The Visions of the Road Ahead

You know it’s going to be a long day when I’m drinking coffee in the afternoon.

Working on a program and being up about four-thirty AM that morning put a thump on my head, and by one in the afternoon I was getting a cuppa, because I knew I was going to crash and burn if I didn’t.  I made it through the afternoon, and I did so with a plan . . .

When I got home I waited for traffic to die down a little–I usually finish my walk from work by four-thirty PM, so it’s still rush hour out there–then I went out for a little shopping.  I picked up a few things I needed, then headed over back across the river to the West Bank–as I’ve heard people at work call it–and hit my favorite Panera.  I picked up a flatbread, some soup, and a smoothie.  Oh, and I fired up my computer and pulled up something writing related, because if you aren’t writing you’re thinking about something writing related, yeah?

I got out my Idea File.

I said yesterday that I needed to start getting serious not just on writing, but on publishing.  If you’re not publishing, you’re writing for yourself, and while that’s cool, I don’t have a problem with others doing that, it’s not what I’m doing.  As a friend of mine posted on her wall the other day, “Some people dream of success, others make it happen.”  Shit, dudes, that’s more true than you can imagine.  If I wanna get those stories out there, they ain’t gonna publish themselves, are they?  Just like my characters aren’t writing the story when I’m sleeping, otherwise my current novel would be finished . . .

But going through the Idea File was more than just deciding what to publish–I had to do something else . . .

The File in all its messy glory.

The File in all its messy glory.

I added a few statuses to the file.  First, I have “Won’t Do”, and that’s pretty self-explanatory.  There are some stories that, while the ideas are, or I should say were, great, I’m probably never going to write that particular tale.  As I read somewhere the other day, being a writer sometimes means having to let go of the past, because you’re beyond that.  On the Out was an idea I actually worked up through the 1990′s as a trilogy, and I really liked it–I even wrote about fifteen thousand words for it.  But it’s dead.  I’m never going there.  I take that back:  I won’t say never, but I don’t think the story would be that good if I wrote the sucker.

And the other two–simply couldn’t do them.  Lorelei’s Lessons actually goes back to the summer of 2011, and I also wrote a few thousand words of that.  But I didn’t feel what I was producing touched me, and I’ve never went back to it.  Which is probably for the best.

So, what did I plan?  Here it is:

Don't look so shocked there's actually something there!

Don’t look so shocked there’s actually something there!

Sometime after I get Act Two almost finished I’m going to start editing Kolor Ijo, which was my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, and the followup to my story Kuntilanak.  Yes–a sequel!  It’s a good novel, a good story with good characters, taking place in Indonesia, a place few people really know.  My plan is to get it done with editing and a cover and have it ready by the end of the year.  Maybe like by the first of December, so all those people looking to blow money on gifts will send a few bucks my way.

Fantasies in Harmonie will come out in March the following year, and it’ll be under a different name ’cause it’s dirty.  As in like there’s a lot of crazy sexy stuff going on.  I gotta come up with a good, sexy, mistressy sort of author name for this stuff, because I do have a few strange erotica tales floating about.  Just ask the people who’ve read them . . .

And last, Suggestive Amusements.  I wrote that damn thing the summer of 2012, before writing Kolor Ijo, when I was doing time in Indianapolis and I truly thought I was going to lose my mind.  I like the story, I like the characters, and I want it out.  It’s as good a story as anything I’ve written, and a change of pace from the other two on the list.

There’s one other status I put up in my file:  “Next”.  As in, “What should I write after this monster I have now is done?”  I’m going for Northern Lights.  This means I can start thinking about the characters and locations and other important stuff like, you know, plot.  That’s my plan, because I would love to write a horror story about three women roaming around Alaska.  I mean, what could go wrong?

One thing I didn’t put here:  I could always publish the various acts of The Foundation Chronicles–A for Advanced, as I’m going along.  That could always come out when you least expect it . . .

There’s my plan, and I’m doing my damnedest to stick to it.  Time to tell the world–

Cassie’s got some stories to sell.

Saying Goodbye to the Death Test

The great thing about blogging is that it becomes, more or less, a historical document for the blogger.  If you keep at your craft, if you’re writing every day, talking about things that may feel important to you, then you can head back whenever the mood strikes and see how you were feeling, say, two years ago on a certain date.  Rereading your entry may trigger a memory of that time, be it good or bad, or you may just scratch your head and think, “What the hell was a yammering about?”

Or, as in the case of the past week, I can see the progress of something I’m writing, know when I began and when I finished.  Usually I’ll talk about a novel I’m working on or publishing–that last hasn’t happened in a while, I need to get cracking on that–but this week, starting last Monday, I’ve discussed a scene I’m working on for Act Two of my current novel–

I should say, “Was working on,” for last night I finished the sucker.  Another thousand words in the bucket, and i finally brought to an end the longest single scene I’ve written for my story.  I’ve had a few scenes creep over five thousand words, and the scene I wrote for my Flight School ran just over ten thousand words, but that one was broken into three individual segments, and the largest single scene in that group was fifty-eight hundred words.

No, I wanted to get this one down as a single, individual scene, and by the time I placed the last word on the last sentence, I was inching close to seven thousand, four hundred words, which meant I was scooting out of short story territory and getting ready to cross the border into Novelette Land.

'Tis but a little thing to write self-contained novelettes inside your novel.  Everyone should do it.

‘Tis but a little thing to write self-contained novelettes inside your novel. Everyone should do it.

Sunday through Friday, I cranked out the scene.  I know this because I’ve blogged about “The Death Test”–or as I labeled the scene, The Walking Tests–because . . . well, not sure.  I think I loved the progressing of what was happening with the scene, and it’s also sort of indicative of the kind of insanity that can pop up at my school in terms of a “lesson” or “test”.  Go ahead and levitate all the feathers you want–after a month in my joint you’ll be given a big stick and told to bash some zombies in the head.

"You think it's fun letting you smack me around with that bokken?  I mean, 'Snarl, arrg'."

“You think I enjoy you smacking me around with that bokken? I mean, ‘Snarl’.  Am I getting paid for this?”

What happened after the kids lost their lunch?  Why . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie didn’t want to see the students behind her. After all they’d done, after the battle Kerry and she had just fought, losing her breakfast in front of everyone took away her pride in their accomplishment. We successfully completed our test, and this is what everyone will remember . . .

“Hey.”

She felt a forehead gently rest upon hers, and an arm lightly wrapped around her shoulder. Annie looked up without raising her head and found Kerry’s gore-smeared face there, his lovely green eyes looking back at her through blood-flecked glasses. “We make a pretty good couple, don’t you think, Sweetie?”

Annie raised her head while keeping it pressed to Kerry’s. “We do, my love—we do.” She turned them so she could place her arm around his back, and in doing so they ended up, arm-around-body, head-to-head, facing their fellow level mates.

She scanned the faces turned towards them. Annie saw so many emotions: disgust and revulsion she understood given the tableau they set upon the mat. Some looks of awe, some of hate—she understood those as well: a few of their level mates would find what they did incredible, and a few would detest them for passing.

There were a few students, however, staring back them with unabashed fear, and Annie completely understood that emotion. These are Normal kids who are still getting the hang of magic—and Kerry and I used our magic in a way they’ve only seen in movies.

And it’s left them unsettled.

Kerry must have seen the same looks and felt the same unease. “I think we scared some of them.”

Annie turned her head just enough to make eye contact. “Good.”

 

As Helena will tell Annie much later, getting a reputation as someone not to trifle with usually keeps you out of trouble.  Blasting zombie homunculi with magic is usually one of those things that’ll keep the other kids from teasing you, because homunculi, human, who gives a shit, you both go down easy like lemonade on a hot summer day.

And nothing say love like hugging your sweetie in front of thirty other kids while you’re both covered in gore.  Did you ever do that, Glenn, huh?  No.  Move on . . .

But how did things get to this point?  What sort of sick, crazy instructor does this sort of stuff?  Well . . .

 

Professor Chai stepped forward. “I agree. Let me clean your glasses, Kerry.” He handed them over without question, and she began working a spell upon them will speaking to the children. “You both did wonderfully. And I was pleased to see you take my advice about playing to your strengths—”

Annie wanted to know more. “What were they, Professor?”

“For one, you—” She nodded towards Annie. “As a Legacy you have an intimate knowledge of magic, and what it can do. You may not know all the spells, or how they work, but you’re aware of the many concepts that bind them together—and you used that to help you both when it was needed.

“And Kerry: you’re learning how to build upon Annie’s knowledge, and you used that to both you’re advantages as well. Plus—” She handed the glasses back to Kerry. “Knowing your opponents and their weaknesses certainly helped your efforts to disable them.”

