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.

The Grammarly browser extension now has a feature that detects tone, or at least attempts to, in much the same, fumbling way that the Grammarly software attempts to do anything.

It labeled a flat-out rant I’d written as having an “appreciative” tone.

It also labeled a draft of my blog post on 2019 as “accusatory.” Take that, 2019!

The Phantom Gourmet tries Salad Fingers

I started writing a Halloween short story and there’s a spirit creature that I realized is basically a cross between Salad Fingers and the Phantom Gourmet, a local restaurant review TV show that is a staple of those times when you just happen to be in front of a TV in Southern New England and it comes on. Here they are talking about a hamburger joint in New Hampshire, which I have actually been to:

And for a welcome counterpoint, here’s Salad Fingers:

As weird as it was to realize the origins of this particular character, I’m going with it.

Needless to say, I’m playing both videos at the same time for inspiration, but they’re being cancelled out by the 90s alternative being played at this Dunkin Donuts.

Here are a couple things I’ve learned about while doing worldbuilding research for Stars Fall Out:

The Roman month of Mercedonious. Learning more about the history of intercalation (inserting extra days into the calendar, such as in a leap year), provided the inspiration for me to fix a story problem. I have a section of Stars that, timing-wise, felt weird in relation to the rest of the story. I decided to run with the weirdness; I made them intercalated days called for on the authority of one of the Grand Oneiromancers. One of those “can you believe this law is still on the books?” kind of things.

I also learned how to convert between different number base systems. I’ve always thought it would be cool if we had a base 12 system rather than base 10, so I gave one of the cultures in my story a base 12 system, and another base 9. Now I’m trying to make it as hard as possible for them to change currency, which is adding some nice color to a scene in the bakery when a guy comes in with imperial money.

Also, history of the number zero. Unrelated, for my purposes.