Linesman cover

We’re delighted to finally be able to show off our cover for LINESMAN, the first book in our brand new science fiction series. We are delighted with it. Doesn’t it look great.

The artist is Bruce Jensen.

Linesman cover

And … it’s appearing on book sites, And … it’s available for pre-order. Six months out. Yay!

Posted in Linesman

What book am I reading – answers

Answers to last week’s mini-quiz are:

I adopt a kitten this Christmas and name her Penwiper?

An oldie, but a goodie. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

And yes, the name does come from Jerome K. Jerome’s, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).”

I set up an automated fireworks show (I know, permits) and let my dog press the button to start the show?

Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi.

I describe my new boss as, “younger than me, with hair blonder than mine, but her close-cut beard is black”?

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

While driving, my mother hits a man wearing a rabbit suit; but there’s no law against hitting rabbits, is there?

Hard Eight, by Janet Evanovich

My parents get upset with me when I turn into a snake?

Blue Dragon, by Kylie Chan. Or I’ll accept Kylie’s Red Phoenix instead if you had it.


Posted in Writing

What book am I reading?

Christmas food - Australian-styleMangoes and Australian cherries have arrived in the supermarkets in quantity. They’re dropping in price and rising in quality. You can buy trays of avocados and mangoes, big punnets of strawberries, reasonably priced peaches and nectarines.  And, of course, big tins of chocolates and lollies.

Christmas food in Australia.

It is less than three weeks to Christmas. Friends, family, holidays. Food. And more food. Work slows down (for some of us, at least).  The papers and the internet are filled with guides to presents, and holiday quizzes.

I’m starting early, doing my own pre-Christmas mini-quiz.

Mini quiz

What book am I reading if:

  1. I adopt a kitten this Christmas and name her Penwiper?
  2. I set up an automated fireworks show (I know, permits) and let my dog press the button to start the show?
  3. I describe my new boss as, “younger than me, with hair blonder than mine, but her close-cut beard is black”?
  4. While driving, my mother hits a man wearing a rabbit suit; but there’s no law against hitting rabbits, is there?
  5. My parents get upset with me when I turn into a snake?

Answers next week.

Posted in Writing

Reflecting on the sale of Linesman

The domain name renewal for* arrived the other day, reminding me that it’s been twelve months since our agent started shopping the revised version of Linesman, the one that finally sold. It didn’t sell straight away, mind. It took some months more of to’ing and fro’ing, but it’s a good time to reflect on the emotional ups and downs of selling a book.

When the “Good news … ” letter from Caitlin arrived we read it, and re-read it and finally absorbed it.

“How do you feel?” Sherylyn asked.

How did I feel? Numb, shaky, nervous even. But the overall emotion?

“Relieved,” I said, and I still felt relieved, days later.

There was none of that instant euphoria that had come when Caitlin had finally agreed to be our agent. No frantic high like those that had come as we’d had to scramble to create synopses for future books.

Just relief.

I think we had both been trying to convince ourselves that no matter how much we loved Linesman, we were unlikely to sell it.

We’d started a new book outside the Linesman universe. Self-doubt was beginning to creep in. The new book we were writing—would Caitlin even like it, let alone want to sell it? Would it be good enough for her to sell? Were we trying too hard to be funny/world build/give depth to our characters?

We still get those book highs, and sometimes they’re over the weirdest things. Like the time our agent said she needed a copy of the revisions we were making, because once it gets into PW or Locus the agency may get foreign rights enquiries and she needs the latest copy for that. The first time you see your book cover. When someone gives you a quote for your book. The first time you google your author’s name and find, high on the search list, a link to a page on

It’s been a while now, and we’re deep into book two, so it’s become part of life. But for both of us, those first few days after learning the book(s) had sold, the predominant feeling was relief.

* Why did we wait so long to purchase the domain name? It should be the first thing an author does. And we had, except that we planned on using a pseudonym. It was only after discussions with our agent, and the editor who finally bought the book, that we decided to use our own name.

fyi. We’re going through our old blog posts now, checking for broken links (or links we’re about to break). Once we’ve fixed these, we’ll move the whole A Novel Idea blog ( across to

Posted in Linesman, Writing

I know why you use that pseudonym

When people hear that our book will be published under the name ‘S. K. Dunstall’ they nod, and say, “You don’t want people to know you’re women, do you.”

(Those who don’t say that say, “I didn’t know women wrote science fiction,” or, “You don’t look like science fiction writers.”  I mean, what do science fiction writers look like?)

It’s often assumed that authors using initials for their given names are trying to hide their sex. In some genres this is the case, but not necessarily in the ones you would expect.

For example, I would have expected male romance writers to use initials. In my experience, mostly they don’t. They use their own name, or an androgynous or outright female pseudonym. MM romance writers, on the other hand, do sometimes use initials. Not to hide the fact the author is a man, but to hide that the author is a woman.

Some authors use their initials as a second author name. Nora Roberts, for example, also writes as J. D. Robb.

Gut feel, I’d say that nowadays women outnumber men in the initials game.

I don’t know what proportion of authors who use initials chose to do so to obscure their sex so that their readers come to their books without bias. Some do, for sure.

I know that we didn’t.

We didn’t even think of it, in fact, until people started to ask if we had used initials because we were entering a male dominated genre and we didn’t want people to know we were women. For us it was simply a matter of common sense. There are two of us. Put our names together and it’s a mouthful. We want our name large enough to see on the cover.

So when you see an author who uses initials, don’t assume they’re always trying to hide who they are. The reason may be as simple as wanting to make their name shorter.

