I Almost Sprained My Tongue

  • I’m not who you think I am
  • English and Swiss boarding schools
  • it wasn’t coming just straight down
  • step out of the queue
  • A rather unexpected smile

Tune in next time part 173                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

I almost sprained my tongue, but in the end I managed to deliver the message. “I’m not who you think I am. I’m his twin brother.”

The woman’s own tongue action was very crisp and meticulous, suggesting she’d been educated in the best English and Swiss boarding schools before attending the Academy.

Our passing of information to each other through vigorous tongue movements must have looked a lot like a passionate kiss. Valentine Village’s many cherub-costumed employees went out of their way to celebrate and encourage such signs of love. When they spotted us they fired their confetti cannons. We were suddenly engulfed in tiny bits of colorful paper, and it wasn’t coming just straight down, but swirling madly on gusts of wind. I decided to take advantage of the unexpected camouflage and “step out of the queue,” as it were, to escape from my donut-loving captor and find Tessa on my own.

I pulled away from the green-haired woman mid-sentence. A rather unexpected smile rested on her lips. It was a very nasty smile, even though it was soon speckled with confetti.

And suddenly my mind put the pieces together. The wild hair, the posh education, the quick thinking with the raffle ticket. This woman could only be the rogue mime Setsuko, and that meant I was in deep shit.

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Yin And Yang

Good prose is often described as “efficient.” Eliminating extra words helps the reader by letting the author get out of the way.

Conversely, “designed by engineers” is, at best, a backhanded compliment.

Your text has many jobs to do, but it can all be summed up in terms of form and function. Functionally, text must convey a semantic payload. That is, meaning with a little m. On the flipside, the form of the message is your style. It’s the flavor that makes your work uniquely yours. Both are important: have something worth saying, and then say it well.

Where to draw the line between spare and terse is subjective. It’s also genre-dependent, and at the mercy of fashion There is no one right answer. Writing clean isn’t about brinksmanship, skimming the event horizon of a flat voice. It’s about not burying the message under ten feet of fluff. (Or substituting prolix phraseology for actual content.)

Blurry lines become a bigger concern when you write with a partner. What if one of you suggests taking out “some extra words,” referring to a passage that’s essential to the other’s identity as a human being? Not that it’s been that extreme, but this issue is relevant in the writing cave lately. Jen is nearly three-quarters of the way through an editing pass on Book Three of the Divided Man series, and it’s a manuscript that hasn’t been workshopped as much as the other two. Translation: there’s a lot of cutting to do. Kent is, for the most part, on board with those cuts. Really, 99+% of them are things he agrees with, even when the overabundant descriptors being excised are things he lovingly placed there to begin with. When it comes to that sub-one-percent, though, he takes a stand.

Your writing partner can help you rein in your verbosity, or provide the missing sizzle for the steak. You can do the same for her.

The Green-Haired Woman’s Eyes

  • by Kentsuddenly irradiated with emotion
  • dogs and cows are scavenging
  • which sheds a gentle melancholy
  • lowering your blood sugar
  • Even if I had wanted to tell them about Thurmond

Tune in next time part 172                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

The green-haired woman’s eyes glowed. I was suddenly irradiated with emotion.

“I won you!” she said, taking me by the hand and dragging me around the corner where the Boulevard of Regrets and Memory Lane met. “I knew a raffle ticket was a better idea than the auction. Now I’ll get some sugar, while those other dogs and cows are scavenging for love at the amphitheater.”

“I need to see your ticket,” I said, trying to pull free of her grip. I was amazed that such a slender individual had such strength. She didn’t stop. “No, seriously,” I protested. “We can’t let just anybody say they won and then drag away the prize before anyone else gets to see it.” I wrapped my arm around a fuchsia lamppost to make her halt.

“Fine,” she said, handing it over. “Uh-oh,” I said as I compared the stub to my tag. “Your ticket has 990666, but my tag number is 999066.”

There is a state of mental despair (for which there is a word in German of course, although I’ve forgotten it) created in the moment that you discover you’ve held your raffle ticket upside down. It is a collapsing desolation of the spirit, which sheds a gentle melancholy, lowering your blood sugar and sapping the uncanny strength gained when you thought you had won.

The gun-toting donut fetishist caught up with us. He brandished the pistol at the green-haired lady, who pouted and let go of my arm. He said, “That was pretty smooth. But the bachelor auction isn’t until tomorrow. Scram.”

Suddenly I didn’t want her to leave. Her charade with the raffle told me which contingent she was aligned with, and from what I’d read in the notebook I knew just what they wanted to hear. Not that I looked forward to telling them the bad news. Even if I had wanted to tell them about Thurmond‘s fate, I couldn’t let the donut faction find out.

“Hang on,” I said. “Can’t she at least have a kiss? For getting so close to the winning number?”

“Be quick about it,” the man with the gun said.

While cleaning the cotton candy off her face with my tongue, I hoped she was decoding the message correctly.

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My Lace Jumpsuit Was So Tight

  • by jenThe tongue action is explicit
  • We are not moving
  • in a very satisfactory manner
  • all the men were much too stupid and ugly to mate with
  • “It’s gonna match. It’s gonna match. It’s gotta match.”

