Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Texting abbreviations

Those of us of a certain age probably tend to use correct spelling and punctuation and so on when emailing or texting someone, partly out of habit and partly because using a lowercase i as a pronoun just looks so wrong and perhaps partly so we can lift a mildly scornful eyebrow at kids today.

On the other hand, texting abbreviations and acronyms are kind of fun. More importantly, in SHADOW TWIN, Miguel and Cassie spend most of the book in separate locations, so they frequently text back and forth. They’re a lot younger than I am and a lot more used to texting, so they use far more acronyms and abbreviations than I do.

This is the extremely long list of texting acronyms I used when putting together their texted conversations. I tried to use a combination of familiar acronyms we probably all know (FWIW, FUBAR), acronyms that are readily deciphered, and plain English. But some acronyms I particularly liked also crept into these conversations, even though I don’t know whether they’re quite that familiar.

Hopefully the resulting text conversations will be understandable even if the occasional acronym might be mysterious. But on the chance some of you might find a list of acronyms helpful, here are the ones that appear in Shadow Twin:

AFK — Away from keyboard

BAMF — Bad-ass motherfucker

BG2CU — I’m sure this is too obvious for words — Be good to see you

DKFS — Don’t know for sure

HRU? — How are you?

FUBAR — Fucked up beyond all recognition

FWIW — Here’s one we all know — For what it’s worth

KIT — Keep in touch

LMAO — standard these days, but — Laughing my ass off

LOLH — Laughing out loud hysterically

L8R — obviously this means — Later

RGI — Real good idea

ROTFLUTS — Rolling on the floor laughing unable to speak

RSN — Real soon now

RYT — Are you there?

TGIO — Thank God it’s over

VDE — Very damn early

WTG — Way to go

YGTBKM — You’ve got to be kidding me

YMMV — Your mileage may vary

YYSSW — and my personal favorite, which I learned while looking up text abbreviations for this book — Yeah yeah sure sure whatever

Out in FOUR days:

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Blog / The Craft of Writing

Her and I

I have seen so many mistakes of this kind lately, in three or four different published novels plus several student papers. Probably this is a confirmation bias sort of thing — probably I’ve been sensitized recently so that these errors are leaping out at me more vividly and memorably than usual — but this is a common mistake in both writing and casual conversation. Since I’ve noticed it over and over in the past week or two, I thought I would take time to address it.

“You should vote for Samantha and I for class presidents!”

“That movie was terrifying — it really scared my mother and I!”

“That class is driving students to distraction, including my brother and I.”

In every case, the “I” should be “me” because the pronoun is part of the object of the sentence, not part of the subject. Those faint memories of teachers insisting on the “My mother and I” format are memories of compound subjects — or result from your teacher being clueless about grammar, though I hope that wasn’t the case.

Subjects are he, she, I, and we.

Objects are him, her, me, and us.

If you weren’t using a compound object, the mistake would be blazingly obvious, like so:

“You should vote for I for class president.”

“That movie was terrifying — it really scared I.”

“That class is driving students to distraction, including I.”

You see? Absolutely, obviously wrong. The quick and easy way to check, therefore, is to take the other person out of the sentence and see if you still want to use “I.” If not, then you should use “me” — even when you include the other person.

If this is something you can’t yet do reliably by feel, then I suggest you do a global search for “and I” and check every single usage in your manuscript.

A related error is this:

“Please keep that secret between you and I.”

Between is a preposition. You wouldn’t say to someone, “My brother was born two years after I.” When a pronoun comes after a preposition or is used as part of a prepositional phrase, it’s objective.

The correct version is: “Please keep that secret between you and me.”

“Between you and I” is so common that probably you can get away with it. Which is to say, as a writer, you can get away with it in dialogue when the character is speaking casually, but not when your character is an English professor or someone who normally speaks in a formal manner. Grayson Lanning, for example, would never say “between you and I.” If your character is supposed to be a pedant or formal, then you as the author need to be able to put formally correct phrases into that character’s mouth in order to encourage reader buy-in.

