Guest Post/Story: The Letter, by Emma Newman

In 2013 the marvellous Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and called Between Two Thorns. This story is part of a crazy thing I decided to do before I got the book deal and was forging ahead with the project on my own: releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It’s also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.

This is the forty-seventh tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here. You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.

Full story is behind the cut. Thanks, Emma!

The Letter

The letter had remained unopened for precisely fifty-four years, six months and three days. She had decided to break the seal, today, at sunset.  Continue reading

Linky posty

I’m having a kind of down day and not much energy. And you know what? That doesn’t make the deadlines go away. Not a bit. So I soldier on. But there’s lots of stuff online that is neat, and I don’t do nearly enough linky posty* things. So here is linky posty.

  • JoCo Got Jacked– Once upon a time, Jonathan Coulton wrote a wonderful acoustic version of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” And several years later, Glee stole it. There’s a lot of debate on whether it was illegal (as they took JoCo’s original arrangement and music) or if it was legal-but-douchey** (a cover of a cover, essentially.) FOX told JoCo he should be grateful for the “exposure” (even though they didn’t name him, so there was no exposure except the righteous anger he’s been showing online.) JoCo released his “Baby Got Back Glee Style” on iTunes and the other music distribution services and is giving the money for charity. But you’ve probably heard all of this. However, you probably haven’t heard Devo Spice’s new cover, JoCo Got Jacked, over at the FuMP. So go listen. It’s awesome.
  • My buddy Myke Cole is over at Scalzi’s The Big Idea today, promoting his new military fantasy book, Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier. You should check out the first book in his series, Shadow Ops: Control Point.
  • Excellent thoughts on writing by Chuck Wendig – Yes, Virginia, You Can Be A Paid Writer Too
  • I just found out that New Orleans is going to have a basketball team called The Pelicans. I am so happy about this. And it’s a mean pelican! Grrr! (As I’m writing a book about NOLA right now)

OK, enjoy those. I have lunch now, and then some serious writing and recording, dammit.

* more words should be in the vein of “walkie talkie” – like vacuum cleaners could be “pushy suckie” and cats “fuzzy pukies” and dogs “eatie barkies” (this is from a conversation i had many years ago with my friend Marq.)

** I now dub Fox the channel of “stealie douchie”

I hesitate to claim victory, but…

I’ve been bemoaning – for YEARS – my inability to get organized and disciplined. I’ve tried many, many tools, apps, books, systems, and advice. I’ve been depressed, having so much time and so little efficient use of it.

The Magic Spreadsheet has solved one of these problems, making me write for 52 straight days, for 32,202 words. So I’m writing at least. But it’s still not solved completely, because I’d let myself get pulled into the lure of the Internet and email and Facebook and squander the whole freaking day, and then write at night after the kiddo went to bed. Fail.

Pomodoro - a cooler word than "tomato"

Pomodoro – a cooler word than “tomato”

I needed something else, something in addition to the Magic Spreadsheet. And I finally bought a book on the Pomodoro Technique. I was skeptical that just a timer would “fix” me when I’d felt broken for years, but once I read the book I understood that it’s more than a timer. You have to look at your work in a different way, making lists in the morning of your plans, and then – and this is the big deal – working for the full 25 minutes on your task.

Why is that a big deal? Let me explain what the Tomato Getting Things Done plan did for my wordcount in the past two days:

My current daily wordcount goal is around 800 words. I try to push it to 1000 just to get one more coveted point on the Magic Spreadsheet. I can do this writing in less than an hour- but it takes MORE than 25 minutes. So I get to 600 or 700 words in my 25 minutes, the timer goes off, and I force myself to take a break. When I come back, I have 25 more minutes to write. Do I write just the last few hundred words? Well, I could, but if I really want to embrace this technique, my goal is to write the full 25 minutes, wordcount be damned.

The past two days I’ve logged over 1500 words both days. This is huge for me.

And other stuff is getting done, too.

It’s tough, though. I don’t have the system down completely, as I am currently guilty of messing around online before I officially start my day of pomodoros (pomodori?), but I think as I continue the program, I will work on minimizing those rabbit holes and the delays to start work.

I’ve been so disorganized for so long that I hesitate to say I’m finally getting a hold on my life, but I think I might be getting a hold on my life…

PS- if you haven’t checked out the Magic Spreadsheet, or read about it, feel free to look at it, look at the Instructions tab, and join up. Just remember it’s shared so don’t mess with anyone else’s numbers but your own.

Invisible words

“Run!” he screamed.

“I am running!” she retorted.

“Then keep running!” he ejaculated.

These words are called “said bookisms” – identified at the Turkey City Lexicon.

Artificial, literary verb used to avoid the perfectly good word “said.” “Said” is one of the few invisible words in the language; it is almost impossible to overuse. Infinitely less distracting than “he retorted,” “she inquired,” or the all-time favorite, “he ejaculated.”

I get some emails from authors who worry about using the same word over and over. If they’re using a lot of dialogue, they think that SAID SAID SAID SAID SAID jumps out from the page, so they try to throw in different words to “spice” up their work.

If you use a word, like a noun or a verb or, Thor forbid, an adjective or adverb over and over again, those stand out. “Richard ran to the hospital. As he neared the hospital, he noticed the footprints of others who had run to the hospital before him. Why were they running to the hospital? he wondered.”

(Incidentally, this is a mistake I commonly make.)

But the words that are invisible are words that we skim over, we may not even read them in our heads, they are simply there to anchor us. If we didn’t have “he said” and “Regina said” and “Algernon said” then we would lose the trail of who was talking. Other words that serve this purpose are pronouns. If you have two people, one male, one female, in a conversation, you need use their names only a few times, “he” and “she” will do fine from then on. *

If the conversation has two of the same gender, or more than two speakers, the you need to use names and pronouns, and possibly other descriptors (but be careful, this can lead to overuse that is like a said bookism, Calling a man “Carl” and then “the big man” and the “the retired fireman” and then “the half-caucasian, half-Indian with a limp” and then “the alcoholic” can be very distracting from the story.)

People can get really, really hung up on these things, and there’s no need for it. Because this is something you can fix in edits. Have someone read it, go over it yourself, see what sounds weird and forced and what flows so naturally that you don’t even see your invisible words like “he” and “she” and “said.”

* Unless the character is neither male nor female, or they are both. If you don’t want to assign them a binary gender, you can use their name all the time, but it’s difficult to do. See John Scalzi’s The God Engines for an example of this done expertly.