Make Believe Faces in Make Believe Places

When I was first designing my Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning–under a different name, mind you–I had maps drawn and things labeled.  I had a location in the middle of Maine for the school, towns that the students could visit, and interesting things that could be done in and around the area–which, to be honest, was pretty much all wilderness.

During the process of transplanting my Salem school into another world, I started thinking, “Having it in Maine makes no sense.  But where can I put it so it’s close to Salem?”  Fortunately for me Goggle Maps exist, and I found the perfect place:  the middle of Cape Ann, a small island where the town of Gloucester is located.  I could come up with all sorts of interesting ways to keep the school hidden–after all, what’s the point of writing about a huge, world-encompassing organization if they can’t hide a large group of buildings in plain sight?–and, if I set my mind to it, I could make the school bigger.  Much bigger.

That’s where I got into Blender and began doing a little three dimensional modeling.  I came up with a whole new layout for the school, while keeping the central area–The Pentagram, the Coven Towers, and the Great Hall–all right where they belonged.  So I started thinking big–really big.  And a whole new school was created out of the old.

It's real enough--you just have to look hard and think of it that way.

It’s real enough–you just have to look hard and think of it that way.

Constructing a model of the school and the tunnels that run under the school took weeks.  In actuality, I probably tweaked this model for a few months–in fact, the labels you see in the picture above were put there last month, and this included labels I put on one of the cross-country race tracks–the Green Line–so when people say, “He lost it in the Northwest Passage”, I know where it’s at.

How big is the school  The Great Hall is 175 meters from the north end of the library to the main entrance at the south.  That’s 574 feet if you don’t do the whole metric thing.  That means The Pentagram is much larger–each of the walls between the towers are between 220 meters (722 feet) to 240 meters (787 feet).  And yet when you look at this structure, it fits nicely inside the walls.  From the north Polar Tower to the southern wall next the Gloucester Entrance it’s about 5.5 kilometers (or 3.4 miles), and a good part of the school is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) across.  Like I said, it’s a big place with room to move.

Now that I had a place, I was almost ready to start writing the pre-novel, The Scouring.  I just needed to do a little modifying of some of the characters . . .

All of the characters were developed around a starting 2011 time frame, but a lot of them were teaching back in the year 2000, the time of The Scouring.  Not only there, but a few of the current teachers in the work in progress were students.  So you know what was needed?  Time lines.

Ask and you shall have to make your own.

Ask and you shall have to make your own.

As you can see, I know that Erywin, Jessica, Madeline, and Ramona were teaching in 2000, and that Isis, Deanna, and Wednesday–who work at the school in the current novel–were students then.  I also see that Coraline came in as the school doctor on 30 April, 2000–the day after the time of the Scouring.  This is where a time line comes in handy:  it lets you know what people did went, particularly if you’re working on multiple story arcs.  And you also see just about when all the main characters–and a few side characters–were students.  The nice thing here is that Aeon Timeline allows you to export part or all of a time line as an image, and then you can insert that image into a Scrivener file.  So if you don’t want to have two programs up at the same time, just bring in your time line and view it when you feel it’s needed.

Now, one last thing, and it’s about my characters.  I’m an old role playing gamer and GM, or Game Master.  I love making characters, and I like to make them as real as I can.  When I started putting the characters for these stories together, I not only did a little bit of history on each, but I assigned a “face” to them, something that, when I’m first starting out with the character development, I get an idea of how they looked.  Sometimes–like I did for Her Demonic Majesty–the faces are of people whose pictures I just find.  And then there are times, like with the character in The Foundation Chronicles, that they sort of become celebrities in their own right.

Here are the people I picked for each of my characters for The Scouring, and I’ll show you were I altered them.

Instructors:

Jessica Kishna, Mistress of Transformation.  She came from a picture I found of an African-American runway model, with a big helping of the wonderful Angela Basset.

Ramona Chai, Self Defense and Weapons.  Ziyi Zhang.

Matthias Ellison, Music and Arts Director.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Madeline Palmescoff, History.  Mary-Louise Parker.

Erywin Sladen, Formulistic Magic.  Joanna Lumley.

Students:

Isis Mossman.  Chloë Sevigny, but with changes.  Since it was stated in The Scouring that her mother was Egyptian, that meant altering her features and complexion slightly.

Deanna Arrakis.  Deanna was difficult because she’s Iraqi, and it took some time to find good pictures of women from Iraq.  Eventually I settled on a combination so that she has a slightly large nose, a strong chin, large brown eyes, black hair, and a slightly tanned complexion.