Now Kerry’s curiosity was peaking. “Professor . . . did you know I knew about those things? Did someone tell you something?”

Professor Chai seemed bemused by the question. “If you’re asking, ‘Did I deliberately modify today’s test to help you due to the advice of a certain seer?’, the answer is no. If, however, the question is, ‘Did I deliberately modify the test based upon something I overheard during last Friday’s Midnight Madness, and thought it could make up for a your lack of coven mates?’, the answer is perhaps.” She laced her fingers together and set her hands before her. “How’s that?”

Kerry was trying hard to remember what she may have overheard, and nearly pushed the thought aside when . . . “Oh. You heard that?”

Annie turned in her chair towards Kerry. “What did she hear?”

Kerry slowly turn in his chair towards Annie. “Last Friday, Emma stopped by and was asking if I had any ideas for costumes for Halloween. I told her I had a couple, and one of the ones I mentioned was from the comic—”

“I don’t remember her stopping by.”

Kerry tilted his head to one side. “She came over when you were in the bathroom—”

Annie’s eyes narrowed just enough to make Kerry a bit nervous. “Oh. I see.”

 

A girl came over to see you, Kerry, while your soul mate was in the bathroom, and you suddenly remember that happening a week later.  You’re lucky you mentioned this after she saved your butt from being eaten by the fake undead.  Don’t worry:  Annie usually doesn’t continue thinking about things like that for long–

Usually.

With everything over, it remains for Geek Boy to put the coda on results of their test:

 

“Thank you, Professor.” Annie pushed her messy hair back from her face as Thebe took hold of her right wrist.

Kerry stood and sheepishly grinned. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

Annie’s radiant smile shone through the drying gore. “Yes, you will.” She vanished with a pop as the nurse teleported them both to the hospital.

Professor Chai tapped Kerry on the shoulder. “You can go shower. You clothes should be here by the time you’re finished.”

“Okay, Professor.” He watched the diminutive instructor saunter on to the mat and begin clearing it of the mess Annie and he made. He glanced over at the remaining students in the room, some of whom were still looking in his direction. He turned back to the spot where Annie had stood less than a minute before—

If only I could tell someone outside school that my girlfriend and I survived a mini zombie apocalypse. He shook his head and grinned. And it was kind of fun . . .

 

It’s a hell of a lot better than a video game, that’s for sure.

The next scene awaits, and I’m certain that Thirty Days Hath September is gonna be shorter than The Walking Tests.  Though, who knows?  The Martian Chronicles was actually a collection of short stories with a similar theme that were bound together and turned into a short novel.

If it worked for Bradbury, maybe it’ll work for this act as well.

Into the Death Test

The night before I complained about how I didn’t seem to have enough time to write and get things done, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  That was the night before, ’cause last night was what I’d call an Enterprise night, because the final word count was 1,701 words, and that’s a registry number that I’ve known all my life.  (True fact:  the Enterprise‘s registration number came from the exact time the planetary cruiser C57-D dropped out of warp and into the Altair system in the movie Forbidden Planet:  seventeen-oh-one hundred hours.)

I was cranking away because I was having fun.  I also had to take a break about 9 PM because my fingers were getting tired.  But still–good time, people.

Now, what were you saying, Annie?  About . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Air.

It was the first day of Spells class, and Annie remembered the object inside the case—a simply action requiring they move it from one end to the other. She did it first, Kerry second. It was easy. And they’d done more of the same since then: moving objects around, side-to-side, and she levitated her spindle because Kerry asked.

The basics of moving small objects was easy for some of the students now—her for certain. Annie figured she could move just about any object—

Like air.

Air was a substance that had pressure, that occupied space. It could be heated and cooled. It could be compressed and—

Moved.

She now watched the homunculus advance on her slowly, not with fear but with growing curiosity. Air is an object, and you can use it in a spell, just like Air Hammer. You can used it against another thing or person. She stared at Kerry, weakening against the homunculus trying to bite him. If I can gather enough air . . .

She dropped the bokken and sprinted towards Kerry.

 

That’s called thinking on her feet–her slightly covered in blood and brains feet, but still . . .

So you get your air and then what?

 

Annie stopped a couple of meters from his head, where he couldn’t see her. She knew she had one, maybe two chances to pull this off, and if it didn’t work—well, it wouldn’t matter, the test would be over in a matter of seconds. She steadied herself, her eyes half-closed, not thinking of the homunculi a few meters from them, or the one trying to get Kerry—there was only the mass of invisible air coming together in front of her, piling up and growing thicker, compressing into a dense mass centimeters from her body. She imagined it, visualized it, and she positioned her right hand directly behind the ball of air she’d crafted. Annie reached for the energy needed to power this Art, waiting for the tremor in her shoulders whenever it came. There . . . All she needed now was her willpower, and the need to reshape the reality around her—

Annie opened her eyes and pushed the ball away from her, hard. The uniform of the homunculus ripped as if in a strong breeze as it fell away from Kerry.

 

Magic in this world is all about Visualization, Energy, and Willpower–VEW as Wednesday once said.  It’s a matter of having a good imagination and seeing the effects once you power it up.  But that willpower:  you need it to Craft your Art, to reshape reality.  If you can’t believe you can do it, then you won’t.

And then, sometimes, you gotta convince someone else they need to do it, too:

 

She rushed in and grabbed him by the arm. “Come on.” She helped him scramble to his feet, as he was having difficultly getting up. Annie guided him away while he was still in a half crouch, as the two homunculi were only a meter away by this time. After three stepped he was upright and keeping up with her as they ran to within a meter of the red line. Only once there did she step in front of him and hold his head in her hands. “Are you all right?”

Kerry fought for air, wheezing with each breath. “Yeah, I’m . . .” He exhaled hard, nodding. “I’m good, I’m good.”

Annie didn’t have time for Kerry to recuperate completely from his battle: there was too much to say, and not a lot of time. She only hoped he was cognizant enough to understand her idea. “Kerry, I need you to listen to me.”

He nodded again, but his head was bowed and he was looking at the floor. “I hear . . .”

“Kerry, listen to me.” He raised his head and looked directly at her. “Air. It can be used.”

His breath had slowed and there was attentiveness in his eyes. “Is that how you got that thing off me?”

“Yes. I crafted a ball of air and compressed it, then threw it at the homunculi.” Her eyes brightened as she saw how Kerry understood almost immediately. “We can use this to fight.”

 

This test, as I put it together, was all about team work.  First it was all about getting together and bashing zombie skulls, but then you find yourself in a position where you learn something new and you figure out how to use it to your advantage.  And when when you brainstorm in the middle of your test:

 

She nodded once. “There’s a spell: Air Hammer. It uses air as a weapon, forcing your opponent off balance or even hurting them.” She gave him a slight grin. “We can do the same thing. We can use it to fight these things.”

“Keep knocking them around, maybe lean to get a few shots at the head.” He stared of into space for a couple of seconds. “Or . . .”

Annie recognized this look—He has an idea; something to do with magic. He’s gotten this a lot of late. “Yes?”

He continued checking the homunculi as he spoke. “Could you craft this spell to work with a foci?”

She knew how Professor Douglas felt about foci, or at least how she felt about wands. But she’d said once that foci have their place, and they aren’t always a bad thing. And I’m certain Kerry isn’t talking about wands . . . “Yes, you could. Why?”

“Instead of creating balls of air to throw around—” He raised the jō and ran his hand along the pole near one end. “What if you put them here? Then you have . . .” He chopped downward with the jō. “Leverage.”

Annie smiled as she understood Kerry’s line of thought. “That localizes the effect, makes for a better weapon.” She looked over her shoulder at the bokken lying two meters away. “A cutting weapon.”

“It might just be.” Kerry checked on the homunculi, then quickly looked to his right. “Look, we could just step over the red line and be done with this, or . . .” He nodded towards the bokken. “Or we can give you idea a try.” His face broken into an enormous grin. “Personally, I’m all for trying you idea.”

“It’s your idea as well.” Annie scooted over and retrieved the bokken. “I’d like to try it, too.”

Kerry raised his jō. “Go on; I got your back.”

 

You got your ideas, you know how to craft your Art, there are zombies still shambling about on the field–time to get to work–

 

Bokken in hand, Annie slowly advanced on the homunculus, now only three meters away. She knew, as when she saved Kerry, that she’d have but one chance, maybe two, to craft this spell, but she was more confident this time that her Art was correct, that the spell would come off flawlessly.

She visualized air wrapping around the tip of the bokken, forming an invisible blade, one turned thin and sharp on the side facing away from her. She saw it in her mind becoming firm, a dangerous addition to her wooden sword.

