In addition to bakery fire burns, bruised jaws, and deep gashes, I can now add printing acid injuries and goat injuries to the list of bodily traumas I’ve had to Google in my Stars Fall Out research.

I’m not one of those people who believe that swearing signifies a weak vocabulary, but today I edited eight “damns” out of a story to submit to a clean market, and I had a lot of fun figuring out alternatives. Confounded alternatives.

What does a 1,125 page manuscript need more than anything?

Apparently 92 more scenes. *facepalm*

It’s daunting, but when I’m done, I’ll be able to love the first part of the story as much as the ending.

Even if it doesn’t have nearly as many fires.

Me: Time to print a 1,125 page draft.

HP Officejet Pro, 95 pages in: Align the printheads. DO IT DO IT NOW.

A Double Manifest with Stabilized Water as An Anchor: Coming up with Magic Jargon

I’ve found I have two methods for developing my magic systems in Stars Fall Out, and I’ve used each one exclusively for a single type of magic.

First there’s the Painstaking Research method, which I’ve used for shadowmancy. It involves poring over lists of root words, drawing diagrams, and researching real-life machines and devices that I can modify into crazy magic stuff. Coming up with secondary world terminology and items is the kind of worldbuilding task that can lead to heavy procrastination, so I try to avoid it as long as possible, and engage in it only as needed.

For my second magic system, oneiromancy, I’ve engaged in almost none of it at all. I’ve never sat down and said, “Today I am going to create magical jargon.”

What happens with oneiromancy–and I’ve only just realized this–is that a character says something, and it becomes part of the magic system. And when I say “a character,” I mean the same character every time.

When my character popped into my head blithely explaining that the magic vial works on “a double manifest with stabilized water as an anchor,” I finally had an idea of how the book’s main magic item works within the magic rules of my world, but didn’t necessarily expect to use that information in a scene. However, part of the book’s climax involves a hearing in which the Nirsuathu University council tries to determine the circumstances behind the theft of the magic vial, and also what the hell it actually is.

That seemed like as good a use as any for the jargon I had lying around. I decided that, prior to the “lying and setting enormous fires” portion of the hearing, I’d have my oneiromancer explain how the item works. After months of living as a human test strip for a dubious magic test, he finally gets to show that he is quite intelligent and competent, and in doing so, pisses off some of the other characters. Win win.

Piroszehlt didn’t so much as flinch at Zanhrori’s use of his oneiromancer’s name, but took a deep breath and straightened his papers once more. “First, for those of you who were unaware, or who had heard but not believed, the magic vial does in fact allow transport from place to place when used to consume water from a natural body. In oneiromantic terms, it’s a double manifest with stabilized water as an anchor.”

Ghordaa snorted, under his breath yet meant to be heard. Vilari looked at Piro as though she were about to spit in the soup of the Great Pon.

“Yes?”

Ghordaa unfurled his hand like a spring fern. “I would only like to caution against the intellectual laxity of using borrowed terminology to describe what I have created.”

“Noted. Would you like to give the council a lesson on the proper terms at this time? I understand you’re supposed to be a teacher.”

“And is this to be a classroom now? I’m not certain how receptive or capable my students would be.”

“You’d have to test them, wouldn’t you?”

Next to me, Tirsan gave a close-mouthed chuckle. “What? I enjoy watching them snipe at each other like that.” He spoke so low that no one else heard him.

After a pause in which Piroszehlt and Ghordaa both seemed to be deciding if other insults were necessary, Piro spoke first. “I shall continue using my borrowed terms. Unless you intend to train all here in the practice of your new discipline, I think they will suffice for the sake of understanding.” He rolled his paperweight in his hand. “Now, to go back to the question from before the interruption. Sunivar?”

And then he gave them all coronavirus.

Thank You for Running on Dunkin

In these days of coronavirus isolation, I already miss my Thursday morning writing routine.

I stop at the Dunkin Donuts closest to work, and every week it’s the same order: large iced cold brew, three creams, less ice, and a power breakfast sandwich with added bacon. I’m not much for routines in general, but I’ve grown superstitious about this one: I haven’t changed my order in over a year, and I even have specific sections of my drive where I’m allowed to listen to writing podcasts, and others that are book mix CD only.

It’s the same table every week, and if those public works guys with the truck are there, it’s the adjacent table, and I give them the sidelong shifty-eye until they leave, and I swoop over in three trips with my computer and my numerous index cards.

I say “hi” to the some people and eavesdrop on others, and they’re the same people every week. I watch the same young cashier flirt with the same old women and thank them for running on Dunkin.

And then I stop noticing the other people so much as I finish my sandwich and get into a good flow. I always aim to finish a scene, and succeed often enough. On the way to work, I play “Outsiders” by Franz Ferdinand. It wasn’t on purpose, at first, but it comes after the most repeated song on the book mix, and it turned into a victory lap, if driving in a Corolla through four lighted intersections and then backing into a parking spot counts as a victory lap.

It meant more last year than it does now. With the kind of work schedules my partner had, some weeks it was my only time to work on Stars Fall Out. Still, it was one of my favorite parts of my week, and it felt like the bastion of my writing discipline.

These days, we all have things we’re going to miss or already miss. This is one of mine. A little, mundane piece of my week that I miss a great deal.