Wednesday Douglas.  Here I went totally meta, because I literally came up with the actress first.  That actress is . . . Christina Ricci.  And who is Christina known for playing?

"Why am I dressed like someone's going to die?"  "Wait."

“Why am I dressed like someone’s going to die?”  “Wait.”

There you have it:  Wednesday Douglas, who will have a daughter named Tuesday and a granddaughter named Friday.  And who is one of the best little witches to come out of Salem in a long time.  She doesn’t have pigtails, though.  She hates them.  Now you know why.

And lastly, Supporting Characters:

Helena Lovecraft.  She’s a Kiwi, so I wanted a Kiwi as her “face”, which means I picked Lucy Lawless.  she’s gone through a lot of changes, however:  I kept the body and her intense look, made her half-Māori, darkened her hair and complexion, and gave her “black shark’s eyes”.  All and all, I have always loved Helana, and I have her back story with Erywin, her partner and companion, thought out and down pat.  One day Erywin will even tell Kerry about how she met her “pretty girl”.

Coraline Gallagher, the new School “Nurse”.  Coraline is modeled after Christina Hendricks, thought the young character that Wednesday meets is more like Yo-Saf-Bridge from Firefly (with red hair, naturally) and not Joan Holloway from Mad Men, the person Annie and Kerry meet.  This is also why when “Red” meets Coraline–as she likes to call him–for the first time he doesn’t know how to describe her except as “curvy”, which is his way of being polite.  Coraline is a huge romantic and a hell of a fighter–I still have to publish that except of her and Madam Chai going at it–and Kerry doesn’t know it yet, but he and Nurse Coraline share a birthday.  There is a reason for that . . .

Now that we have all that out of the way, tomorrow I can get into outlining a small novel.

The big one comes after that.

It’s No Game

There has been a lot of playing around the last couple of days, and some yelling on the phone as well.  Why would one be yelling on the phone?  Because there’s someone on the other end who isn’t listening, that’s why.  That’s all short-term nonsense, however, and I expect things to go back to some semblance of normal by the end of the week.

Or a black hole will open and suck me into another dimension.  Anything’s possible at this point.

There’s been a lot of thinking going on between writing.  Most of said thinking isn’t about the new story, because I know what’s happening with that, and since I’ve mind mapped the story and I know the ending, all that is required is getting the middle parts written.  I’m into the sexy bits now, and while I’m only doing a thousand words a night, it’s fun getting into that stuff.  Right now I don’t feel like doing more than a thousand a day, but the end is already in my head, and I’m guessing that the totally erotic stuff happening now is going to be good for another three, four thousand words.

There’s the nagging feeling that I want to get into another story, a different story, soon.  I know I want to edit Replacements so I can get it ready for publishing, because the writing’s complete, it only needs a cover and some polishing and then it’s off to be self-published for fame and glory.  Sure, that’s why I’m a starving artist, don’t you know?

Beyond that–well, I’m thinking of getting Couples Dance out and starting the work on that as well.  Despite my emails I’ve heard nothing from the publisher that wanted a look at the manuscript, and I have to guess they’re either not interested, or they’ve went belly up.  Now that story, it’s a strange one.  If I can get that published alongside Replacements and Her Demonic Majesty, that’s three out of the four titles I set as a goal for this year, and it means there is still the possibility I can make Number Four happen before the end of the year.

There is the feeling, though–I want to do something science fictiony again.  Yes, I have science fiction stories that I could either write or edit for publishing, but I want to get back out into space.  I want to do something that is adventurous.  I don’t know why I’ve had this feeling kicking me about the back of my mind of late, but when I’m looking at the desktop of my computer I see my 3D rendering programs, and I want to get into one and start playing about with ship designs and the such.

I want to jump back into the sci fi game.  I want to do something that’s fun–maybe a bit of space opera wrapped up in some seriousness.  I want to do it and keep it “short” and see if it touches my mind.  I even have a character that would be perfect for this sort of story–

Maybe it’s time to pull her out and give her a run at the readers.

 

Tales Beyond the Table

With the latest novel out of the way, it was time to get into another book and getting some information together for someone to design a cover for said story.  There wasn’t a lot to do–well, maybe I’m being modest, because there was a lot of hunting for information, and a bit of cutting and pasting, to get the final document in order.  As it was, I passed off about two thousand words of useful information–I hope.