Similarly, you can get away with more errors in a novel that is written in an informal, light style than in high fantasy.

So when you see a discussion about grammar that says, Oh, whatever, it doesn’t matter, most people accept “between you and I,” you need to understand that in your life as an author, this just isn’t true. Your understanding of what is formally correct matters a lot because it increases the range of characters you can write believably and the overall range of styles in which you can write.

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A battle between series’ main characters —

I missed this back in 2015, but just spotted it via Twitter: Dabwaha Debate: Magic vs Hidden Legacy

It’s funniest if you’re familiar with both the Kate Daniel’s series and the Hidden Legacy series, so it’s great I only spotted it today since I only read the latter series last year. Actually, I’m not sure which series is my favorite! I liked the Hidden Legacy series a lot, much better than I thought I would from the back cover description. I would gladly go on with it, but I’m not sure Ilona Andrews has any plan in that direction.


Rogan: It is clear that hero and heroine of the books should lead by example. You didn’t get together until fourth book, you are now on book eight and you have yet to finalize your commitment. We are questioning your moral integrity.

Curran: You are not married. You are not even together. You just have this instalust thing going.

Kate: Yes, you are just “forced together” by “Circumstance” so you can make out in public. Your moral integrity seems to be situational. Also, last time I checked, exhibitionism isn’t exactly a behavior people should imitate.

Nevada: It was one time. Your werelion broke into your apartment. And you physically brawl throughout the series.

Kate: You billionaire kidnapped you and chained you to the floor. If you need some self-defense pointers, I’ll be happy to teach you after the debate.

Nevada: Coming from a woman who by her own admission couldn’t hit a barn with a bullet, that’s not much of an insult. I can help you with that.

Kate: I can hit a barn with a bullet.

Nevada: How?

Kate: I’ll just have to throw it.

Rogan: You only have two books left.

Curran: No, you only have two books left. We have three.

Nevada: We are under contract for two more books and unlike the two of you, we’re not going to drag it out and toy with people’s emotions.

That’s a bit from the middle. Click through, obviously, to read the whole thing. Then you can decide who wins. I think . . . I will have to read this debate again before deciding.

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Nominating for the World Fantasy Award

So, the ballot for the World Fantasy Award arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

I have no idea what to nominate. If I can’t think of enough stuff to nominate, I’ll just toss the ballot. But first, I thought I’d ask you all for recommendations.

What novels were published in 2017 that you would like to see nominated for the WFA this year? (Besides mine. Those I remember quite well.)

Did you read any 2017 short fiction that you really liked and would like to see nominated? I can think of just a few novellas — Martha Well’s Murderbot, which I’m a bit uncomfortable with because it was SF and not fantasy; and Bujold’s latest Penric novella, which I liked a lot. What am I forgetting? I feel like there was at least one more novella I really liked.

What about short stories, anything I should check out quickly? Collections?

It looks like CJC still has not received a Life Achievement Award, so I’ll nominate her. It says here that nominees should be at least 62 years old, which I hadn’t realized, but according to Wikipedia, CJC is over that age, so that’s fine.Anybody else I should think of for that?

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Can slick marketing sell bad books?

As if there’s any question. Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m looking at you. Though that wasn’t slick marketing, was it? It was just a straight up offer of porn in the guise of something permissible to read in public.

Here’s a post from James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: Can Slick Marketing Sell Bad Books?

Herein he discusses a publishing phenomenon that predates Fifty Shades by fifty years but did basically the same thing, only it was a deliberate joke from top to bottom. I’d never heard of it. Here’s a bit of the story — click through to read the whole thing if you’re interested —

A Newsday reporter by the name of Mike McGrady, over drinks with some pals, posited that a novel with no social value and even less literary quality could sell, if it was about sex and had a titillating cover. …To prove it, he got a couple dozen of his newsroom colleagues (19 men and 5 women, including two Pulitzer Prize winners) to conspire to write a lurid tome. The simple concept was a housewife having a series of adulterous flings, one per chapter. … The conspirators wrote one chapter each, trying their darndest not to make the writing too good.