Tune in next time part 171                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

My lace jumpsuit was so tight I could only indulge in one Scorpion Angel donut. My captor watched me eat it with unseemly glee in his eye and a bit of drool at the corner of his mouth. No matter how much I cajoled, he himself did not partake. When I had finished the last bite, he put his gun away and licked the powdered sugar from my fingertips. It was very unsettling, but my training had prepared me for things like that and I reacted calmly. The tongue action is explicit and precise in this kind of code, but you have to pay close attention to pick up the nuances.

“Well,” his tongue said. “Time to get going. Tessa is waiting for you.”


I allowed the man to herd me out of the donut shop. If he would lead me to Tessa, I would follow him practically anywhere.

Memory Lane was clogged with tourists on their way to the bachelor auction. My companion and I were trying to fight our way upstream.

He grabbed my hand and licked a message on my palm. “We are not moving in a very satisfactory manner.

Suddenly the tide turned and all of the women surged in the opposite direction. From what I overheard, the bachelor auction was a bust because all the men were much too stupid and ugly to mate with, especially if you were expected to pay.

One of them, an Asian woman with green hair and cotton candy stains around her mouth, spotted a numbered tag fluttering from the zipper of my jumpsuit. She shrieked with delight and pulled a raffle ticket out of her pocket. She compared the numbers, chanting, “It’s gonna match. It’s gonna match. It’s gotta match.”

What would I do if I was this woman’s prize? I had to get to Tessa.

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Size Does Matter

We are so close to done with the first draft of Son of Science Novel we can taste it!

Jen wrote the final scene yesterday, but we’re not actually done. Kent has one more scene on his plate that will fall before the last scene. Um. Obviously.

Here’s the thing. This draft is going to come it at around 95,000 words. That’s a lot of words, right? That’s a very satisfying, lengthy novel. We should be happy! The problem is that Science Novel, the book that this is a sequel to, is currently 121,000 words. That’s quite a discrepancy!

While Science Novel has had some edits, there is certainly still some flab there to be carved away. It will get smaller. But so will Son of SN when we edit it. The discrepancy will remain. Jen has this hangup about all the chapters in a book being roughly the same size, and all the books in a series, too. The key word here is “roughly.” No matter how much Kent teases, she doesn’t actually want all the chapters to be exactly the same length. But they should be able to measured with the same yardstick.

Since Jen is the keeper of the outline, and the creator of the stubs, she has seen this word count disaster coming for a while now and she’s been running around like Chicken Little. Now that the end is in sight, Kent has finally begun to believe her. We’ve given a lot of thought to the ‘problem,’ trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Every novel we’ve written previously has come out well above 100,000. Hell, the one before this (Son of Music Novel) came it at 182,900 (which we are not going to round to 183,000 goddammit). Our current draft feels like the runt of the litter.

The problem is not lack of plot. We have enough plot to choke a horse. Before we started writing, we were concerned that we might have another monster on our hands. It would be nice to think we’ve just improved our craft so much that we have transcended the need for editing, but the sky in our world is blue, just like yours.

We have identified a few places where we need to expand things, and we think we’ve discovered a hole that needs to be filled. It’s not 25,000 words worth of stuff, but it might get us up to the magic 100K.

Our current plan is to have Kent write that one last scene that is not the last scene, and then read the manuscript through, looking for what’s missing. It shouldn’t take long, since it’s so damn short.

The Donut Shop Proprietor

  • by Kentpromised to be an energizing climax
  • I’m ready to fight for her
  • being dragged by several Aztec warriors
  • bred into them a savage vitality
  • zoo for endangered species

Tune in next time part 170                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

The donut shop proprietor was glad to have people to talk to. He babbled about the Scorpion Angel Cremes for what seemed like hours.

“And the scorpions themselves come from a zoo for endangered species, where the scorpion breeding program was tragically successful, and threatened the endangered status of the species. Well, they couldn’t lose one of their biggest attractions, so they found markets for the little beasties. Might I just add that, speaking as a connoisseur, these zookeepers bred into them a savage vitality that you can really taste. Oh, but don’t eat too many at once. The venom can be slightly hallucinogenic, and before you know it you’re being dragged by several Aztec warriors in front of a cheering throng and their haughty queen, and you hear your own voice declaring, ‘I’m ready to fight for her!’ But at the last moment –”

Another customer approached the counter, interrupting the tale before what promised to be an energizing climax.

“He’s distracted,” I whispered to my abductor. “Take a few more of these Scorpion Angels.” If they would make him hallucinate, then I’d love to see him eat a donut. Or twelve.

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My Stomach Growled

  • by jen“Tell us more about these scorpion angels,”
  • got married just a month after they met
  • a lie from start to finish
  • his accomplice killed him
  • been required to eat cold meat

Tune in next time part 169                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

My stomach growled. Donuts sounded amazing right now. The last time someone with a gun foisted food on me I’d been required to eat cold meat off the body of a lithe young man. He’d been sent by the White Faces mime syndicate to infiltrate the ninjas while disguised as a platter of sushi, and his accomplice killed him after discovering that his life story was a lie from start to finish. He must have been a very convincing liar because he and his accomplice had got married just a month after they met.