Posted in Writing

Buying books outside of Amazon

So Hachette and Amazon finally came to an agreement. That’s good to see.

While the dispute was on I only bought one book from Amazon, and that one had been on order before the dispute started.

Interestingly, I’ve bought more books in the last six months than I have in the last six years. Especially eBooks. The best thing about the purchases is that they’ve all been .epub versions, so I can read them on my favourite eReader, rather than on the Kindle.


A note, two weeks later:

I’ve been thinking about this. I was trying to make a stand here by deliberately not buying through Amazon, but it coincided with a general downturn in my interactions with the company outside of the dispute, and it’s all about marketing and targeting to the customer. I don’t read the Amazon marketing mails any more. In fact, I nearly deleted the email telling me the book I had on pre-order had arrived because I auto-delete their mails as soon as they come through. There’s never anything in them that interests me. If I go to their website to browse I have to wade through a lot of junk before I get to something I want. Nowadays, my sole dealings with Amazon seem to be reading book reviews and first pages–and I already know the book title and author before I get there.

Browsing, to buy books on Amazon, it’s just not worth the effort.

Posted in Writing

Serial comma offenders

The copy edits for LINESMAN came through and we’re currently working our way through them.

It’s official. We’re serial comma offenders.

The edited version was a sea of orange tracked changes. Our 400 page manuscript had 5,121 revisions. That’s right. 5,121.

It looks bad, but read on …

Most of these are comma issues. In particular, no comma before the ‘and’ at the end of a list, and no comma before a ‘too’, especially at the end of a sentence. There were also some words we hyphenated that we shouldn’t, and some words we should have hyphenated but we didn’t. The other copy changes pale in significance to this.

It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, for the way the changes are tracked mean that if you add a comma (or remove one) the word is deleted and a new one added. So the actual number of changes is closer to 2,500 than to 5,000. That’s still a lot.

Our copy editor deserves a medal.

Medal for Sara, copy-editor queen, who added and removed close on 2,000 commas. We'll do better next time, we promise.

Medal for Sara, copy-editor queen, who added and removed close on 2,000 commas. We’ll do better next time, we promise.

Memo to Australian writers trying to break into the US market. The Chicago Manual of Style and many other US style guides use serial commas. (Australian standard is to use them only for clarity.) If your publisher uses, say, the Chicago Manual of Style, there is an option you can turn on in Word grammar checking that allows you to check for a comma before a last list item. You’re going to find it useful.

Posted in Linesman, Publishing, Writing

You had a beautiful voice

It was late. You sat down half a carriage from us. It felt like we were the only three people on the train at that hour.

You started to talk. Low at first, a soft sea of sound, rising and falling like waves on the beach.

You got louder. You had a beautiful voice. Smooth, rich, mellifluous. Chocolate and honey were words made just to describe the sound. Magic. If you were in our book you would be line eight, rich and warm and pleasing to the ear, mixed in with a little sonorous line nine.

We sat, enthralled. We wanted to tell you how beautiful you sounded.

Your words got louder. A one-man monologue, just for us.

Louder. And louder, until we started to hear the words.

The filth that was coming out of your mouth was mind numbing. A constant string of invectives and threats.

You got louder. By the time we got off the train you were shouting.

You scared us. We made sure to exit via the furthest door.

You had a beautiful voice.

Posted in Writing

We put up with repulsive characters in movies, so why not in books?

A movie I like a lot is As Good As It Gets. It stars Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear. Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a sexist, racist, homophobic, obsessive-compulsive romance writer who is redeemed by Kinnear’s dog and by the waitress he falls in love with (Hunt).

Make no mistake, Nicholson’s character is truly repulsive. You spend half the movie squirming at some of the horrible things he says and does, and he never truly becomes a nice person. But he does become a better person.

It’s a movie I appreciate on an aesthetic level. The acting is superb, the storyline works for me and the characters all grow and change. I’ll watch it when they re-run it on tv.

And yet, if it was a book I would have thrown it down after one chapter—or maybe even one page—and refused to read it.

Because I didn’t like the main character.

A movie has to be truly bad to walk out of. We tend to give it a different value to a book. We’ve paid our money, we’re staying for the show whether we like it or not.

Some people read books to the end, no matter how bad they are. Most of us exercise our choice and drop a book as soon as we decide we don’t like it. A repulsive main character is a definite turn-off.

Why is it that we’re so ready to drop a book but will stick with a movie? Is it because we’ve paid money to see the movie? We pay as much or more for the book. Is it because movie watching is often a shared affair? Or is it simply that we hold higher standards for books than we do for movies?

What makes a character repulsive anyway? Sand dan Glokta does terrible things to people, yet everyone loves Glokta.

I wonder, if As Good As It Gets had been a book, would I have found something to like about Melvin Udall?

Posted in Characters

The latest strangeness from Office 365

I keep unpinning them, but every time I open the file, a second one pops up. And sometimes a third.

I keep unpinning them, but every time I open the file, a second one pops up. And sometimes a third.

Microsoft’s OneDrive isn’t perfect yet. The latest strangeness? Double-pinning and sometimes triple-pinning. It started happening a few days ago, and it started happening on all four PCs (both desktops and both laptops) on the same day.

The url under each filename is slightly different, but it points to the same file. I can open one, edit it, then open the other and the edits are carried across.

Methinks it’s another Microsoft ‘feature’*.

I hope they fix it soon. It’s driving me crazy.

* aka a bug.

Posted in Microsoft Office
December 2014
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