Category Archives: Writing process

About us writing our books

Conflux 2017

Zena Shapter (right) launching Towards White at Conflux on Saturday afternoon. Zena’s hosting a panel we’re on later today (Sunday), along with Laura E. Goodin. Come along and see us all.

This weekend we’re at Conflux, in Canberra. I have to say, the weather today is beautiful.

Canberra is only about 400km from where we grew up, so this is almost home territory for us.

Down in our little corner of the world

If you’re not part of the solution …

Right now the Australian government ministers are behaving like kids in a classroom, where the teacher has left the room, and been gone for a while. Calling each other names, doing stupid things, bullying, offending our nearest neighbor.

We’re waiting on an envelope in the mail to vote whether or not we want to allow same sex marriage, but even if we all vote yes (I’m voting yes), that doesn’t necessarily mean the government will allow it. It just means that that the government will introduce a bill to allow them to debate whether or not to allow same sex marriage. It also, I think, allows members of parliament to vote as per their own conscience, not along party lines.

Confused? So am I.

We haven’t even got problems, compared to other countries.

I don’t have to mention the United States, where it seems that the craziness has escaped the confines of the White House and infected the populace. We’re hurting for you.

It seems like whole of the democratic world has been infected by … I don’t know what you’d call it. The pendulum, having swung one way, is swinging madly the other way. It feels a lot like Galloping Gertie right now, ready for that final swing.

The new Anne Leckie

On a more positive note, Anne Leckie’s newsletter dropped into my email the other day. Provenance is out in just over a month.

I like the way Anne does her newsletters. Only when she really has news. And she put the first three chapters in the newsletter. Yes! (Lots of exclamation marks here.) We might try this ourselves.

Naturally, I read the excerpt immediately.

There are characters you take to immediately, and I love Captain Uisine. He’s not the protagonist, so I hope he’s in the book more than just two chapters.

Afterwards, I went straight to Amazon’s pre-order page. I’m looking forward to late September.

And lastly

Sydney turned on a nice weekend

Need I say what this is? Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I went up to Sydney last week for a work conference. (Excellent conference, by the way, and the closing keynote speaker, Mike Monteiro, gave an wonderful, thought-provoking speech about ethics and design, using the current US political state, along with examples from businesses. He deserved the standing ovation we gave him.)

Breakfast this morning. Criniti’s, Darling Harbour

I convinced Sherylyn to come up for the weekend, afterwards. Sydney turned on lovely weather for us.

We do find it difficult to write on these breaks, however. (Although we did get some accounting done, believe it or not.)

View from our hotel window

So here are some pictures of Sydney. Mostly around Darling Harbour, because the first thing we do when we get to Sydney is find a ferry.


Boats on Darling Harbour
Another food place. This one at the hotel. It’s a hard life.

Taking my work home

First round of sorting. More similar to our current site than we expected.

I try to leave work at work when I leave the office for the day, but how can I not use this technique from work (card sorting), when we’re redesigning our web site?

As you can see from the sorted topics in the image, above, it’s not a total redesign, just some tweaks to make things easier to find.

Incidentally, if you have any ideas or suggestions as to what should go on the site, let us know.

Leveling up as a writer

Leveling up in computer games is a process whereby a character gains enough points or experience to unlock a whole new level in the game.

Writers level up too.  The first time they finish a book, the first time they learn to take critiques properly, when they learn that writing is not just writing, it’s rewriting.

Here’s a fun diagram of a writer leveling up.  We’ve made some assumptions.

  • The writer is going the trad pub route, and they get an agent first, who then sells their book to an editor
  • Both editor and agent are legitimate and doing their best to sell/make the book as good as it can be. That is, the writer isn’t caught up by scammers.
  • A lot of these things loop. You can keep going around and around in circles, but we’re only doing it the once.


A couple of quick things

Giveaway finishes at the end of this month

We’re running a Goodreads giveaway. One lucky reader can win a copy of all three books. If you’re interested, head over to Goodreads to enter.

Competition closes midnight 31 July.

Linesman eBook reduced on

Linesman is $2.99 over at Amazon, and at Barnes and Noble. We don’t know for how long.

