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Random Thoughts the Week Before the Bay to Ocean Conference

About a week ago, Altered Seasons passed the 110,000-word mark in length. According to this web site, that makes it officially an epic novel. It also makes it harder to keep my Twitter followers informed on its progress, because I’ve decided to stop posting updates on its word count — it occurs to me, after all, that “This book is gonna be SO FREAKING LONG!!!” might not be the best way to whet the public’s appetite. (I’m planning on it being about 150,000 words. Given the scope of the work, it really should be a lot longer.) *** Recently on Twitter, Stephen King issued a bit of advice: Never use the phrases "for a long moment" or "for some reason." Going through Altered Seasons, I was mortified to discover that the phrase “for a long moment” appeared about a dozen times. Sometimes my characters just needed that long moment to think of something new to say (a lot of them are introverts) and sometimes they needed it to absorb what they just heard. You’ll notice the phrase in this snippet, but in the draft I’m working on now, I’ve embellished it to “a long, awkward moment.” Not a big change, but I’ve rewritten most of the other “long moments” (not all — let’s be reasonable here) to something else: “Hunter stared into his brownie for a few seconds.” “For the space of several breaths, she just stood there, desperate for anything to say.” One place where I hadn’t used the phrase “for a long moment” was this line from Year Seven: “The clock registered the passage of four or five seconds while Quillen was taking that in.” The reason I hadn’t used the line there was that even then, I sensed that this particular occasion called for a new phrase, something potent and descriptive. (Not to give anything away, but this is a memorable moment in the story.) As for the phrase "for some reason," it turns out I very rarely use it, and then only from the POV of a very confused character. (I'm the author. If I don't know what's going on and why, who does?) *** Yes, I promise I am also working on Locksmith’s War. *** Shout-out to the awesome people at Salt Water Media. I ordered eleven copies of my books for the conference bookstore and had them delivered to my door in two days. *** Circumstances too complicated to go into here require me to jump back and forth between using a mouse and using a touchpad, and man, there is no comparison at all. I love the feeling of taking hold of the mouse again. It’s like getting my hands back after I’ve learned to use hooks. Hooks made by an American Revolution-era blacksmith. Who was drunk as all hell when he made them. *** So you think being a writer means you don’t have to be good at math? While writing Altered Seasons, I had to calculate what percentage of Earth’s surface is north of 60°N. More recently, I had to make the following calculation — given a radioactive isotope with a half-life of eight days (meaning it’s half gone in eight days, three-quarters gone in 16 days, seven-eighths gone in 24 days, etc.) how much of it is gone in four days? After thinking about it for a while, I decided the number I was looking for was 1-1/√2. Any good calculator can tell me how much that is as a percentage, but I’ve never heard of a calculator that could tell me that was the number I was looking for in the first place. *** I miss phone books. The kind you could leaf through when you were looking for a good surname for your character. Search engines just aren’t the same.

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