A meter and a half away she stopped. Annie allowed the homunculus two step more, then she raised the bokken over her head and slashed into its skull with a strong blow.

It wasn’t the hardest Annie could hit, but with the magic used it wasn’t necessary. The homunculus’ skull split cleanly down the middle, with fake blood and brains spraying out along the lines of the cut and catching her in the hand, arm, and chest. She flinched but remained on her feet, while the homunculus crashed to the mat in a bloody heap.

Annie didn’t hear the gasps, groans, and yelps from the students on the sidelines: the only thing important to her was the now-still creature at her feet. She turned to Kerry, grinning broadly. “Do you know what to do?”

He held the jō ready. “Oh, I think so.”

She nodded towards the approaching homunculus on his left. “Your turn.”

 

–To some really bloody-ass work.  And now they’re having fun:  “Hey, I killed this one, let me see you do one!”

He doesn’t disappoint:

 

Kerry closed his eyes for a few seconds, getting the visuals in his head before heading towards his target. He knew the form he sought: with the jō there was little doubt what sort of magic he’d craft around the long pole. He took his time covering the four meters between him and the homuncuWalkers, then drew the jō back like he was carrying a bat.

“Okay, you . . .” He began his swing, but released his right hand and continued the follow through with his left. His swing was low and upward, and he caught the homunculus in the left shoulder. A large chunk of flesh and uniform flew up an away; Kerry drew back for another swing, and this time his attack was high and level, catching the homunculus just below the jaw line and severing the head three-quarters of the way from the neck with blood shooting outward in a flat arc, catching Kerry as it went down. He turned to Annie with a semi-bloody grin. “I’ll get this last one.”

 

Two down, two to go, and now Little Miss Dark Witch wants to get her kicks in another way:

 

Annie nodded and advanced on the fourth homunculus, only a few meters from her. She let the bokken slip from her hand because she wanted to do something different this time. She understood what she could do with a weapon, but she wanted to see what she could do with a different kind of magic . . .

She began crafting her air bubble, but this time she pulled in a little of the dark energy that was often used to fuel more potent sorcery. This was something Annie had worked with before in small quantities, and it didn’t shock her to feel the different surge of power that came with these spells.

She powered it into her bubble of air and held it before her good hand. She stopped just short of two meters from the homunculus, then willed everything into a tight, compressed sphere and pushed it into her target—

The spell powered through the torso, tearing away the shirt and part of the jacket and boring into the body. The head and shoulders pitched forward towards her as the body came apart with a loud squishing sounds and fell in pieces to the mat. Nearly all of Annie’s upper body and head was covered in blood and goo . . .

And directly across from her stood Kerry, looking much the same, having caught the aftermath of her attack as it tore through the homunculus. Seeing him holding the jō straight out as it was, Annie realized he must have raised it for protection, and whatever effect he’d used on his last attack tore off the head of her homunculus.

They’d both ripped it apart.

Kerry looked down at the gore covering his shirt, then tried to wipe it off his glasses. He looked at Annie with a strange, unfocused stare, then dropped his weapon, turned away, and vomited.

Oh, Kerry— Given everything she’d experience—the smell, the blood, the gore of the last minute—and now this, Annie couldn’t prevent her stomach from protesting. She lowered her head and vomited what remained of her breakfast as well.

 

Kids these days:  how you gonna survive the Zombie Apocalypse if you can’t keep your breakfast down?  Don’t you know that’s always the start of a good day?

"This is not fun.  On TV everyone drinks and has sex when they aren't running for their lives."

“This is not fun. On TV everyone drinks and has sex when they aren’t running for their lives from the undead.”

Now, tonight, all I need to do is put the finishing touches on the scene, and she’s in bed.  Which means when I finish this scene it’ll probably be the longest one in the story that’s all one, continuous scene, without little breaks in the action here and there.  It’ll also be pretty much around seven thousand words.

Would you like a short story with your novel?

Would you like a short story with your novel?

But it only makes sense that this is a long scene, because today and tomorrow are, for Annie and Kerry, the most important twenty-four hours of their lives . . .

Enter the Death Test

The problem with being able to write for a few hours every night–and about thirty minutes in the morning–is that you have these long, detailed scenes you want to get out right away, but you can’t because you’re only able to produce about twelve hundred words a day, or there about, in about two, three hours time.  There’s distractions, things to look up, people to chat with . . .

Sort of like the scene I’m working on now:  I want to get it through it so much, but I can’t because–well, it’s a big scene.  How big?  Right now I’m at forty-four hundred and fifty words, and I know I probably need another two thousand or so to cap this spring.  There you go:  you wanna show your kids fighting fake zombies, you toss a short story right at the beginning of your chapter.

And believe me, they’re up to their ankles in trouble.  Well, maybe a little higher than their ankles . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry sidestepped to his left, hooting at the homunculus. “Yo. Hey, geek.” The homunculus turned towards him, grunting as it shambled in his direction. “That’s it, keep looking at me—you’re doing it right . . .” When it was less than three meters away he glanced to his right, nodded, then darted around and a little behind, then struck the creature behind the right knee with his bokken as hard as possible, trying to force it off-balance.

He struck it a second time as Annie ran in and planted her jō square in its chest and pushed it further off-balance with her momentum and strength. It staggered once then fell onto its back with a thud and a snarl, it’s arms lashing out at it tried to roll over and regain its feet.

Annie nodded at Kerry and raised her jō; Kerry did the same with his bokken as he counted down. “Three, two, one—now.” They stuck the skull almost simultaneously, but the worst they did was tear away a large amount of the flesh from the side of the head and face. They both moaned and raised their weapons for another strike. This time there was a loud crack as the skull was broken, but the homunculus continued to move.

Annie’s face was covered in a cold sweat. She looked at Kerry and nodded. “Again.” He nodded before they tried one more time to take out their opponent. This time their weapons broke through: the skull shattered with a sickening crunch and whatever was inside to take the place of brains, blood, and other fluids jetted in every direction.

 

And that’s gonna leave a mark–and probably a bit of oohing and aahing from the kids watching on the sidelines.  Plus, you gotta give your instructor extra credit for making your quality kills as realistic as possible.  I mean, either that, or she’s just twisted as shit and figures you were going to need something to help you sleep tonight–oh, wait:  it’s Friday.  That means it’s the Midnight Madness tonight, the school wide pajama party.  Have fun talking about your zombie kills until midnight, kids!

"And then, I totally smashed that Walker's face right in, and my feet got splattered with gore!  It was like the best time ever!"

“And then, I totally smashed that Walker’s face right in, and my feet got splattered with gore! It was like the best time ever!”

However, the next run doesn’t go off as well:

 

She was, but she didn’t know if he was. He’s winded; he’s still not used to this sort of exertion. “Are you?”

He nodded as he straightened. “Let’s jack these losers and show them who’s boss of this mat.” Kerry grinned at Annie’s eye roll. “Too much?”

“I’d rather we reduce the odds more in our favor.” She readied her jō, a slight grin on her face. “Same as before?”

“Yep.”

“Go, then.”

Kerry broke left while Annie readied herself for the sprint and plant. He quickly reached the homunculus and waved his bokken around to get its attention. Once it was advancing on him, he did as before: when for the knees as Annie sprinted in and knock it over. Kerry whacked it in the back of the knee as Annie shoved her jō in its chest—

Thing didn’t go as planned this time, however.

As Annie’s attack hit home, the homunculus twisted towards Kerry, reaching for him and striking her jō with its left arm. The pole was knocked away, hard, and the force of the strike shoved her to her left. She felt herself going down, and threw out her left arm to help break her fall—

An enormous pain shot up her arm the moment she touched the mat.

 

And that’s never a good thing, either.

Fortunately she has a partner who’s there to help–

 

She felt arms around her shoulders lifting her to her feet. The moment she was up Kerry and she sprinted towards the yellow line, though she was careful to hold her left wrist close to her. She turned and saw the homuncului milling about near the center of the mat—and her jō lying between two of them.

Kerry faced her, looking into her eyes. “Are you okay?”

Annie shook her head. “I think I sprained my wrist.” She slowly moved her fingers once more. “It doesn’t feel broken, but I can’t use it.”

“But you can still use your right hand?”

“Yes.” She gave Kerry a sorrowful look. “But my jō—I can’t use it with just one hand, and besides . . .” She quickly looked to her right. “It’s out there.”

Kerry glanced to his left, then back to Annie. “Okay, then—Plan B.” He placed his bokken in her right hand. “You can use this one handed—”

She immediately knew what he was planning. “No.”