So that’s off to the printer, so to speak.  Probably going to get into another edit tonight:  I want to shape up Replacements, and there’s a chapter I need to write to have the story make a little more sense–I’m putting in some dumb character building, I know, why do I need that shit?  Because I do, that’s why.  The story will get edited, then I’ll put in another requests for a cover . . .

April will see a lot of work towards publishing.  But I’ve got other things going as well.

In the last week I’ve had two role playing games reviews published.  These aren’t new reviews, and they aren’t new games; I originally published them on another site a few years back, and sort of let them sit.  Since they weren’t doing much in the way of traffic, I offered them to someone to post on their site after I gave them a bit of a polish, ’cause lets face it, I see mistakes much better these days.  If you are interested in reading the reviews, the are for the games Diaspora and Eclipse Phase.  Enjoy.

I don’t game much these days.  Actually, I don’t game at all; it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done any serious gaming, and while I’m always ready to jump into something, I’ve encountered the problem of either not finding a game I like, or not finding a group I like.  Both can be a problem, because if you are in a game that’s not your style, or you’re gaming with assholes, the urge to play goes right down the toilet in short order.

Yet I still pick up games now and then.  Why?  Simple answer:  they can be fodder for ideas.

There was a time when the games I ran were my stories.  Trust me:  run a role playing game every other weekend for two years, and you’ll develop a sense for story, for metaplots, and for characters.  You play in their world, but you make it your own:  you build most everything off the structure, then make your cast of characters, direct the action so your players have something interesting to do.

I did this for a couple of decades, and it helped me understand what sort of work it takes to be a storytelling.  I prided myself on my games, and I pride myself on the tales I write these days.

As for these games I still buy . . .

One can find inspiration from anywhere.  One of my first completed long stories took place in a game universe, one that I knew intimately   It could be argued that I was writing fan fiction even though the character throughout the story were entirely mine, but I won’t argue the point.  It was a good exercise for me, and my only regret is that this particular story is lost to me, vanished on a hard drive failure.  Doesn’t me I couldn’t rewrite the story from scratch today, because you always remember your first novella . . .

I hear you out there, however:  so you’re still buying game to steal ideas, is that it?  Inspiration can come from anywhere, as my muse Erin would tell you.  If you find something in a paragraph of a supplement that gets the mental gears cranking, then good for you, because working your imagination is a great thing–maybe one of the greatest things a person can achieve.

Besides, Quentin Tarantino has found inspiration this way for a couple of decades, and some call him a genius.

I already am one, so the calling should come easy . . .

In the Glen of Semi-active Awareness

Oh, such is the aftermath of sleeping with the Luna Moth.  I make it through the night without waking at some ridiculous time of the morning, but the next day forces you to deal with the hangover for many, many hours.  It’s never fun; in fact, it can be a dangerous thing when you’re out on the highway surrounded by idiots–as I’ll be this afternoon.

At the moment I’m trying to analyze business intelligence software–always a fun thing–and write this.  I’m sort of failing at both ends, because my body is revolting against me, saying, “No, you can’t make your fingers move that way, because it feels funny to us.”  Also, these companies don’t want to give me a quote on their software:  the want me to try it first.  I don’t want to try it, I just want to know how much of my money you’re going to take.  There is no “try”, there is only, “How much, Bunky?”

Since I didn’t write anything last night–I was on Skype with my therapist, and by the time that was through I was inching into ten PM territory–I did polish up an old game review and sent it off to the guy who’d asked me about them the other night.  Yes, I found some errors; yes, I did rewrite part of it because it felt very clumsy in some areas.  Mostly I rewrote things because I know how now to tell the same tell better, and I want to see things looking nice and shiny before I send them out into the Interwebs again.

One of the things I’ve seen over the years is how good some of the stuff I wrote three, four, five years back is today.  It’s not perfect, but it’s readable in a good way.  I still get ideas across; I still manage to make the right points; I still manage to let what passes for “my humor” present itself upon the page.

What I’m saying it the writing was good, and it was something of which I am proud.

In fact, I was just looking over another review I did in 2011, and while there are a few issues here and there, I have no problems with it.  Sure, a clean up is in order, and I might have to correct something were I to republish it because a few things have changed since the original publication, but it’s not as if I need to perform massive triage to get it presentable.  It is . . . good.