McGrady edited each chapter, blue-penciling anything even approaching a modicum of literary quality. … He then submitted it to publisher Lyle Stuart, known for “edgy” books. They accepted it (not knowing it was a hoax) and proceeded to design a salacious cover.

When Naked Came the Stranger hit the stores, the reviewers hit back. The Village Voice said the book was “Of such perfectly realized awfulness that it will suck your soul right out of your brainpan and through your mouth, and you will happily let it go.”

It became an instant bestseller.

Well, at least this is evidence that the success of Fifty Shades isn’t due to the modern degradation of American culture.

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We live in an SF world —

Anybody notice this?

Permitted 3D printed home made in less than 24 hours for less than $4000

Now, I grant you, “house” is a strong term for a teensy little structure that is even smaller than my house, which is pretty small. Here’s a picture:

And here’s a description:

The production version of the printer will have the ability to print a single story, 600-800 square foot home in under 24 hours for less than $4,000. As a part of this effort, ICON has developed cutting-edge materials tested to the most recognized standards of safety, comfort and resiliency and is designed to function with nearly zero waste production methods and work under unpredictable constraints (limited water, power, and labor infrastructure) to tackle housing shortages.

Six hundred square feet! Here’s Chuck Wendig’s wonderful post “An open letter to tiny-house hunters:”

Austerity sounds virtuous. And for some people, it is the thing that motivates them, it is a part of who they are. For the rest of us, not so much. Fad diets often ask you to sacrifice things to which you’ve grown accustomed — and often things your body actually needs — under the auspices of getting healthy. …

Tiny house living will be like this. It’s good for some. Single people in particular — I mean, hey, they do it in New York (usually because they have to, though, not because they want to). But for the rest of us, while we may find some value in paring down and cutting the wheat from the chaff, a tiny house may be a bridge too far. No, we don’t need to live in 3,000 square feet, but we also don’t need to live in an airless, soul-crushing box. Many of us will find joy in having a little leg room when we’re sitting on a toilet, or having a place to put our stuff, or having a table at which we dine instead of standing around holding plates and staring at each other. Many of us like having separate rooms instead of BATHROOM-KITCHENS. It isn’t that romantic having a refrigerator that’s also a toilet, or a bed that’s also a bathtub.

I suppose there’s no intrinsic reason one couldn’t build a bigger (though still single-story) house as repeated modules.

Big or small, though, printing a house, wow. Three-D printing is definitely science-fictiony and getting more so all the time.

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We live in an SF world

Have you seen this?

Walmart just filed a patent for robot bees amid ongoing battle with Amazon

Although entertaining, I will just add that more than 20,000 species of bees have been described and named, including thousands of species that are actually native to the Americas, which honeybees are not. Honeybees have outcompeted and restricted the ranges of many native bees, just as imported starlings have outcompeted and restricted the ranges of native grackles. In my lifetime, grackles have become much less common than they used to be, which is a pity because not only are they native to North America, they are much, much prettier than starlings.

But back to bees.

The peculiar concern over the world starving for lack of honeybees is probably not quite the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s right up there in the top ten. Especially since all cereal grains are grasses and all grasses are wind-pollinated.

But, true, bees are important pollinators for lots of flowers and crops that are animal-pollinated. This is an orchard bee, Osmia lignaria:

By an amazing coincidence, orchard bees are pretty often found in orchards — along with about a hundred other species of bees — where they do a good job pollinating fruit trees.

Many native bees are better, more efficient pollinators than imported honeybees. Offhand I would expect that establishing populations of native bees where people want them would be much cheaper and more effective than building millions of robot bees. Of course, supporting populations of native bees might require reducing the population of honeybees … oh, wait, natural causes seem to be helping out with that.

Next time you have the chance, you might go stand next to a flowering crabapple for a while and just watch to see what bees and other insects appear. Out here in the country where none of my neighbors are going out of their way to help honeybees crush native bees, I’ll easily see a dozen species of bees in a few minutes, plus syrphid flies. My favorite bees are the tiny metallic green ones. There are lots of even tinier black ones too.