“Back in a ‘sec.” Kerry darted towards the jō, cutting around the homunculus they’d attacked, then directly in front of another, grabbing the weapon on the run. He prepared to cut to his left—

His right leg slipped out from under him.

Kerry was down on one knee for only a few seconds, but that was enough for a third homunculus to close on him. He was almost to his feet when the creature was on him, pressing itself against his out-thrust jō. Kerry tried pushing it away, but didn’t have the leverage or strength necessary to make this work.

He went backwards with the homunculus falling atop him.

 

Unfortunately he’s about to reduce the team’s fighting ability by fifty percent.  Annie figures she’ll help out, but at this point they’re in the death spiral, and she knows it . . .

 

“Hey.” She jogged up a few meters towards the homunculus they’d failed to attack and began waiving her arms as Kerry had earlier. “Over here.” Annie drew it away from Kerry, but now came the problem: what to do? They worked together as a team, but there was no way she believed for even a moment she would be able to club this thing in the head hard enough to break open its skull and stop it. Which meant there wasn’t much time left before them: she end up bitten and “killed”, and the same would happen to Kerry, who was right now gasping for—

Air.

 

Air?  Air?  What the hell does she mean by that?

Well, I know what it means, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens next.  Assuming I haven’t gone crazy because I’m finally understanding just how big this chapter has become.

Write a novel, they said.  It'll be fun, they said.  Won't drive you psychotic in the least, they said.

Write a novel, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Won’t drive you psychotic in the least, they said.

Setting Up the Death Test

Even though I managed to get my lab work out of the way, get dinner, and end up back at the home by four, the exertion of the afternoon–and lack of sleep from the early morning–conspired to make me yawn and look at the screen dumbly.  It was a real, “What am I suppose to do here?” moment, and it took a couple of hours of gathering strength to get to writing before ten PM and Fargo came on.

I hit the deadline with time to spare.

So where did we leave the kids off?  Right here, ready to be thrown to the zombies:

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines--

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines–

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry felt his stomach drop as Annie and he stepped away from the rest of the students and onto the mat. Before heading off to look at the weapons, he turned to Professor Chai. “Professor?”

“Yes, Kerry?”

“Do Annie and I—” He looked at Annie, then back. “Are we really going to do this alone?”

The professor took one step towards them both. “Is there anyone else from your coven level that you can call upon for assistance?”

Annie and Kerry turned to each other and shook their heads. “No, Professor.”

“Then it’ll only be you two performing the test for your coven.” Professor Chai stepped closer to them. “Remember to play to your strengths. You both have them: don’t forget to use them.” She pointed to the far end of the room. “Go pick out your weapons.”

 

Thank, Teach!  Way to give a challenge.

But let’s not forget what Ramona said there at the end–before “Arm yourselves.”  She was giving sage advice, and Mr. Geek knew how to play to his strength with a little secret:

 

They walked back to the weapons table. All the Åsgårdsreia students had returned to the sidelines, so the area behind the red line was empty. He’d already decided upon the bokken, but didn’t pick it up right away, Instead he eased up next to Annie, who was looking over the poles. He leaned his head close to hers. “I know what these things are.”

Annie had caught his exclamation when the homunculi first exited the cabinets, and figured his comment had something to do with a story he’d read or seen. “You do?”

“Yeah. They come from a comic—”

Annie slowly half-turned her head. “These things are from a comic?”

“Okay—graphic novel.” He adjusted his glasses, pushing them up his nose. “It’s a bit more adult.”

She raise an eyebrow. I’m learning something new about him every day; I don’t ever recall him mentioning this. “How is it you managed to read these—adult novels?”

“I have an account on Amazon linked to one of my parent’s credit cards.” He looked over the weapons. “As long as I don’t get crazy with the charges every month, I can buy books and other . . . things.”

“And you’re parents know you’re buying these?”

“No. Which is probably a good thing.” He turned to Annie, grinning. “But it’s a good thing I have read this stuff, because I know how to take them out. Right?”

“Yes, we’re so fortunate . . .” Annie slowly rolled her eyes before selecting a jō. “How do we stop these homunculi then?”

 

He’s bought things and read stuff.  Sounds like someone I know.  And Annie–who seems to know just about everything concerning Kerry, didn’t know this.  You  can bet she’ll start checking into his reading habits more closely now.

He tells Annie about skull crushing (possible with wooden weapons), and decapitation (highly unlikely with wooden weapons), but still:  “Pass your test by crushing the skulls of the undead, kids!”  Well, a month in school and you gotta blow off that steam somehow . . .

As they’re preparing to meet their doom–I mean, start their test–Kerry lays out the last of their possible ways to stop their opponents:

 

They slowly walked towards the middle of the mat, giving Kerry time to finish his last thought. “The professor said we also take them out if we prevent them from taking action against us. That means there are things we can do that won’t involve crushing their skulls—”

Annie like this idea better. “Such as?”

“If we break off their lower jaws they can’t bite us.”

She curled up the right side of her mouth. “That’s not much better than crushing their skulls.”

“The other way would be to do so much damage to their torsos they can’t move.” He shook his head from side to side. “I don’t think we can do that with these. But I do have an idea . . .” As they took their place near the center of the mat Kerry quick explained his plan of attack.

Though Annie wasn’t thrilled with his idea, it at least appeared plausible. “Then we’ll try it first thing.”

“Yeah—so if it don’t work, we can fall back on our nonexistent Plan B.”

They were almost to the center of the mat when Kerry moved to Annie’s left. He smiled back at her puzzled look. “Leftie and rightie. This way we aren’t hitting each other when we swing.”

She nodded. “Good idea.” And I might have thought of it if I weren’t so nervous . . .

Once Annie and Kerry were in their place on the mat Professor Chai returned to the place where she’d stood during the Åsgårdsreia test. “Are you ready?”

Annie reached over, took Kerry’s right hand, and gave it a squeeze. “We’re ready, Professor.”

There were a couple of chuckles from the other students at the show of affection—and Lisa needed to make her comment known to everyone in the room. “Awww, that’s so cute.”

As soon as Annie released his hand Kerry slide it behind Annie’s back and shot a reverse V-sign in Lisa’s direction. He figured Lisa wouldn’t get it, but hearing a couple of guffaws come from within the crowd, a few people did. “We’re ready, Professor.”

“Very well, then—” She waved her hands. “The test begins now.”

 

Kerry flipping off people in class?  Say it ain’t so.

Where as the test before was working on one-and-a-have to one odd, Professor Chai sends out five homunculi, giving Annie a Kerry a two-and-a-half to one disadvantage.  Not cool, Professor.  Unless . . .

And where we end is watching them steel themselves for their own undead assault:

 

“Yeah.” He nodded towards the yellow line. “They’re almost here . . .” They prepared themselves for whatever it was that had affect the Åsgårdsreia students.

The first homunculus crossed the yellow line and broke through the barrier—

A wave of putrid air rolled over the two Cernunnos coven mates.

Annie and Kerry recoiled from the stench. It was more that bad: it was the accumulation of a thousand fetid swamps broiling under summer humidity; ten thousand rotting vegetable patches cooking in the daylight; a million pig farms simmering in the noonday sun. Both children gagged and retched, fighting to control their churning stomachs in the wake of the horrific foulness.

Annie held her free hand close to her face. “That’s horrid. What’s causing that?”

“That’s—” Kerry gulped air trying to keep his breakfast down. “It’s rotting flesh.”

“What?”

He half-turned to Annie. “They’re Walkers; they’re homuncuWalkers; they’re zombies—whatever, they’re dead. They’re ambulatory corpses that are still decomposing. Slowly, but . . .” He turned away as he nearly gagged. “They never talked about this in the comic.”

She didn’t want to discuss it, least it make her more nauseous. “Have to breath through our mouths, then.”

He nodded. “All ready there, Sweetie.”

All five homunculi were pasted the yellow line and advancing up on them. Annie pointed to the one in front and on their left. “That one?”

Kerry nodded. “Yeah.”

“You ready?” She raised her pole with both hands.

He slowly exhaled. “Yeah. Let’s do this.”

 

Not only do you send out creepy walkers, but you gotta make them that real?  What’s next?  Former class mates?  Which they probably are, because it sounds like the instructor is a bit twisted.

This is where I wish I knew how to draw, because I can see how these scenes set up, and I’d love some pictures to throw into the story–pictures that didn’t consist of stick figures.  That’s one day, though:  maybe I can con my daughter into doing a few for me one day.

Thirty-three hundred words into the scene, and the good part is yet to come.

Can’t wait for tonight.