If the two reviews I sent in are deemed worthy, them I’m probably going to send a few of these other things that I penned.  I’m also looking and publishing some–wait for it–new articles, because I’d once made the promise to do so, and I should follow through, should I not?  I was even looking at some research material because that’s what I do, even if I don’t want to write.  But since I likely will, the reading came in handy.

The plan is to finish Suggestive Amusements this weekend or early next week–but that doesn’t mean I won’t write something else in the meantime.

After, every little bit helps.

Options of Light and Darkness

The end is approaching.  Not that we should be sad about that, because the end I mention is the end of my current work in progress.  The penultimate chapter has started, and people are talking about what had happened up to this point.

This is the chapter I’ve been thinking about for a while, so it came easy to setting up the meeting between Erin and–lets call her one of her bosses, a member of the upper Goddess echelon that has come to sit with Erin and find out just what in the hell is going on.  I’ve imagined the conversation for some times, and when I was writing last night the idea was coming out on to the page well.

We’ll see where it goes tonight when I continue Goddess Chat.

There was something else going on while I was writing, however, because if nothing else, I multitask like mad.  I was chatting with someone I know, someone who I’ve written things for in the past, and whom has enjoyed my writing.  As I was working through my chapter I was also working through a discussion of some articles I’d written some time back, and the comments that came my way were sort of like, “Hey, you ever going to write any more of these?”

There was a time when I was writing a lot of different things.  For a while I was doing game reviews on another website, and writing a few articles for another site, all of which occurred while I was blogging and working on my first completed novel.  It was a lot of fun, and it helped me develop my talent as a writing, and even more as a researcher and editor.

But all good things come to an end, as it is said.  I was doing all this writing when I was “between jobs”, as the saying goes, and I had a lot of time to put pen to computer.  Then I found a job, I had to move, I had to find time to write while I had spare time, and with spare time at a premium, I found that if I wanted to work on my stuff, I had to cut other things out of my life.

Ergo, no more articles.

But there is another saying:  nothing that dies ever stays dead.  True, they might only say that in the Marvel Universes, but there is some precedence for that in the real world as well.  When I started thinking about the stuff I’d written once, it made me realize that, hey, that stuff was pretty good, and it was a lot of fun to write.  And I was reminded that, at one time, I did tell this person that I’d write them another article . . .

Today I pulled out something I’d written nearly two years ago, a game review that I’d put up and sort of left.  I read it, edited it, and sent it off to the person I was speaking with last night, ’cause I told him that reviewing Science Fiction type role playing games is a good thing to do–and there are probably people out there who’ll want to read them.

Does this mean I’m back into doing articles and reviews for other people?  Hard to say.  After all, Jean Grey hasn’t popped up from the dead again–

Yet.

Last Night in Mister Moon’s Drive

I was out last night.  It was another in a long line of visits where I go out, have pizza, chat, and watch shows that either invite snarky commentary about plot holes (Prisoner of Azkaban, why walk back to Hogwatts when someone could have apparated Peter back?  Why not have someone go back and get Dumbledore?  Why not just take Peter to Hogsmeade, which was right next door?  Why did Lupin conveniently forget there was a full moon that night?  Why was the story plot hammered like it was being run by a bad GM?) or something more interesting (like two episodes of Season Two of Sherlock).

Then came the drive back after midnight.  For some reason there was almost no traffic, and my drive home was one of just letting the cruise control do its thing just point the car down the road.  There wasn’t a need to touch the brakes, so I drove and thought . . .

I had a waxing gibbous moon on my left shoulder for most of the drive, and it struck me that this would be my last moonlit drive for 2012.  And it was strange because on so many moonlit drives, I’ve been with characters who have made my stories shine, with ideas that drive me on to produce good stories, and plots that I hope work out once I put them to paper.

I had none of that last night.  It was just me, and a few of my thoughts.  Not that there was anything wrong with that, but as perfect as the night seemed, I really wanted to have someone alongside, sharing the experience.

This is has been a long year, with plenty of ups and downs, things to be remembered and forgotten.  There has been exhilaration and doubt.  Particularly the doubt, which has seemed to increase in the last few weeks.  Don’t ask why, because I don’t know myself.  It’s the way my mind works, and it’s not ways a good thing, that.

The thing about being a writer is there is always doubt.  Is this story good?  Are the characters believable?  Does any of this make sense?  Is the cover nice?  Is this damn thing going to sell?  It’s the nature of the beast, these doubts, because creative people are like that.  Nothing is ever good enough for them; everything is “okay”.  Or, if they are really down on themselves, “not so good”.

