I’ve been eavesdropping at Dunkin Donuts while I work on Stars Fall Out.

The employees behind the counter are practicing saying “Welcome to Dunkin Donuts” in spooky voices.

There’s a job interview going on behind me with illegal interview questions.

9/25 scenes done on Stars. I took a little too long on a scene that I came up with four years ago, and that I’ve been looking forward to writing since June. Here’s the excerpt:

Maps. He had given me a pile of maps.

I angled back to the fire, less awkward now that I wasn’t trying to draw. “But these are beautiful.” More beautiful than they needed to be: the swoops, the lines that ran from thick to thin, brush and ink detailing all the hills and buildings of my home. He had made Nirsuathu a work of art rather than a box wrapped in chains, and he had gotten the whole university, even the planetarium.

I sat there studying it so long that he stopped watching for my reactions and looked awkwardly into the fire.

At last, I held them out to him. “Wait…” I snatched them back, and looked at his work again. “Why did you need me to illustrate your brochure?”

“Funny thing, but I can’t draw a cup.”

Rippling mountains. Layered city blocks and tiny spires, even the bakery and the locksmith next door. Streets colliding, separating, winding, curving in precise lines.

“Oh, come on.”

“Ok, I can draw a cup. I can’t make a printing plate. And I didn’t have the illustrations started yet…”

“So you had me do those too.”

“You do have an excellent eye for detail.”

I tend to go for funnier bits when I post excerpts, but here’s a more emotional snippet from Stars Fall Out. I should probably post more like this, since digging in and writing more emotional scenes has been one of the hallmarks of my writing experience with this book.

I attempted to smooth out the note and prop it on my nightstand.

Tyatavar, it began. Not Dearest Tyatavar, or Dear Tyatavar, as some of our dramatic early correspondences had gone. But the extra greeting was entirely superfluous; he had written it into the letters themselves, in the care he had taken with every stem, loop, and curl in my name.

The note had been written by someone who loved me.

I had crumpled it, and thrown it at the wall in the bakery.

Worldbuilding pinch hitters

While writing my secondary world fantasy story, Stars Fall Out, I figuratively referred to a character as a pinch hitter. But in order to have a pinch hitter, you need to have baseball. My options here:

  1. A. Delete this line. It’s not that important.
  2. B. Find a similar term that doesn’t involve baseball.
  3. C. Worldbuild a secondary world sport with a position that would be equivalent to a pinch hitter, incorporate this sport into earlier scenes with references to the pinch hitter position, all so I can use this line here.

So, probably A or B. It’s a line-level issue that doesn’t impact the larger story. Unless I’m in a procrastinating mood when I do my revision, or suddenly think it would be fun to create secondary world baseball. Because if it’s fun, I’ll do it.

Here’s the excerpt in question:

On the countertop, loaves of seed bread formed up in marching order.

My father was telling Vilari how [name of innkeeper] the innkeeper had called him in at the last minute. A secret hero, a [pinch hitter]. Reliable, dependable, known for quality. Between this honor, and the fact the Vilari had kept showing up at the bakery, my father was in fine spirits.

“He came to see me at my class,” he told her. [Some other bakery] is right there, down the hill. Practically in the basement.”

“But who wants bread from the basement?” Vilari laughed at her own joke.

“Who indeed?” Then he ripped off a chunk from one of my loaves. “You slipped on the seeds,” he said.

I tested an end bit as well, and it was pointy in my mouth and throat. “The imperials like more seeds. It seems more authentic to them.” I shouldn’t have said that last bit, but this whole surreal thing with Vilari laughing and joking had disoriented me.

Father opened his mouth, but apparently decided not to lecture me on manufactured authenticity. Not today, anyway. He’d let it stew in his head for a bit.

I could be sure of that.

Fun fact: I’m using the post-by-email feature for this post since I don’t yet have the WordPress app set up on my new phone. This is how I discovered that Gmail now has an autofill feature for email subjects.

This post got the subject “Joke of the week.” Just like a 20-year-old email newsletter!

I’m here, standing before my ending. I’m shooting to use all this month’s NaNoWriMo energy to push through and finish Stars Fall Out.

Since I’ve been going through the draft and tying off loose ends, I thought I’d finally share some short excerpts as I come across them, and as I write them.

This is from a scene in which my character is interrogated for reasons unknown by the Imperial Oneiromancer Master Zanhrori, although she doesn’t realize this at the time–his demeanor doesn’t match his sinister reputation.

“How do you think you did?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I was kind of… baffled by the whole thing.”