Åsgårdsreia Down, Cernunnos to Go

Well, now:  yesterday wasn’t a bad day, but beyond getting a little shopping done and having a good lunch–couldn’t eat much for dinner since I’m fasting for blood work today–there wasn’t a lot going on.  I was in sort of a strange, negated funk about doing something, but ended up doing little of anything.

But I did end up writing.

But of course I did.  And you knew that.

But of course I did. And you knew that.

I left my Åsgårdsreia students ready to meet the oncoming horde of homunculi emerging from the cabinets.  This wasn’t taken very well:

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

The homunculi shambled out of the cabinets, all the size of the students facing them and dressed in tattered and dirty school uniforms. Their skin was discolored and blemished; some of the homunculi showed open sores and, in a few cases, showed extensive damage to their heads, faces, and hands.

They were the literal representation of a class of zombie Salem students preparing to attack their living counterparts.

Nine of the homunculi were out of the cabinets and advancing when the first reached the yellow line. The shield there dropped, allowing the Åsgårdsreia students to attack. Four of the students began to move forward—

Then the Åsgårdsreia students stopped and groaned. Most of them raised their hands to their faces: all of them had looks of disgust. Several of the students grumbled in their own languages, including Anna Laskar, who nearly fell to her knees while screaming in German—“Der gestank ist entsetzlich. Lassen sie mich: ich will nicht hier sein.”—and trying to hold herself upright with her fighting pole. Half the students turned pale; a couple gagged several times.

 

Well, that’s never a good sign.

But there’s eight of them, so things should have went well, right?

 

They fought through whatever was bothering them and moved on the twelve homunculi advancing upon the coven team. Lisa Glissandi and three other people ran up to the homunculi in the front; Lisa wound up her jō, ready to swing, and struck Dariga Dulatuli in the face. She screamed as she dropped her jō, clutching her face as she turned and sprinted towards the red line, blood running over her mouth and over her chin.

This didn’t deture Lisa, who hit the homunculi on the shoulder twice. When her third strike did nothing to halt its advance, she drew her jō over her head—and struck Balgaire Ibanez’s head. The boy staggered to his left, falling into Anna and Shauntia Okoro, before steadying himself.

 

I’d watch where you’re swinging that thing, Lisa–you could hurt someone.  And you aren’t the only one your coven mates need worry about:

 

Daudi didn’t see the homunculi shamble up from behind and sink its teeth into her neck.

The girl’s scream was high pitched and flooded with pain as blood fountained from the source of the bite. The blood arced from the wound and sprayed Dongsun in the side of the head, making him flinch. Daudi’s eyes rolled back in her head and she fell backward, making a loud thud when she hit the mat.

 

It’s always a good Self Defense class when you instructor turns killer zombies loose on the kids, isn’t it?

Needless to say, save for three students who “died” by being bitten, the rest of out Brave Åsgårdsreia Shield, um, maidens and dudes, ran for the red line.  Brave zombie killers they were not.

 

That was enough for Professor Chai. She waved her hands and the enchanted side shields vanished. “Well . . .” Her gaze bored through the panting and huffing Åsgårdsreia students at the other end of the mat. “That didn’t turn out very well, did it?” The professor waved her hands again and the unconscious students began to move, shaking off the enchantment they’d fallen under when they were bitten. They slowly regained their feet and joined the rest of their coven mates.

She turned to the rest of the students, some of whom still appeared shocked by what they’d seen. “The mat is in need of a cleaning—” She turned and waved at the homunculi, who turned and shambled back to the cabinets. “All will take a ten minutes break—except for the next team. They need to prepare.” She turned to Annie and Kerry. “Cernunnos: you’re next.”

 

Sorry, kids:  I didn’t mean to leave you hanging like that.  I’m sure everything will turn out just fine–

"I have a bad feeling about this, Annie."  "And a bad hat, too."  "Yeah--I took it off a kid eating pudding . . ."

“I have a bad feeling about this, Annie.”  “And a bad hat, too.”  “Yeah–I took it off a kid I found eating pudding . . .”

Questions Asked and Yet Answered

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, I’m awake and alive (the two can be, at times, mutually exclusive), and I made it through another Saturday which wasn’t one of the best, but it was better than I expected.  There wasn’t as much writing as expected–I feel just short of six hundred words before I was busy doing some research during the afternoon, and there were distractions like Where Eagles Dare being on TCM (bit of trivia:  it has the highest body count of any Clint Eastwood movie–total 100 people–and it was the last movie where he didn’t receive top billing) and then Orphan Black Season Two starting an hour and a half later, seestras.  But the quantity isn’t important:  it’s the quality.  And it ended with one of the more important things I’ve written for the story:

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie patted the envelope with her right hand. “Ms. Rutherford left prepaid debit cards with £200 on them for us to use. No need to worry about money for the day.”

“Oh.” Kerry’s eyes took on a far away look as he seemed to consider Annie’s words.

Seeing the indecision on Kerry’s face, Annie knew the time had come to push the forty-four percent odds in her favor. She reached out and touched his hand; Kerry’s head swiveled around to face her immediately. “Would you like to do something? Would you like to go somewhere with me, Kerry?”

 

Yeah, those last two questions are going to come back a few more times in this scene, and later–well, I know what sort of importance they play much later in the story, and the effects are going to be fairly tramatic.  You wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it will.  It’s gonna tear someone’s heart out.

Don’t worry:  they’ll get better.

Yesterday’s post seemed to generate a few of my more interesting comments, which were along the lines of, “Wait, there’s werewolf erotica?  Since when?”  Since people were writing, that’s when.  Off the top of my head I can’t remember the actual title, but back in the days when Rome was pretty much kicking everyone’s ass, one of the more popular books around had the main character turn into an ass and head off some sexual adventures.  It has been pointed out by no greater an authority on the mater than Cracked.com (I was biting my inner lip when I wrote that) that strange fetishes have been around a long time–sometimes centuries, sometimes a lot longer than we’d like to admit there’s recorded history.

I like to make fun of the various sorts of erotica out there on the Internet, until I remember that (1) these people are writing, and (2) some of them are selling a lot.  What that says about people in general I’ll leave to you, because if you read some of my stranger erotica, you’d likely lump me in with the dino porn women.

If you are curious about the the sort of things out there, never fear!  I’m gonna show you, because I’m that sort of gal.  Click on any of these links at risk of your own sanity, and lets remember that every link takes you to that wonderful purveyor of reading material, Amazon.com, and not some shady, back-asswards website where the Internet has crawled off to die.

Without further ado:

"How is that even . . . no, no, no!  Why did I look?  Why?"

“How is that even . . . no, no! Why did I look? Why?”

Maybe you’d like some Kraken erotica?

There are also some excitable werewolves, and a leprechaun you might not want to meet.

Maybe you’re not the Mother of Dragons, but you could be the lover or one–or two.

I don’t remember reading about this Minotaur when I was into Greek Mythology–

Speaking of Dino Porn–yeah, it’s here.

Gay Cuttlefish Shapeshifter Erotica–that’s not something I made up:  I’ve taken that right off the Amazon page for the story.  You’re welcome.

Even unicorns won’t escape my gaze!

Last but not least, if you’re interested in how someone works to write stuff like this, they talk about it in long piece from io9:  How to Write a Sex Scene Between a Unicorn and a Rainbow.

Hummm . . . I think my work here is done.

Building the Big Time

This week I’ve shown all these different tools I use when I’m writing.  I’ve got modeling programs; I’ve got Scrapple; I’ve got Aeon Timeline; I’ve got Scrivener.  These are great tools to have, but they’re just that:  tools.  They help build the world and create the story, but there is nothing magical about them.  One won’t start plugging numbers into Aeon and suddenly find the plot to their novel.  They’ll act as a map, but just like Kerry in London, you gotta use that map to figure out where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.

I’m constantly thinking about my stories when I’m starting to set them up, and they aren’t far from my mind when I’m writing.  I might be working over lines of dialog, or created back story, or mulling over things to come.  That’s how I work; that’s how my stories are built.  And I’ve thought about this story for going on almost two-and-a-half years now, so when it came time to plot it out, I had a great Foundation from which to work.  (Pardon the pun–naw, don’t.)

But there’s still things that need writing, and believe it or not playing with my plots isn’t always out of the question–particularly if they’ve had a couple of years to lay about and simmer.  With that said, I’m going to do something I’ve never done:  I’m going to show you a part of my upcoming story, one that has yet to be written, but is plotted, and show you some of the process I have used to get it what the story to the point where I can start writing.

Let’s go, let’s go!

Act Two, Part Seven, Chapters Nineteen through Twenty-Four:  The Big Time.  This is where, as the kids say, shit gets real.

Sure, it doesn't look like much now . . .

Sure, it doesn’t look like much now . . .