Quite honestly, we’re all seconds away from an Admiral Ackbar moment, and it will drive you crazy when all the thoughts of everything bad that could happen to you come knocking.  I had a touch of that last night, then kicked them out of the car because I realize the more negativity you embrace, the longer it stays with you.  That was the problem with my last job:  it was a negative environment, and very little made me happy.

I don’t want negative:  I want happy.

It seemed that once I pushed the bad stuff out of the car, a couple of characters who I hadn’t thought of in some time entered my mind, as if to put me at easy and tell me, “It’s okay, love.  We all go thought this:  you’re no different.”  It was comforting that even someone fictional could bring a smile to my face . . .

Perhaps they needed someone to ride with as well.

Mayhem Most Marvelous

Two chapters to go in Replacements, and it’s surprising how easy it’s been to reach this point.  It’s helped a lot that the last couple of chapters have been very easy to edit, with only the need to change a few things, and adding a phrase here and there.  It’s easy to see that when I wrote this on the first pass, I knew what I wanted to say in these later chapters than I did in the first.

But then I had a better idea of where I wanted the story to go by the time I’d finished the first couple of chapters.  It only makes sense that when I reached then last three chapters, I didn’t have to think about what I was going to write–I only needed it written.

In working this last chapter tonight, I realize that I should do something to the story.  There’s an event that happens at the end, and it takes place in something five paragraphs.  Which makes me wonder:  can a truly horrible event be summed up in under a hundred words?

Why not?

The event that happens, while needed, is not that important that if you never saw it happen, the omission would ruin everything.  If anything, the short scene–the whole chapter is about fourteen hundred words–shows how the person who’s become Olivia will do just about anything to get her way, and while she may feel sorry about what she did, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it again.

In a way, the character who is Olivia is something of a psycho.  She’s kicking ass and burning bridges left and right, and what pisses her off is not the possibility that one may have picked up something strange about her–it’s that she’s enjoying her new role as department head and secret mistress, and woe be to anyone who steps on the toes of her Ferragamos.

I may have given it some thought in the past, but Olivia is probably one of the most screwed up characters I’ve ever done.  She’s not crazy in a Hannibal Lecter way, but once she figures out that she can do pretty much as he pleases, she talks about screwed people up as calmly as she would discuss what sort of polish to use for her pedicure.

When I used to run my World of Darkness Vampire game, there was one character who used to put in an appearance in just about everyone’s game, because when it came to the World of the Undead in Chicago, she was right at the top of the heap of room-temperature bodies.

She was old, powerful, and sometimes referred to as the person who was the historical Helen of Troy.  Since she was so old and powerful, people liked to play her in a very over the top manner, with a lot of histrionics, and beating of breasts.  She was this Amazonian vampire Wonder Woman who no one in their mind would ever cross, because she would hold out your maybe-beating heart for you to see if she was of that mood.

Naturally, I had her show up for a few secessions.  When the players meet her, what do they get?  A very short woman, about five foot without heels, somewhat dark, olive tone skin, black hair, dark eyes, and a physique that might lead you to believe she could lift her body weight–if she were lucky.

This was the same character, the old vampire killer to end all killers.  And she looked like you wouldn’t notice her twice if you ran into her at a local Micky-Ds.

I was questioned about why she looked the way she did.  I was able to justify her appearance on that fact that if she really were from Greece, circa 1,000 BCE, then the whole idea of having a six foot tall plus woman running about the city was ludicrous.  Skin tone, hair, eyes–pretty much the standard for the area.  If she’d been a real lady before turning bloodsucker, then manual labor was totally out of the question, and she probably wouldn’t have had a lot of toning or muscular definition.

But when she–well, I, since I was playing here–spoke, she was calm, has great manners  never once raised her voice or threw a tantrum.  I was ready for that, too.  “If you’re a poseur badass,” I explained, “you have to constantly show everyone so they don’t forever.  If you’re a true badass, though . . . you never have to show anyone what you can do.  They just know.”

And . . . they’re never bothered if they have to kill everyone in a room if they don’t get the first lesson.  You should have known, you dumb shits, that you don’t mess with Death in High Heels . . .

That’s the way Olivia is shaping up.  Killing people is just a thing, and if it’s gonna be done, then get it done.  She’s turning into a sweet badass without having to tip her hand to everyone.

She’s pretty sweet.  I should write more like her.