Paranormal Anti-Romance, anyone? The Gloom Queen is coming soon!
Blame it on the word, “Eviscerated.”
More specifically, blame it on this bit of dialog:
“Did you kill him?”
“Heck no! I just eviscerated him. He died all on his own.”
That quote comes from my very first Invisible Flying Pony story. Until that moment in the story, it was ya/mystery/comedy. But the word “eviscerated” pushed the story over the line. My beta readers had two distinct styles of fit:
So I had some options to ponder.
Eviscerated isn’t a swear word, but certainly is an adult idea, and I did have some swear words that came up later in the story. They all had the same effect, in a story with a 13-year-old protagonist. But I was surprised that none of those spice words had the impact or reaction of the word eviscerated. The options haunted me for a long time, as I tried to decide what type of story I was writing, and what kind of audience I wanted to enjoy it.
In Oct 2014, I wrote this analysis of using and avoiding swear words in fiction, and it was around that time that I decided to take my own advice. I’d used alternative swear words before. (I used “Static!” as a curse word in my 6th published story “Homeward Through Darkness”) I saw no reason why I couldn’t use some other kinds of spice words that would imply the ideas I wanted to convey, but wouldn’t keep my books out of the library.
Yes, I admit, I wanted my books in the library. Someday. Maybe. And if it’s just a few key words to change, then I figured it was worth the effort.
Looking to pop culture for guidance, I toyed with using “Barnacles” and “Tartar Sauce” from Spongebob Squarepants. Then, “Schtako” from Defiance and “Baktag” from Klingon, both of which translate to “excrement.” Weeks of manga research kicked up a handful of words, but nothing really catchy that would be understood outside that community. I even tried using “Fish!” from BoJack Horseman. But in the end, none of them really fit the prose.
So I parked the upteenth revision of Spider-Leeches on the shelf. It sat there for a long time, as I moved on to other projects which lent themselves better to the natural language of flat-out swearing.
I think it was the word “Shiny” (from the Firefly TV series) that actually sent my brain seeking out some other word implying Desirable:
The word just popped into my head. And it was perfect. Right on the heels of that came the opposite:
And the four-letter f-word, FLAX!
I dashed to the kitchen and rummaged through the spices. Every single one was a hit. BASIL! FENNEL! NUTMEG! CINNAMON! DILLWEED!
I opened up the Spider-Leeches manuscript and loaded it with spice words. Done and done, I thought, and sent it off to the editor.
Turned out to be too spicy.
The editor came back and said all the slang was too much. So I dialed it back. Sugar and Salt are the primary swear words, Sugar replacing “Cool” and Salt replacing “Shit” of course.
The rest of the words I’d use very sparingly, if at all. I decided to introduce a new one in each episode of the series. Flax would mean Fuck. Dillweed was… well, probably Dickweed for people who remember a time when “Homeslice” was a thing. (And to this day, I still don’t know what homeslice means.) Cinnamon is reserved for ultimate bestness.
I expect to get decent use out of these new words in the Invisible Flying Pony series. I’m hoping other authors can make use of them as well.
In fact, I’ve started using sugar and salt in conversation. It’s amazing how natural and effective they are.
I really hope these words catch on. It would be sugar if we could embrace a whole new category of spice words to spice up our conversation.
And if you don’t agree, then you’re a dillweed and you can go flax off.
It doesn’t get much easier than zenpen.io. If you figured out how to view this blog post, then you’re qualified to write text and save it using the wonderfully minimalist and completely free writing tool.
You type in the big open area. You hit Save when you’re done. If that’s too complicated for you, then you’d probably have trouble figuring out a ball-point pen without an instruction manual. In which case, you might wanna consider another medium, like maybe yell your stories out loud at the Mall of America courtyard. Good luck.
Zenpen’s features are accessed through four buttons (maximize screen, light/dark, target word count and save text) and there’s a question mark (about) at the bottom of the page.
Setting the target word count activates a thin meter on the right side of the page. It goes up the page as you type, turning green when it hits the top of the page and you hit your target word count.
Aptly named, beautifully minimalist, and completely free, zenpen is a great way to minimize distractions including those of the writing software which promises to make writing easier, but just clutters up your life. (You heard me, Scrivener.)
If you’re looking for something similar to zenpen, but with online storage and features like stats tracking, google docs sync, and export directly to ebook formats, check out novlr.org. (Monthly fee required)
Official Website: Zenpen.io
In the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, we often discuss our current projects. Can’t tell you how often I hear of people getting hung up in author traps. They’ve been working on their first manuscript for years, (sometimes decades) determined to “get it right the first time.”
Translating from Author to English, this means, “writing which goes through an endless series of revisions, but never gets finished.”
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve been there yourself. Ever get stuck in author traps like these?
I’ve been to every one of these places, and every one of them will slow your author journey to a crawl.
The good news is that just knowing about the traps might prevent you from getting stuck in the first place. Here’s the author traps I’m aware of and how to avoid/escape them. [Read more…]
My friend Saveau has a great saying. “You Deserve The Gods You Worship.”
Likewise, I’ve long said that you deserve your social media streams, email inbox and many other areas of your life that you forget that you control. But let’s focus on one of these input streams in particular – your artistic diet.
Essentially, all the art in your life that you consume on a regular basis.
These things say something about you, in the same way the lines in your skin speak to a palm reader. It reminds me of what the main character of Fight Club says,”What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
But is this Nature or Nurture? Prescriptive or Descriptive? Do you define your artistic choices, or do they define you? And how can you use this to make your writing better? [Read more…]
I’ve attended the 4th Street Fantasy Convention several times over the last five years, and I have to say, this year was the best year yet.
Topping the list of what makes 4th Street awesome is Janet Grouchy, (who actually only gets grouchy if you don’t pick up after yourself.) With several hundred people attending 4th Street, I don’t know how she manages to make me feel special every time I go, but she does. 4th Street is lucky to have such an awesome dose of Southern Hospitality in human form.
But there are many other things which make the 4th Street Fantasy Convention a must-go for writers of all types. [Read more…]
At the recent meetup of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, we talked about critique. The discussion was divided into three parts:
Here are my notes and observations from the discussion, and you’ll find the full video of our discussion at the end of the this post.
So what is a Drabble anyway?
A Drabble is a 100-word fiction story. Exactly one hundred words. No more. No less.
I’ve had several drabbles published over the last year: [Read more…]
“There are no bad words. There are bad thoughts, bad intentions… and words.”
If you don’t believe that, then you should stop reading this post. Right fucking now. Because having been both an angry young man and served time in the military, I’ve grown and sharpened a fairly salacious tongue. But even I know that there’s a time and a place for swearing, and it’s useful for authors to know when and where it’s OK to do so. [Read more…]
Fellow Minnesota Author Michael Merriam asked if I’d participate in a virtual blog tour about writing process. Actually, he told me if I didn’t do it, “terrible misfortune was certain to come my way! Very soon!”
Fortunately, I know Michael is a liar. The man makes up stuff all the time. Good stuff. Check out Michael Merriam on Goodreads if you don’t believe me.
But it sounds like fun to participate. (And why take a chance, right? I mean “terrible misfortune”? Yikes!) So here is some info about my current work and writing process: [Read more…]