8 November, 2011, an attack is launched by known hostile forces against various educational centers run by The Foundation.  Though Salem isn’t targeted, Director of Security Isis Mossman–who went through The Scouring and lost friends to the bad guys–isn’t about to take chances.  She begins the process of locking the school down, preparing for the worse.  As you have probably guessed, worse does come knocking:  all communication channels go dark, Isis orders the school into full lock-down and activates all defenses, putting Salem into siege mode.  This means cranking up the magical defense screens in the outer wall to full power–which encases the entire school–and throwing up a similar defense screen around The Pentagram, protecting the students who’ve been sent to their towers.

Ramona Chai and Helena Lovecraft take selected instructors and students out to the grounds proper and ready themselves as a rapid response ground-attack force, while Vicky Salomon and Erywin Sladen take command of the best fliers–most of them from the Coven Race Teams–and uses them as a combination spotter unit and, when things get bad, air assault unit.  Coraline sets up triage outside her hospital with the help of her aides and student volunteers, Trevor seals up the library, and Headmistress Mathilde Laventure retreats to Sanctuary–the code name for her bunker–while Mathias Ellison and Deanna Arrakis are sent to their separate locations to act as her seconds in case something happens to her.

Over all of this Isis Mossman–code name Fortress, which is more or less what everyone calls the locked-down Pentagram as well–stands watch in her security center with Wednesday Douglas at her side as her second, and the person who pretty much helped Isis get all these new defenses into place.  None of this “bring the stone statues to life and protect the school” stuff:  Isis would have dragons with frickin’ laser cannons flying around the school if The Foundation would allow such a thing.  As it is, she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve, not to mention some bad-ass people with heavy attack magic, over-the-top sorcery, and super-science weaponry out in the field.

Here’s what that looks like on the time line:

That's it?  Doesn't seem like much . . .

That’s it? Doesn’t seem like much . . .

I pointed out in another post that you can actually use points in one time line to drill down to another time line.  This is one of those instances where there is a time line on the other side of this point–you can tell because there’s a little icon there under “08 November 2011″.  We click on that and . . .

Okay, then . . .

Okay, then:  this looks interesting.

This is a full-on view of the attack using all the functions of Aeon Timeline.  I have events posted, I’m showing arcs (the information on the left side of the screen, such as “Kerry’s Story”), and entity relationships, which are the names at the bottom of the screen that show if a person was involved in an event, and if so were they an observer (the open dots) or a participant (the colored dots).  It might seem a little complicated, but once you’ve plotted a few of these, it becomes a pretty simple matter of knowing what happens when and to whom.

The Scrivener part was created first, with the Aeon time line produced later as a way of checking my work.  At the beginning of this event things are happening slowly because not much is going down.  Vicky tells her fliers when they start out that she hopes they have a very boring day, because that means there aren’t any attacks.  Vicky’s only saying that because she’s not seen Chapter Twenty-Two . . .

Vicky really shouldn't read ahead.

Vicky really shouldn’t read ahead.

Chapter Twenty-Two, Attack.  Pretty much sums up what’s going down.  The bad guys finally play their hand in a big way, and while Isis has done everything possible to protect the school, nothing is one hundred percent effective.  There are minor incursions and things get . . . interesting.  This is where I needed to get my times sorted out in a big way because things are happening quickly and in various parts of the school, and though it might not be important to the reader to know that stuff is occurring in the correct order at the right moments, I needed to know this.  This is why, in Scrivener I have the times laid out, and I ported those times over to Aeon when I began checking this work.

It was also possible to drill down even further in Aeon to get the scenes right.

Even when things go bad, Isis is on top of the situation.

Even when things go bad, Isis is on top of the situation.

Like Scrivener Aeon Timeline has an inspector, and the inspector allows one to see all the functions for an event, and even add notes for what’s happening.  As we can see in the scene Fortress, Isis sees an attack occurring against the outer defense screens, sees a breach, and ordered all non-essential fliers out of the air before losing the school-wide detection grid and communications, rendering everything outside The Pentagram dark.  Not a good time to be out there between The Blue and the Black (a term the fliers use to describe the defense screens of The Pentagram and the main school walls).

Believe it or not, there is a scene I’ve thought about that happens during the attack, and it’s not there.  Why?  Because it’s something that I came up with while writing Act One.  I know where it goes in the chain of events that is the attack, but I’ve yet to place it where it should go.  Some might say it’s not needed, but I’m not some.  The scene will also keep things flowing, and show how Isis is keeping the Headmistress in the loop, even when things aren’t going one hundred percent.

There you have it:  bad times come to Salem.  Will the attack be beaten back?  Will there be blood?  Will the good guys win?

There’s an Act Three, isn’t there?

From Demons to the Scoured

The first novel I wrote using Scrivener was Her Demonic Majesty, my 2011 NaNo Novel.  It was really the first thing I ever started from scratch in Scrivener, and it was a great experiment for me, because I was learning the software as well as learning how to lay out a story.

The thing I loved most about Scrivener then was the Corkboard, which was a virtual way of taking note cards that represent the chapters and pinning them up in a sensible order.  This was an easy way to outline a story, to set up metadata to keep track of when things were suppose to happen.  I spent two weeks getting the novel outlined, getting pictures set up for characters, developed small bios on characters, even laid out pictures within the binder of places where chapters took place.

You were a great learning experience, love.  I'll never forget you.

You were a great learning experience, love. I’ll never forget you.

A year and a few hundred thousand words later, I was ready for my 2012 NaNo Novel, Kolor Ijo.  It wasn’t as large as Her Demonic Majesty–it was about seventy-two thousand words, compared to eighty-six thousand for Demonic Majesty–but in a lot of ways it was a far bigger story.  It was one of my Indonesia horror stories, which meant it took place in another country.  There was research on weapons and people and creatures, and I needed to get a good idea about the look of the city of Makassar.  It also covered a much larger time frame:  almost a month of time, where as her Demonic Majesty took place over a three-day period.  The one thing I learned how to use this time around were embedded websites that accessible from inside Scrivener.  I hooked up Google Maps to a text file, and when I needed to look streets in the city of Makassar, I’d do a split screen and start looking about in the other side of the world.

My meta information was getting a bit more detailed:  I was keeping track of time frames within each chapter.  There was more happening, more action and interaction.  In short, there was a lot more story even if it wasn’t as long as my last NaNo Novel.

This is what happens when you start dealing with demons on the other side of the world.

This is what happens when you deal with demons on the other side of the world.

By the end of May, 2013, I’d already decided I was going to write The Foundation Chronicles:  A for Advanced, but there were thinking I knew I’d need to work out before I started working on the story.  It was going to end up a big story, with a large cast of characters.  I was also going to move away from the idea of doing a single card and writing information under it as a chapter; I was going to break up my chapters into different scenes, something I’d done with my novel Transporting.

But Transporting was a retro-fitted novel:  I’d begun writing that in Word about twenty years before, and never tried writing something like that from scratch.  I needed some practice to get my new NaNo Novel in shape without having to learn while writing.  I was going to write something before hand, do it as part of The Foundation Series, and play with characters I already knew.  I could write about a part of school history that was never thought out in detail.

This is where I stepped away from the Corkboard and moved into Outline mode in Scrivener.  One of the advantages of Outline mode is being able to see your story laid out, top to bottom, and that allows for a lot more precision when trying to plot out things.  When I did The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, I wasn’t using time line software:  it had the time line within my outline, laid out on each chapter/scene card.  I was also able to laid out a lot more information on each section and chapter/scene, and see it all at once should I require.

This is what testing looks like when you're writing.

Some call this testing–some call it a bit of insanity.

There is a lot of information there:  dates, times, people, even weather conditions.  When it was all over my Camp story, The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring–which was meant to be about twenty thousand words total–ended up a fifty-three thousand, one hundred word lead-in novel.  I love what I wrote, though I had one person tell me I need to cut the first two sections of the story because it didn’t “move fast enough” for her, and she wasn’t interested in hearing that if I cut all the information, the rest of the story wouldn’t make any sense, and another person told me the battle was “too long” and “they’d never read any batter sequence of twenty-five thousand words”.  But those are stories for another time . . .

This is what helped me reach the point where I could write my current work in progress.  And by the time I was ready for NaNoWriMo 2013, I had other software I could use as well to get work my story into shape–

Decendancy

My celebration dinner was good, except there was no wine.  I’ll remedy that tonight when I stop off at the wine and spirits shop on the way home–there’s one right across the street from one of the government offices, what does that tell you?–and continue the celebration here.

Except . . . I hope I’m not as bored as I was last night.  You go a long stretch writing and then suddenly–Boom!  There’s nothing to do.  You quickly find yourself wondering if there is anything you can do that isn’t writing related–and in my case, usually not.

