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.

Pumpkin Goblins: just like elves stealing toys

When an elite squad of pumpkin-snatching goblins shows up at your house, they usually make off with your pumpkins before you realize it. That way, you can blame teenagers and don’t have to consider the fact that goblins exist.

This is the second preview of my upcoming middle-grade chapter book, Pumpkin Goblins. And the scene I read here is one of my absolute favorites. In it, Amber finds herself face-to-face with the three goblins who tried to steal her pumpkin. One of the first pieces of this story I wrote was the bit of dialogue in which the goblins think she’s named Ember (like fires), rather than Amber (like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago). There’s a story behind that.

Originally, Amber’s name was Ember. I think I had Elfquest on the brain, but it also seemed like a cool name, one that went with jack-o-lanterns and spooky forests.

The problem with cool names?

They set off Mary Sue alerts in my head. And since Amber is definitely not a Mary Sue, I thought it would be better to give her a “normal” name. Changing one letter was an incredibly time-efficient way to do this. But it works on another level too: my best friend growing up was named Amber. We usually played outdoors and sometimes went on adventures, so I think Amber is a fitting namesake*.

Here’s the transcript:

The goblin leader took one long step so that he was directly in front of her, close enough to grab the pumpkin and run. He locked eyes with Amber, and she felt aware, in a way that she never had before, of being human. Of having fat and muscle flesh out the gaps of her skeleton where the goblin had knees and elbows and all kinds of joints poking out of his wiry frame. Of having soft human skin with peach-fuzz hair where the goblin was the almost-smooth gray-brown of a birch tree. He flashed her a wicked little grin, his teeth neatly pointed. “What’s your name?”

“Amber.”

“Ember?”

“We like embers,” said the other two, bouncing their words off each other. “Because we like fires.”

“No, Amber, like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago.”

“Oh.”

“Amber.”

“Like dead bugs.”

“That’s a lovely name for a girl.”

The goblin leader turned around to the other two and announced to them, “I don’t think she’s going to help us. She obviously doesn’t care about Halloween.”

“I care. I care more than you! You’re trying to ruin my Halloween.”

“If we don’t get enough pumpkins, everyone’s Halloween will be ruined.”

The other two jumped in. “Ruined.”

“Ruined and wrecked.”

“Wrecked and wretched.”

Amber glared at the goblins.

“Look,” said the lead goblin. “This is all aboveboard and legitimate business, and we would be glad to show you identification, if we had anything like that.”

The tall goblin with the trench coat piped in, “We’re just like elves stealing toys, only for us it’s pumpkins.”

“Elves make toys, not steal them.”

“That’s what you think. Ever lose your favorite toy at the mall, and you swear you never let it out of your hand?”

“Well, yeah, but I think I just left it at the shoe store.”

“Oh, elves and shoes, elves and shoes,” muttered the lead goblin. “You said you’re having a bad Halloween?”

Amber glanced into the lit living room window, where her brother was playing video games with Sybil. “It’s the worst Halloween ever.”

The tall one leaned into her face ominously. “And it’s going to get worse still. Not just for you. For everyone. Summer-warm air. Half-hearted tricks. Reluctantly-given treats.”

Suddenly, the third goblin, the one with the sunglasses and fingerless gloves, the one who had spoken least, jumped up off the small garden rock she had been squatting on and waved the other two goblins into a huddle. They talked rapidly for a moment in language that was both higher and lovelier than Amber had expected, then turned again to face her.
“We have decided. You may come with us to the Goblin Oak and place the pumpkin there yourself,” announced the leader.

We’re a little over two weeks from the aimed-for release of Pumpkin Goblins. In between frantic editing and formatting, having a job, and enjoying fall, I’m planning to put out at least one more of these preview scenes, and also a recipe for goblin candy.


*Apparently, “namesake” can refer to both the person one is named after, and the one who received the name. No wonder that always confused me.