My trip down memory lane ended abruptly when my gun-weilding friend directed me to turn down Memory Lane. There, between a hot pink wedding chapel and a stall selling furry handcuffs was a donut shop. We entered and perused the very unusual menu board. There were flavors here I’d never heard of.

We approached the counter. “Tell us more about these Scorpion Angels,” my captor said to the clerk, who was dusted from head to toe with powdered sugar. “Are they made with real scorpions?”

“We couldn’t very well call them Scorpion Angel Cremes if they weren’t,” huffed the fastidious donutmonger.

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A Character By Any Other Name

It’s been more than a year since we’ve outlined a new book, which means it’s been more than a year since Jen’s had a chance to name a whole bunch of characters. Sure, incidental naming opportunities arise during the writing, but it’s just not the same, you know? Sometimes even Kent is allowed to name one-off characters, even if he tends to name them all Cheryl/Sheryl for vague and mysterious reasons.

With Jen this whole naming thing is a sickness. We aren’t having any more kids, and most of our household tools and appliances already have names. So what’s a girl to do?

If that girl is Jen, she keeps a running list of appealing names so that when it finally is time to spec out a new cast, she’s prepared.

But she also gets really excited each time March rolls around and the Name of the Year competition gets underway. For those of you who are unfamiliar, NOTY is the most amazing March Madness style bracket out there. They spend the year collecting outrageous and fantastic names from around the world and pit them against each other, letting the public vote. The public doesn’t always get it right, unfortunately. I mean, can you believe that last year’s final wasn’t between Dick Tips and Sweet Orefice? Or that, if the winner had to be one of the Pope names, that Pope McCorkle III beat out Taco Pope? I’ll say it again: Taco Pope.

Anyway, this year’s competition is well underway, and already some great names have fallen. But many truly astonishing ones remain. Go check it out!

The sorts of names that end up in the NOTY brackets, amazing though they are, are not really the sorts of names we want for our characters. But each time the voting opens up for a new round, Kent and Jen scurry to their computers and cast their ballots. And then they discuss their votes. A good deal of the time they agree on which name is truly superior, but when they disagree it’s because Kent is wrong. He has a sweet tooth for rhyming names and terrible puns, and seeing evidence of his terrible terrible taste reassures us that we’ve made the right choice in letting Jen be the primary namer in our writing team.

Crossing The Park

  • by Kent“Goldstein!”
  • cradling it pensively in his hand
  • except for the terrible, half-healed scar
  • carbon nanotubes might one day come to the rescue
  • “I’d love to see you eat a donut.”

Tune in next time part 168                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

Crossing the park, I hoped that the impractical fabric of my jumpsuit would relax and begin to afford me greater freedom of movement, but the reverse was happening. The lace dug into my flesh more ferociously the more I moved around.


I kept moving, despite the grim certitude that I was the target of the exclamation.

A man ran up to me with a gun, cradling it pensively in his hand, a hand that didn’t match his complexion. I might have thought that this man just made a habit of wearing gloves, except for the terrible, half-healed scar encircling his wrist.

“You’re not Goldstein,” he said. “Whew. I wasn’t looking forward to that.” He tucked the gun away, wincing. “New medical technology using carbon nanotubes might one day come to the rescue of people like me, but it seems until then I must suffer.”

I continued toddling toward the exit.

“Wait,” said the man, pulling the gun back out. This time he held it in his left hand, which was something I’d hoped he wouldn’t think of.

I stopped. “Look, I’m just trying to leave this place.”

“Not so fast,” the gun-waving man said. “I’d love to see you eat a donut.”

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Even Through I Now Had All the Answers

  • by jenI love the idea of a jumpsuit
  • all I can say is that I was desperately hungry
  • which lay so thickly upon the floor
  • clothed in a captain’s uniform
  • fueled by frustration and alcohol

Tune in next time part 167                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

Even though I now had all the answers, I still needed to disguise myself and escape from Valentine Village. If I was lucky, maybe I’d find Tessa on the way out.

I love the idea of a jumpsuit for everyday wear. It obviates the need to find matching tops and bottoms, and, as a man, the whole peeing thing isn’t really an issue. But while I do love a good jumpsuit, I didn’t relish the idea of a lace one. Since that was all that I had at my disposal, though, I finished stripping my scrivener victim. I even stole his underwear. I know that sounds gross, but all I can say is that I was desperately hungry for my freedom, and my spiky codpiece would have shredded the lace in no time. As for going without, well, did I mention that the jumpsuit was made of lace? I didn’t want to get arrested for scandalizing the hordes of children which lay so thickly upon the floors and streets of this horrible amusement park. Believe me, I would much rather have been clothed in a captain’s uniform.

I squeezed myself into the jumpsuit, which was obviously designed for a less-muscular man. The lace was stretched to the breaking point, and I would have to move very carefully to avoid ripping the seams. The last thing I needed was to end up looking like some combination of Prince and the Hulk, fueled by frustration and alcohol and musical genius.

Shuffling carefully I exited the room. I’d have to hurry if I wanted to stop Mother’s plot.

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