"I shouldn't think about writing, and I'm not gonna write.  What should I do?  Get my nails done?  They're done.  Wait, I could write about my characters

“I shouldn’t think about writing, and I’m not gonna write. What should I do? Get my nails done? They’re done. Wait, I could write about my characters getting their nails done–no, no writing!”

Talk about a pain in the ass.  When most of your activities consist of the things you want to take time away from doing, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of option for things to do.

Then again, there’s my dreams to keep me busy, and they must have been making up for lost time, because it was strange.

Part of my crazy dreams were dealing with abandonment.  I remember coming home and everyone was gone–only this was like me coming home from high school and discovering I’d been left behind.  So then I went out in search of a lost TARDIS–no, really–and found a couple, but not the one I was looking for.  And then I ran into my fourth grade teacher–

My experience in fourth grade was not a pleasant one.  Back then they’d tell you I was “having problems”, but mostly I was a troubled child.  Nine going on ten, not able to make friends, and confused to all hell and gone about what I was.  I was ten when I saw my first psychologist, because even by then my parents realized I was a complete mess.  I only saw her for a few months, but that’s another story . . .

My fourth grade teacher was something of a mess, too.  She liked to yell at people.  She liked to make fun of me in the class whenever I’d do something “wrong”, like start speaking for no reason, or go off on subjects that no one else knew, because I was pretty smart.  Forth grade was when the bullying really started on me, and I remember her sending me to the school nurse a few times because I wouldn’t stop crying and she didn’t know what to do with me.  Then again, she also smacked the hell out of me on the playground one day because she said I was acting “goofy” and I needed to stop.

I see her in my dream last night, and she asks if I know her.  I told her I did, and that I had her in fourth grade.  And she tells me, yes, she is the person I remember, but no, she never had me in fourth grade.  In fact, she was happy she never had me in fourth grade, because from what she’d heard I was a complete pain in the ass.

And no matter how much I protest that I was in her class, she continues saying no.  Eventually she dismisses me and walks off with a wave of her hand.

I’ve had this dream a few times before, and for some reason it bothers me.  Can’t tell you why, but it does.  It’s not that I need some affirmation from her, because I don’t:  that period of my life is way long and gone.

I guess it’s the dismissive way in which I’m told, “I’m glad I didn’t have you.”

I better edit something tonight, because there’s no telling what might show up in my dreams later.

Seven Wondering

It’s still dark outside, so no crows to welcome me as I entered Panera for my morning soufflé and coffee.  It’ll brighten in time, but for now–darkness everywhere.  Which is really sort of how I like it, strangely enough.

Wrote some last night, then watched First Men in the Moon and The Time Machine, because I cranked out a thousand words that left me crying part way through, and not because it was the most horrifying stuff I’ve ever penned, but because it was sad, and it left me sad.  So it was on to TV, and though I tried mightily, I couldn’t make out the Woody Woodpecker laugh during The Time Machine, even though I know it’s there.  This is likely due in part to being half asleep at the time, and the sound for the movie was, in a word, crap.  But if you watch the movie, any time the Eloi are taking it easy–which is most of the time–listen for Woody.

Last night I was asked if I plot out my stories, if I have an outline of where everything is headed before I start down this road of madness.  The answer is in the affirmative, because that’s how I roll.  I’m a little like Asimov–and I do mean little–in that I need to know my ending before I start writing, for one of the Good Doctor’s bits of sage advice was you need to know what lay at the end of your trip before you can start.  So I follow said advice.  (The other writing advice I follow comes from Harlan Ellison, who said that before he could write a story he needed the title of the story, and that you have to sit and write every day.  I do follow those words as well.)

This is why I’m able to do an outline for my story, because I know where I’m going, and where I’m starting.  Everything is in the meta, so I see the words on the cards and something in my head clicks.  Sometimes that click says, “What the hell did I mean here?”, but most of the time I know what I meant, and I get to meaning.

Herein lay Madness.

Herein lay Madness.

One of the conversation I had with friends, writers and non-writers alike, concerned the ending of American Horror Story: Coven on Wednesday night.  Many of my fellow Coven Followers–or is that Horror Followers?  Is there a name for us crazy people?–were, to say–what is the word . . . okay, take it away, CumberKhan–

Disapointed

I’ve seen all sorts of people saying they expected there to be some kind of video game Big Boss Battle at the end, but really, that was impossible?  Why?  Because the logic of the show wouldn’t have allowed it.  And while the writer’s logic may have been inspired by meth smoking monkeys flinging feces while listening to Aphex Twin catalog played backwards on a loop, there is some logic there.  And that logic said, “You get the Supreme we want, not the Supreme you want.  Balenciaga!”

Why did this happen?  Who know?  Maybe the cast got drunk one night and started throwing darts at the Plot Board so they could put their own ending together.  Maybe Tim Minear was distracted by the three hundred fans who text daily begging him to kidnap Joss and bring back Firefly, which could become a major plot point in Season Four of American Horror Story: Atom Bomb Fashion Crazies.  Maybe there wasn’t any money to pay the staff writers to come up with something that made sense because the budget was blown on shawl twirls.

"We have to stop; we just laid off the AD--"  "I give zero shits:  Twirl!"

“We have to stop; we just laid off the AD–” “I give zero shits.  Twirl!”

In television it isn’t unusual for a show to start off without having a single idea where it’s going.  24?  They blew up Los Angeles and then pretty much forgot all about it two episodes later, which is two hours show time.  Battlestar Galactica?  The Cylon’s plan was “Duh, okay, we got some hidden Cylons, what do we do next?”  Twin Peaks?  The bad guy came about because the set director for the show blew a shot, and boom!  He’s the demon causing all the misery, lets work from there, boys.  Lost?  No, really?  Ha ha, you ‘re serious, right?  Planned?  Ah, hahahahahahaha.

There were a few shows that were planed out from start to finish.  Babylon 5 is probably the best known of these, which was planed to run five years, no more, and ended up uneven because first there wasn’t going to be a fifth season, so adjustments were made, then there was, so adjustments were made again.  There were a few other issues with actors (Michael O’Hare’s mental illness being major among them, which required a major restructuring of the story), but as with the Good Doctor, J. Michael Straczynski knew the end before starting at the beginning.  Supernatural was originally suppose to run for three seasons, then the story was expanded to five seasons, at which point everything was tied up–save for the money that was coming into the CW faster than the execs could count it, so on it runs on beyond the end.

Television is a tough beast to write.  It’s high pressure and unforgiving, and if you’re working with a staff of writers, each with their own style, who are expected to go by the bible for the show and come up with something that’s going to fit within whatever passes for a coherent story arc, you are gonna have your hits and misses.  Sometimes the best thing to do is set one word pimp down and have them crank out the vision so it doesn’t stray.  Tim Minear did this for a big part of Angel, and Straczynski–starting with Season 2, Episode 18, Confessions and Lamentations, Michael wrote every script until Season 5, Episode 7, Secrets of the Soul.  This was back when they were producing twenty-two episodes a season, so if  you’re doing the math that’s fifty-six episodes in a row.  The next episode was Day of the Dead, written by Neil Gaiman, and then Micheal finished out the run by writing the last fourteen episodes.

And I’m going to point out here that the series finale, Sleeping in Light, was filmed during the fourth season, when it was thought the show was ending, because Sleeping in Light was always meant as the finale. And one of the episodes penned during the marathon run, A View From the Gallery, was based upon a story by Harlan Ellison.  Episode 20 of Season 5, Objects in Motion, was also based upon an Ellison story.

Now, I’m not writing for television:  I’m working on novels–in this case a big novel.  But I’ve ideas for this, and for a couple of other novels, that extend beyond this single story, and that means I need to know the end for some of the people in my stories.  For my unpublished novel Transporting I’ve plotted out a few hundred years of history; for Her Demonic Majesty, I know what happens to all the main characters over about a twenty year period of time.  And as I’ve pointed out, I know where Annie and Kerry started, I know how they live, and I know how they die.  If I ever get around to writing everything about them, there will come an end, and that’s it, story over, let’s go on to the next story.

I’m not saying that everyone should work out their stories in the sort of nutty detail that I live for.  I’m sure someday someone will read one of my stories and mutter, “Man, did that ending suck!  Bitch ran outta ideas–”, and I’m cool with that.  You aren’t going to please everyone with your work–but you do need to please yourself.  And if you’re happy with how your stories come to their conclusions, that’s all that matters.

And if you’re not, ring up the next batch of meth head monkeys and their nutty logic.

‘Cause we can always use a little of that now and then.