Not in the mood for reading dystopia

I wanted a picture of utopia to balance this blog. Interestingly, my stock images supplier had lots of pictures with the word ‘heaven’, but little else. Except pictures of Roman ruins kept cropping up as well. I googled, but couldn’t find any reason for it.

I started a book today.

It was well written, and had a characters I cared about, right from the start. World building was superb.  And yet … I couldn’t keep going with it.

Too many bad things happened to the point-of-view character in the first two chapters. Nasty, horrible things.  Beatings, starved, torture, being branded on the face with a hot iron.  Worse, the world he lived in was the sort of place where that could happen to anyone except the truly rich (and sometimes even to them). Where the people in power treated those outside their circle as lesser beings, and did really nasty things to them.

I stopped at the start of chapter three.

I couldn’t read any further.

It’s starting to feel as if I live in that world already.  I don’t want to read about it too.

I think it’s human nature to want to read positive stories when the world around us seems quite depressing.  I certainly do, anyway.

I picked up another book, more light-hearted, and read that instead.

The word count is going down … slowly

Sometimes our word counts feel like Sisyphus. Cut the words, add the words, cut some more.

Winter is not just coming, it’s here

We had the first real frost of winter today.  Enough to ice up the car.  It’s only the start of July. It feels like it’ll be a cold winter.

I’m almost glad we’ll be inside with the heater on, editing.

Although, I confess, our heater is great when it’s working, but the thermostat is placed in the one part of the house where it’s always warm.  The passage.  Individual rooms can be quite cold, but it’s always warm and cozy in the passage.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in the passage.

When it gets really cold, we take the remote—which is also the thermostat—bring it into the room where we’re working, and watch the temperature drop.

It’s become a running joke in the house.  “Oh, the thermostat’s bored again.  Wants a different view.  Where will we put it today?”


Sherylyn has finished the first round of cuts on Stars Uncharted.  She got the story down from 128,000 words to 112,000.  Now I’m looking at what she cut, and doing my take on (Editor) Anne’s notes.

Sometimes the word count goes up.

I’m trying not to.

As you can see, I’m always reluctant to cut words we’ve written.  Sometimes I flat-out refuse.  Most times, we sort cuts out away from the computer.  Over dinner, or over coffee.  Or tea.  We did that last night.

There was a section I didn’t want to cut.  Sherylyn did.  We spent half of dinner talking about it, and realised by the end that the real issue was that I wanted this particular scene to show how tense everyone was getting, waiting for the coming battle.  Sherylyn wanted it gone because all they were doing was talking about food.  The food talk wasn’t doing anything about the tenseness of the situation.

Final solution. Rewrite the scene.

Goodreads giveaway

Our Goodreads giveaway was going well … until I went in and corrected a typo.  After the competition had started. Silly me.  Now it’s back waiting to be approved.  On a 4 July weekend.  So if you want to enter to win a copy of the whole series – it will come back, I promise.  We’re just not sure when.

Edits on Stars Uncharted. Sometimes we feel there’s no page we haven’t edited.

Win a copy of the Linesman trilogy

As mentioned in last week’s post, to celebrate we’re giving away a set of all three books.  Linesman, published 30 June 2015. Alliance, published 23 February 2016. And Confluence, published 29 November 2016.

It’s a Goodreads giveaway, so enter over on the Goodreads site.

Entry is open worldwide.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Linesman by S.K. Dunstall


by S.K. Dunstall

Giveaway ends July 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Two years since Linesman was published

30 June is the end of the financial year in Australia.  Tax time.  (It’s not the day we need to have our taxes in, it’s the date the last financial year ends, so we can start getting our taxes together.)

Both Sherylyn and I work in industries where end-of-financial-year has a big impact.  It’s a busy time of year for us.

30 June 2015 was also the day Linesman came out.

30 June is also Sherylyn’s birthday.  Best birthday present ever.  Your own book.

Two years already, and it’s gone so fast.  Another two books, and two more on the way.

We’ve decided to celebrate by doing a Goodreads giveaway.

Starting on the 30 June, running till the end of July, you have a chance win all three books.  If you’ve already got them, try a second copy. Or maybe give them away to someone you know who likes science fiction.

Pop over to the Goodreads site in July and enter.