“Baffled,” he said, scrawling the word on the paper underneath my name, as though it were a general description of my state of being. “Excellent. Did you know that a baffle is also a type of dessert?”

“No. I did not.”

“There’s a meringue component.” The man sat back in his chair, appearing distant for a moment. As though contemplating dessert, despite the early morning hour.

Read and listen to “A Cold Glow”

The Alone in a Room with Invisible People podcast recently announced that they will be doing their second annual Halloween Special, and you know what that means!

It means that I just remembered I never bothered to post about the fact that my story “A Cold Glow” was one of the flash fiction pieces included in last year’s episode. I have a history of doing this.

Yes, that is my “handwriting.”

You can listen to it here. “A Cold Glow” plays at 24:25, but if you’re in the mood to overload on Halloween flash fiction, this episode is filled with all types of Halloween stories. Case in point: “A Cold Glow” is a sci-fi story about a kid on a space station who butts heads with the station’s computer in his quest to carve a jack-o’-lantern.

I forget how many other stories are in the podcast, but I had a lot of fun listening to a bunch of them last year while driving out to various Halloween adventures. Werewolves, witches, vampires, hauntings–they’re all present and accounted for.

The text version of the story will have a permanent home here.

We’re a month-and-a-half out from Halloween, and this post is scheduled for Friday the 13th. Works for me.

Goblins don’t buy groceries

When you cut a deal to get out of goblin jail, sometimes you end up on a secret pumpkin-snatching mission for the manipulative goblin wizard who busted you out. And it can an awkward situation when you’re with a squad of professional pumpkin-snatching goblins, and you’re just sort of… a kid.

This is the third preview of my upcoming middle-grade chapter book Pumpkin Goblins. The clip here is read not by me, but by my spouse (and number two fan*).

A part of this scene stemmed from writing anxiety. There was a self-flagellating voice in my head saying something like: “This story is really stupid. Why can’t you think of stories that aren’t stupid? Why would goblins snatch pumpkins from people’s doorsteps when they could just go to the store and buy a bunch of pumpkins?

Then a more helpful voice said: “Grocery stores don’t accept goblin money.”

And another helpful voice, one that sounded a bit more like a goblin, answered: “Also, we don’t have goblin money.”

I believe in brainstorming rather than waiting for inspiration to hit. When it does hit, it’s almost never out of nowhere. It happens because I’ve been thinking and asking questions, even if sometimes those questions are kind of whiny.

Here’s the transcript:

Korkor turned to Amber. “You’ll be doing my job. Keep the trick-or-treaters away while we take the pumpkins back in several trips.”
“How do I do that?”
“Shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe a bat-nexus grenade followed by a smoke shroud? Or a nice Spook’s Gambit followed by a Kirlik Maneuver?” He made an excited gesture of a swooping owl and handfuls of explosions. ”Do you have your own array of creeper-cell batteries and magic boosters, or do you need to borrow one?”
Amber said nothing in response.
“Here.” Korkor dumped a pile of pocket junk in Amber’s arms.
Torlik made an exasperated noise. “She doesn’t know how to use any of that stuff, and you know it’s not enough for a crowd.”
Amber wanted to help, though she really didn’t know how to use any of that stuff, and she hadn’t understood most of what Korkor had said. “I don’t get why you can’t just grow pumpkins yourselves. Or buy them.”
“Grow them?”
“Now?”
“Takes too long,” said the three goblins in overlapping bites of speech.
“Fine, buy them,” said Amber, suspecting that, somehow, this wouldn’t do either.
“Buy them?” With a dramatic arm thrown across his forehead, Torlik pretended to faint. “From a store?”
But Korkor’s eyes lit like jack-o-lanterns. “A store with aisles and aisles of pumpkins?”
“And a pot of stew?” Falkit added hopefully.
Amber shrugged “A grocery store.”
“Grocery stories don’t accept goblin money,” said Korkor
“Also, we don’t have goblin money,” added Torlik, turning out his pockets.
“Also, goblin money doesn’t exist.” Korkor turned to Torlik, and they nodded rapidly in unison.
There was a pause.
“Could you explain coupons?” asked Falkit.

I had been aiming to publish this on October 15, and I think it will be pushed back by just a few days. When it’s out, I’ll announce it on both this blog and my newsletter.

By the way, I just saw an in-progress version of the cover illustration as the color is being added. It’s going to look cool, and I’m excited to post it sometime next week!


*I may not have a lot of fans, but they are the most organized fans in the world: they numbered themselves.