Millennium

Here is it, the one and only, my 1000th post.  After nearly three straight years of coming here to share, with my audience and followers, my almost-innermost thoughts, I have reached a most impressive goal.

"It's all darkness and misery, leading to a lonely, pointless death."

“What is the point?  In the end it’s all darkness and misery, leading to a lonely, pointless death.”

Thanks, Frank.  I knew I could count on you to bring the good times to the party.

At least there are others who feel differently . . .

"I already knew your inner thoughts and secrets--your passwords were easy to break, even with the childish encryption you used."

“I already knew your inner thoughts and secrets–your passwords were easy to break, even with the encryption.  You are a sad, foolish girl.”

Ray of sunshine you are, Lisbeth.  Don’t you have a large Swedish corporation to take down?

What started me down this strange path?  Well, to be honest, writing.  Not writing a blog, however.  No, not at all.  When I first started this sucker I was going in fits and starts, and my postings were uneven.  I had nothing to say, I just posted things here and wondered if anyone would read them.  And frankly, I gave very few shits if anyone did.

What started me working hard on the blog was when I was writing my novella Kuntilanak.  I wanted to get into the habit of writing, and it wasn’t just enough to work on the story, because I was afraid I would–as I had done many times before–just give up somewhere along the line.

Then came the brilliant idea:  what if I talked about writing my story by writing on my blog?  It’s simple:  I work on the story in the morning, do a little editing in the afternoon, and at some point in between I’d set up a post detailing my writing exploits.  Not exactly the greatest idea in the world, but it kept me writing my story–and it’s kept me writing my blog.

And how much have I kept writing.  I went back and looked, and found that the last day I didn’t post an entry was 24 March, 2012, a couple of months short of two years ago.  However, there were two posts on 23 March because of something that kept me from posting on the 24th.  So it’s not really a missed day, just a day where I posted the day before.  The last day where nothing was written:  8 September, 2011.  Which, if you’re following the details of current work in progress, is the actual day Kerry is shocked so badly by the Queen of Sorcery, Helena Lovecraft, that he ends up spending the night in the hospital.

Coincidence?  You tell me.

So much has changed since that summer of 2011.  Since then I’ve been through three jobs, and I’ve moved for two of them.  I still suffer from depression, but not nearly as much as back in 2010 and 2011.  I cry more, but that’s because I feel more, I’m not cut off from my emotions any longer.  I finally came to grips with my gender dysphoria, began seeing a therapist and came out, and now spend a reasonable portion of my life as female (as opposed to Life in Technicolor, but you can blame Coldplay for that).

Most of all I write.  I write stories, and I write on my blog.  I’ve sold one story and self-published two.  My sales are crap, but I’m keeping at it.  2014 is the year I start sending more things out, because I’ve got a slush pile and a half waiting, and it’s time to move that monster.  Talk is cheap, and I got bills to pay.

Yesterday and today I looked over my posts and my stats, and decided to list my ten biggest posts in the history of this blog.  We  aren’t talking huge numbers here, and with the exception of one time when I was sort of damned with faint praise by someone who said, “You only get about forty hits a day?  I thought you were huge.  I get more than that,” I’m happy with my few thousand followers who literally come from everywhere on the planet.

Behold my Global Empire!

Behold my Global Empire!

Since I’ve always wanted to do this, allow me to offer up my own top ten.

 

Top Ten Posts of All Time:

10. If I Go the Plane Way, 8 November, 2013.  140 views.

This was about a set of scenes I was working one during the last NaNo, and how I used Scrivener to layer additional scenes under existing scenes.

 

9.   The End Beginning Again, 5 January, 2014.  144 views.

This was about my idea file, and how something I’d thought about using for an old story in the file was considered for a much later story I wanted to write.  This is the only post from 2014 to make my top ten.

 

8.   Time Tunneling, 16 October, 2013.  148 views.

In the run-up to NaNoWriMo 2013 I went into a lot of detail about how I set up my novel, and some of the things I was doing with time lines.  This was the third of my “October Three” where I had fantastic hits for three posts in a row.  Just as I did layers of scenes, this showed how to do layers of timelines within timelines.

 

7.   You Are Now Leaving Silent Hill, 22 September, 2013.  167 views.

My first “Daily Excursion” post after arriving in Harrisburg, PA.  I ran up to Centralia, PA–which was once used as inspiration for the art direction of the movie Silent Hill–walked around, got pictures, and lived to tell the tale.

 

6.   Preparatory School, 14 October, 2013.  207 views.

The first of my “October Three” post, where I show the lay out of what was to be my NaNo 2013  novel, and that is still my current work in progress.

 

5.   Playthings in the Hands of the Arbiters of Decency, 27 February, 2012.  231 views.

This is the only one of my rants that made the top ten.  It was about how PayPal was getting crappy about being used to pay for what it saw as smut, and how it arbitrarily decided to impose rules that screwed over a lot of writers.  Things are much better now, unless you write monster smut . . .

 

4.   Dancing with Demons, 4 November, 2011.  272 views.

The oldest of my top tens, this one puzzles me.  I was four days into my first NaNoWriMo, hard at work on Her Demonic Majesty, and I threw this one up pretty fast.  And for some reasons it has pulled in nearly three hundred hits.  Must be the demons . . .

 

3.   Done Ready, 21 October, 2013.  312 views.

A quick discussion about how I was ready to start NaNo 2013.  I say in this post that I’d finish the first book of The Foundation Chronicles by 31 December.  I think I meant I’d finished my drugs then.

 

2.   Timelines and the Aeon, 15 October, 2013.  644 views.

The middle of my “October Three”, and the biggest by far.  This is where Aeon Timeline ended up on my computer and I told everyone about it.  Apparently a lot of people liked that.

 

1.   Penultimate Daydream, 2 May, 2012.  645 views.

And this is another puzzle.  Why?  Because nothing much is said here.  Well, actually, there is, but it doesn’t make that much sense.  I was sleep deprived, I hated my job, I was almost hallucinating.  It was the day before I turned 55, and the incident I speak off while dining, I did think someone I knew was dining with me.  And then they weren’t, and it killed me.  I’ve always wondered if there was some kind of bot that drove the numbers up.  Not that it maters today.

 

Honorable Mentions:

The Rough Guide to My Alternate Chicago, 12 December, 2011.  120 views.

This was the first post where I really got into talking about the wonders of editing, and though most writers hate it, about this time was when I was starting to love it.  And so I have to post my love.

 

Hail, Scrivener!, 31 July, 2011.  128 views.

The oldest of my posts with more than one hundred views, this is where I started talking about Scrivener, and how much it was helping my writing and my story telling.  What was nice about this post was there was a comment from the Scrivener people, saying they enjoyed the kind words I had for their product.  That was when it first hit me:  there are people out there actually reading this stuff!

 

In looking over some of my old posts I saw likes from people who no longer blog, who have vanished from the face of the Internet, who I wonder about.  Blogging isn’t something you stick with day in and out for years.  I’m probably one of the strange examples, getting up every morning and cranking out my five hundred words, or more, before starting out my day.  And if any of you who used to blog, who I used to see every day, are still out there following me–hey, I miss you guys.  Hope your life is treating you well, because we all need that.

What comes next?  No more special posts for a while, that’s for sure.  If I do another, it’ll come when I reach my 2,500th post, which over four years away.  And that begs the question:

When will I stop blogging?

Because everything comes to an end, doesn’t it?  In four years I’ll be sixty-one, and I can’t say if I’ll still show up here, blogging every day, or if I’ll still continue churning out stories that no one reads.  Or if I’ll even be alive, cause the next eleven hour run back to Northwest Indiana could see me flying off the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at high speed into a valley, all the time regretting nothing.

Or perhaps I will have reached my dream of being a full-time writer, and I can be like Chuck and blog to all the word slaves out there (the penmonkeys are his), giving them encouragement and telling them why they shouldn’t stop, because look at me, I made it.

I won’t be quitting any time soon.  I can’t.  I still feel as if I have something to say.  But should it become time to move on and find my wide awake dreams elsewhere, I’ll fall back on this quote–something I heard over Christmas, and something that speaks to me of what can be the finality of change:

 

“Times change and so must I. We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s ok, that’s good, as long as you keep moving, as long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear. I will always remember when The Doctor was me.”  The Eleventh Doctor, The Time of the Doctor.

I’m not quite as good at The Doctor, but I do remember so much of who I’ve been these last three years.  I remember the people I’ve known, those who’ve been a pain in my ass, and those whose friendship and help I have cherished through the years.

And I remember those who have left their mark on me in such a way that it will never be erased.

A thousand down, and still more to come.  Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.

There are stories to be written, you know.