Hearts are Jerks...
...is the working title for my new YA novel-in-progress.

While working a dealer table at a convention a while back, I was chatting with an author-friend about his writing, and when I mentioned his pet "too-frequently-used phrase" I worded it as "the [author name here] drinking game." As in, "He used that phrase again. Drink!"

We're good enough friends that I knew I could do so without offending him, even in front of our colleagues. But I was surprised when everyone else sitting at the table was so amused that they immediately wanted to know what I considered the "drinking game" in their writing.

Usually, I make a comment in the formal editorial letter that accompanies the draft, to the effect of "You may want to search on this phrase, which appears many times throughout the manuscript, and make substitutions for it in some instances." In the manuscript I'm working on now, for one of the authors who was at that table for that conversation, I highlighted the offending phrase each time it appeared, and commented "Drink!" in the margin.

It's not that the drinking-game phrase can't ever appear in the manuscript. It's about being aware of how often you use it.

editor nightmares
"Find/Replace All" is NEVER your friend. NEVER. I mean it.

Even if you think you've got the conditions fine-tuned and so specific that you can't possibly catch the wrong thing, you still can't be sure you haven't missed something that will be glaring to someone else once it's too late. Check every instance and choose "replace" by hand. It's worth it.

Worldbuilding frenzy
As I've mentioned on my blog, when I wrote "Keeping Time" for WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME, I didn't do any alien worldbuilding because the story took place on the return from the alien world, so it didn't really matter. Suddenly, now that I'm writing a novel in the universe, it matters a lot.

This is the first time I've written a novel, ever, despite having worked on many of them and having written many short stories. Short stories and novels are completely different beasts, and I've honestly been a little nervous about trying to tame something this big.

Getting past the "eeee, this is going to be scary" moment has been hard. I've been paralyzed by choice: I know WHAT I need to figure out, but I don't know what to decide for it.

I started today with a language question: would an egalitarian, humanist (ethical culture), non-theistic culture have a gendered language? And how common/uncommon are gendered languages, anyway? English isn't really one (except where it is), but I've always heard that it's in the minority that way. Among European languages, it certainly is.

I went to my pal Google and looked up "gendered language common?" One of the results was -- jackpot! -- a paper about how gender markers in language form and evolve. You take a bunch of nouns that you frequently modify with gender tags, and eventually those gender tags become part of the words themselves. No one sits down as a committee and figures out that table is female and desk is male, but it evolves that way from frequent usage until it's standard.

There are other markers than gender markers, though, and that's where the real gold lay. There was a mention of an Australian language that has a marker for "edible food animal" -- a prefix before the animal's name. So, if I said the name of that clucking thing over there was "Yummy chicken," you'd know chicken was an edible animal, but if I pointed to the thing on the fence and said "sparrow" without the "yummy," you'd know not to bother. It's a great way to pass on information about the environment, and a perfect fit for a culture that is very tight knit and full of people focused on supporting each other.

I have markers figured out for:

* Proper names, so you can tell a person's name from another word, in context. We do this by capitalization, but that can be ambiguous if it's at the beginning of a sentence or if the common word would be capitalized anyway (like a city, a day of the week, or a month).
* Edible animals
* Edible non-animals (plants, minerals)
* Poisonous/dangerous
* Precious/dear/emotionally significant to me; also potentially signifying ownership/property, which could get delightfully sticky.
* Not important to me (not "hated", but "It isn't mine/I'm not attached to it in any way")
* A combination of "precious to me" AND "not-mine" that has evolved to mean "I want you to have it BECAUSE it is dear to me"

And there may be others that arise as I figure out more about the culture.

I think I've also got my aliens' non-theistic origin story figured out.

Figuring out the noun markers, and combining those with the ideas I'd already had for reproductive behavior, a lightbulb suddenly went on about the whole family/social structure of the community.

I feel like I've got enough of a base to start really writing them now, and the rest will fill in as I go.

This is the first time in this project where I've felt like it will actually possible to pull it off.

Awesome. :)

Why is it that when Joss Whedon's scripts successfully manipulate my emotions, I feel manipulated...but when Aaron Sorkin's scripts successfully manipulate my emotions, I feel awed?

I rode in a little prop plane up to Portland today. I meant to nap on the plane, but the view was too gorgeous to miss. Portland is like Austin, but with cooler weather.

It's quite comfortable here, save for the strangeness of driving other people's cars and the notable lack of loud, clingy cats. I got a good chunk of pleasure reading done today, as well as a good chunk of work on the current editing project. jaylake and the_child and mlerules are good company.

I printed out my short story in progress and made lots of margin notes on it. 4000 words is going to come quickly on this one; I'm going to have to go back to my outline (yes, I outline when I write short fiction, for just this reason) and rethink how much story I'm going to be able to tell.

But that's a task for tomorrow.

Reading, Writing, Vision
I came home from DragonCon with fewer books than I took with me, and with different books than I took with me, so I consider that a win. It means that my To Be Read pile is actually calling out for my attention and has grown beyond all hope of catching up, but that's a good thing, too.

My next short story is as outlined as it's going to get. It's still got a lot of questions built in, and I have to see what shape it takes in order to know the best ways to address those questions, but I think it's ready to be written. This isn't for my next anthology, but for another anthology I'd really like to submit to. I'm not going to jinx it by naming it.

Today I took the day off and went to get my eyes examined -- they're an essential tool and it's important to keep them in top shape. I've picked out cool new frames, now I just have to wait a week or so for my lenses to be ready.

The office is a fair drive away and I could have picked one closer to home, but it's half optometrist, half frozen yogurt bar, and that (plus excellent frames) won me over. I love California.

Dragon*Con travel is (belatedly) booked, arriving Thursday and leaving Monday. Through the generosity of some people we've never met, we were able to trade our room on the outer fringes of town for a room in a convention hotel. This will make everything (except dealing with elevators) considerably easier.

I'm going to be on one panel on the Podcasting track, but I don't know when it'll be.

I'm going to be helping out at the Pyr booth, but I don't know when yet.

I'm just a puddle of certainty for this one! But, I have faith that, as with any con, getting myself there is most of the battle. Schedules have a way of making themselves. Once I have an actual schedule, I'll post it on my actual blog.

Things I do know:

* My anthology will be there and on sale (at Chris Jackson's table, in the dealer's room).

* I will be wearing a corset, at least one day.

* I will be reachable by Twitter or text message. I will have email access, but it's not a reliable way to get an immediate response from me.

* Dragon Moon Press will be donating goodies for the door prize bags at the Parsec Awards ceremony.

* My commitment to avoiding caffeine is going to be challenged.

I'm back to work today, though I'm definitely not fully back home in spirit yet.

I had no panels and no dealer's table at this WorldCon, but I still ended up with a pleasantly full schedule. I got to see a lot of people, meet a lot of people, make connections, make plans, learn a lot, drink a little, and even get a few more copies of WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME out into the wild.

Spending time with Lou Anders, peadarog, ianmcdonald, and the ever-charming jaylake were definite highlights, as was the Hugo Award ceremony, and the screening of the Game of Thrones episode "The Pointy End" with live grrm commentary.

Right, back to the edits. I have a novella to finish up, and then a manuscript to begin.

When the Hero Comes Home - paperback available now
Now available in print on Amazon.com: When the Hero Comes Home, co-edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood.

I've worked on lots of books. It's amazing how different it feels when it's my name on the cover!

I'm so proud of this anthology, and had such a fantastic time working on it and making it happen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.


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