While Wal-mart may want to come up with new technologies to develop, robot bees may not be the very best choice.

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And Cake! / Blog

Cheesecake-filled Chocolate Cupcakes

March 12th was my dad’s birthday. He turned 84, and since he can no longer travel at all comfortably, my mother arranged for two of his brothers and sisters-in-law to drive up (six hours!) and surprise him with a bit more of a party than he’d been expecting. We all had a good time and heard quite a few stories about Dad’s misspent youth and the various shenanigans he and his brothers used to get up to.

Of course I could have made Dad a cake, but I had a birthday card waiting to be used that said on the front “Watch out for birthday ninjas” and on the inside “They’ll sneak up on you like regular ninjas, but with cupcakes.”

Well, with a card like that, of course I had to make cupcakes. And what better cupcakes than chocolate cupcakes with cheesecake in the middle?

There is nothing the slightest bit unusual about this recipe, versions of which are floating around all over the internet. The cake part is basically a one-bowl chocolate cake, so nothing could be easier. They should rise fine even without eggs. They are not especially attractive as cupcakes go, but what with the cheesecake centers, they don’t need to be lovely in order to be the hit of any birthday party. This recipe makes about thirty cupcakes and believe me, that is not too many.

Okay, so, here we go:

Cheesecake-filled Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 C flour
2 C sugar
2 tsp baking soda.
1 tsp salt
2/3 C cocoa powder. I used about ¼ C black cocoa powder and the rest regular, which yielded wonderfully moist cupcakes with a nice chocolate flavor. Black cocoa powder isn’t acid enough to react with baking soda, which might be a concern in some cake recipes, but not in this one because of the vinegar. The baking soda will react with the vinegar no matter what kind of cocoa you use.
2 C water
2/3 C vegetable oil
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1/3 C sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1 C mini chocolate chips. Various recipes either don’t call for chocolate chips in the filling or use regular-sized chocolate chips. Without going into long-drawn-out raptures about how wonderfully my cupcakes turned out, I suggest mini chocolate chips.

Okay, I suggest you make the filling first so that it’s ready when you want it. Combine all the filling ingredients. Make it as far ahead as convenient and chill it until you’re ready to fill the cupcakes.

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat two minutes or so. Either spray the heck out of two or three muffin pans or put paper cups in them and spray the inside of the cups. Spoon a generous amount of the batter into 30 cupcake cups, filling them about halfway or a little more. Spoon a Tbsp or so of filling into each cup. Spoon a little more cupcake batter over each to completely cover the filling. Bake at 350 degrees or 20-25 minutes. Mine were done at 20 minutes and looked a little overbaked around the edges, but they weren’t overbaked at all, so I think that might have been the black cocoa powder making them look a little more baked than they were. You could probably stick a toothpick in them to check, but it’s usually pretty clear when cupcakes are baked. When they look done and feel done to a fingertip, they’re done. Cool eight or ten minutes and remove to racks to cool completely.

Now, try to exercise patience. These cupcakes are better completely cool because the cheesecake center is better cool. Refrigerate to store, and I will add that these particular cupcakes are excellent directly out of the fridge and don’t need to be brought to room temp before serving.

You may be wondering whether to use paper cups, so I will add that I baked half in a generously sprayed pale-colored muffin pan and half in a dark-colored muffin pan with lightly sprayed paper cups and they all worked. Not a single cupcake tore. The ones baked without the paper cups were prettier; the ones baked in paper cups rose higher and then tended to collapse a bit in the middle as the cheesecake filling shrank. It’s possible this difference was a function of the color of the pans, which is why I mentioned the color. All the cupcakes were equally tasty and I was quite sad when they were gone.

In my opinion, frosting is completely 100% supererogatory for these cupcakes, but hey, I’m not a big frosting fan anyway. If you’re the sort of person who feels frosting would enhance these cupcakes, you’re probably also the sort of person who already knows what kind of frosting you plan to use on them.

Either way, enjoy!

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