest book will be on the home page. A list of my stories from oldest to newest can be found here, and sporadically I update my news page here.  

May your life be full of sparkly surprises and love until I return.

02 February 2011

Writing goals 2011

It was on my do-list for this week to make my list of writing goals for 2011; obviously, I was way behind on this task. I also haven't blogged in a while. I looked at the clock and realized there was little time left in the workday. What to do, what to do?

I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making my list of goals and then posting them to my blog for comments and questions.

Writing Goals 2011

I will submit something for critiquing for every critique group meeting.

I will fix up the stories I wrote at Clarion and submit them to appropriate markets.

I will write at least six new short stories. Some will target anthologies and others will target SFWA-qualifying markets.

I will attend the Historical Novel Society meeting in San Diego (June), World Fantasy Con in San Diego (October), and LOScon in Los Angeles (Thanksgiving weekend). My goals will be (1) networking; (2) reconnecting with writers I already know; (3) signing Like Mayflies in a Stream (all conferences); and volunteering to moderate a session (WFC, LOScon) and sit on a panel (all conferences).

I will continue marketing Like Mayflies in a Stream by signing books in New Orleans (April), at the Cairo Caravan Belly Dance Festival in Long Beach (June), and at the three writers conferences I’m going to.

I will study how to write poetry. I will write and market some of my own.

I will complete the first draft of my new novel.

I will stop most of the volunteer work I do for organizations I belong to and not volunteer for anything new. Writing must be Priority #1.

I started my 2011 list by opening my list for 2010 and renaming the file. As I looked over last year's goals, I was pleased to see that I had met more than I had realized. (My goal list fell off the wall midway through the year and I've been in the dark about my progress since.) Some of 2010's goals reappear on the new list; "submit something for critiquing every month" is always one of my yearly writing goals. Two ambitious goals on the 2011 list did not appear on last year's list: finish the first draft of a novel, and write and submit poetry.

This is a more ambitious goal list than usual. It will be a challenge to accomplish most of the items, and I wish I had gotten around to making the list in December as I usually do. Now I'm already in catch-up mode. Perhaps that's not so bad; it's energizing and exciting to see the things I want to do down on paper, and the lateness of the list adds some pressure to get busy!

Do you put together a list of writing goals every year? How often do you meet your goals? What other kinds of plans do you make for your writing at the start of the year?

12 January 2011

Books read in 2010: stats

I didn't read many books this year compared with the years since I started keeping track of what I read.

Here's how the stats break down:

• I read 44 [wince] books total.

• 11 books (25%) were written by people I know.

• 5 books (14%) had something to do with Turkey.

• 13 books (30%) were first books (to my knowledge).

• 7 books (16%) were recommended by friends.

• 4 books (9%) were self-published.

• 10 books (23%)were published by micro- and small presses.

• 31 books were fiction (70%).

• 13 books were nonfiction (30%).

• Of the 31 fiction books,
—20 were fantasy, of which 7 were short story collections.
—5 were romances
—2 were classics
—1 was a mystery
—1 was a Western
—1 was literary fiction
—1 was suspense

• Of the 13 nonfiction books,
—4 were on Oriental rugs
—2 were self-help
—2 were on writing
—1 was a memoir
—1 was on Ottoman music
—1 was on "hobbits" (Homo floresiensis)

• I read 5 books (11%) on Kindle and the rest on paper.

I hope your reading year turned out more prolific than mine. I always hear that to be a writer, one must read, read, read. And I would like to read, read, read because it's one of my favorite things to do. But where to find the time without getting even more unhealthily sleep deprived than I already am?

How was 2010 for your reading? And do you have any advice for carving out time from writing and chores for pleasure and work-related reading?

05 January 2011

Recent writing news

My fantasy Christmas flash story "Global Warming" was published a couple of days ago at the online magazine 10Flash. You can read it for free here.

And as long as you're at 10Flash, why not check out Robin Graves' flash story, "Unlimited Delta," which can be found here. Robin is in my Orange County, California, critique group, and this is his first published story. Yay, Robin!


The blog The Embraced: Scribal Love published an interview with me this week. You can find it here.


Clare Dargin of The Embraced: Scribal Love gave me a "Versatile Blogger" award, which comes with some rules:

1. Share 7 things about yourself

2. Pass The Award to 15 bloggers recently discovered (or however many you can manage).

3. Notify the blogger recipients.

4. Link The blogger who gave the award.

Thank you, Clare!

Here are seven things about me, most of which I've not mentioned online before:

  1. My mother never let me babysit; she thought the house could burn down around me and I wouldn't notice because I would be engrossed in a book.
  2. Of the people whom I consider my ten closest friends, the youngest is 24 and the oldest is in her 80s.
  3. If I could be any animal I chose, my first choice would be some kind of hawk. My second choice would be a black bear.
  4. I spend on average ten to fifteen minutes a day looking for things I've misplaced.
  5. I spend four hours a week in bellydance classes. That's fewer hours than my classmates spend, so I'm close to the worse dancer in all those classes.
  6. The Riverside (California) Art Museum has a picture of one of my tattoos on display.

My time is short this week, so I'll post my own nominations for the "Versatile Blogger" award another week.


I am eligible this year and next for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. If you are eligible to vote for a Hugo, you are eligible to nominate people and vote for finalists for the Campbell Award. (Last year, I believe, you could vote for your five favorite new writers and later vote for one finalist.)

My name (and associated page) is not up at the Campbell Award Website yet, but it should be soon. I would greatly appreciate your vote if you believe I am among the best of the eligible new writers.

Also, if you are an SFWA member, please consider nominating "The Hunt" for the Nebula in the novelette category. (You may nominate as many as five works in each category.) You can read the story in the SFWA Member Fiction area of the SFWA discussion forum (here). If you were a Jim Baen's Universe subscriber, you may be able to log in and see the story in the February 2010 issue. (The magazine has gone under, and many of the Webpages have been dismantled.)


Coming soon:

* next week: 2010 reading stats
* soon: the bloggers I nominate for the Versatile Blogger award
* author interviews with Kimberly Todd Wade and Valerie Frankel