A Year in Pamporovo

Last night was like any other Wednesday night for me.  Got home from work, changed, went to Panera, ate, and wrote.  I had two projects last night:  one was writing up a little over six hundred words for a letter I’m sending to someone–I always type it out before I hand write because my spelling is fairly horrible and I need to correct–and then I went to work on the novel and put in another eight hundred words there.  Nothing unusual, right?

It might not be were it not for the date.  Because last night represented three hundred and sixty-five days since I started this novel.  When I did that the novel sort of looked like this:

Only there were, like, zero words on everything.

Only there were, like, zero words on everything.

And now it’s here, twenty-seven chapters later.

With a lot more words added.

With a lot more words added.

Tonight is the night when I started on this little adventure, and it’s been a milestone for me as well, for I’ve never stuck with a novel this long.  In the past I’ve usually burned out and given up on something like this, but I haven’t, not this time.

Doesn’t mean there hasn’t been stress.  I’ve probably had two or three nervous breakdowns in the process of putting out this story.  I spent a month rewriting chapters because I did Annie wrong.  Oh, and I grew breasts:  I should get points for that as well.

How did it all begin?  With Annie and her mother.  Let’s go back and see that moment, captured in the just over the first five hundred words I wrote (and have since edited) on 30 October, 2013:

 

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

The mountains were bright under the morning sun, though the light had yet reached many of the surrounding valley floors. Within the hour every valley in and around Pamporovo, Bulgaria, would bathe in sunshine, but for now most were enveloped in quiet shadows.

In one valley lay a small lake, the surface smooth and unmoving, still in possession of a layer of light mist from the prior evening. The eastern shoreline brushed up against the heavily wooded valley side, but everywhere else the lake was surrounded by low, rolling hills marked by a few bare spots of erosion, and meadows covered in short grass. Here no trees had taken root—

Save for one spot opposite the eastern valley walls. A lone tree stood upon a slight bend in the shoreline, making it even more distinctive. It was impossible to tell the tree type: even a close scrutiny didn’t reveal its secrets. It looked out of place—and yet, based upon it’s height and the spread of the branches, it was obvious it had been there for decades.

Stranger was the color of the leaves. They were a bright yellow, as if they were dusted with saffron—an unusual color, for the other trees on the opposite bank were a uniform green with a sprinkle of brown, and nary a spot of yellow anywhere. The coloration wasn’t due to the coming of fall—it was late August and the trees wouldn’t begin changing for another two months. It was possible that the tree itself sprouted yellow leaves, but if one had visited the tree the day before, they may have seen the leaves a bright red—and the day before that a light green.

The leaves changed color, but they didn’t change with the seasons . . .

Beneath the branches a young girl with wavy chestnut hair that rested lightly upon her shoulders stood. She was dressed in a light summer blouse and jeans and sneakers, making her indistinguishable from any other eleven year old girl currently living in and around Pamporovo. She stood facing the lake, her eyes fixed upon a point somewhere across the water, her arms locked across her chest. It seemed as if she were deep in thought, staring off into space so that her mind was free from distractions. She didn’t move, nor give any indication she was aware of her surroundings.

Her expression betrayed her emotions, though. She slowly blinked as she stared across the lake with lips slightly pursed while in the cool morning shadows of her unusual tree. Mist drifted off the lake and over her, making the skin on her arms dimple. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to finally enjoy this almost-perfect morning.

The girl was about to check the time on the small wristwatch she wore when a voice called to her. “Annie!” She turned slowly; she knew the voice, and why they were looking for her—

She spotted the woman standing on the porch of a small house forty meters away. The woman waved her right arm in the air as she called once again. “Annie!”

Awareness dawned upon young girl. “Yes, Mama?”

“It’s almost ten o’clock.” This time she waved for the girl to come to the porch. “It’s getting close to the time to leave.”

Anelie Kirilova—or, as her mother, father, and the rest of her extended family called her, Annie—knew her mother was right. She knew it was nearly time to leave; she’d known this for over an hour. In another twenty, thirty minutes she’d leave this all behind and not see it again until it was all covered with Christmas snow . . .

She brushed a strand of hair from her face as she walked toward the house. “Coming, Mama.”

 

There was my beginning.  And how did I continue a year later?  Another five hundred or so words with Annie and her mother:

 

The moment Annie’s eyes opened she checked the clock at her bedside. 5:21. She did a quick calculation and determined the time in San Francisco. It’s 19:21 yesterday there; Kerry’s likely meeting his family right now. Secure with the belief that Kerry was probably starting his holiday, she threw the covers back and sat up.

It was pitch dark in the room, but that wasn’t surprising: local sunrise wouldn’t be for more than an hour. She waved her hand at the lamp on the bedside table and it came on, illuminating her bedroom in low, white light. She slid off the bed and into her slippers before giving her blue pajama tops a final tug down. She walked the short distance to her dressing table and retrieved her locket from a necklace tree and fastened it around her neck, pressing the heart-shaped locket into her chest to assure herself it was there. Lastly she put on her robe and pulled it tight around her body before letting it swing open. With a smile she made her way to the bedroom door.

The night before, during dinner, her mother had said that now that she was on Salem time she would probably rise early, adjustment or not. Annie had said she expected to sleep in for the first time since leaving home, but she should have realized that Mama was speaking from experience. It makes sense— She reached for the door knob. I never sleep in at school, so why would I expect to sleep in once I was home. She slowly opened the door. Must be an enchantment they put on us during the E and A

Her mother was in her sitting room, seated at the table with a plate of food and a kettle before her. “Good morning, Anelie.”

Annie was surprised to find her mother up this early—and with breakfast ready. “Good morning, Mama.”

Pavlina Kirilova nodded toward the closed door to her left. “Go on and use the bathroom. I’ll prepare your tea.”

Annie was in and out of her bathroom in a short time. When she returned her tea was seeping and plate with a printsessi sat before the empty chair across from here mother. Annie sat and inhaled the aroma of the breakfast. “This is what I missed.”

“My printsessi?”

“Yes.” She took a small bite and savored the disk. “It’s still hot.”

“I cooked them last night and put a time spell around them.” Pavlina raised here tea and took a small sip. “From your perspective, they’ve only been out of the oven for two minutes.”

Annie savored another mouthful before speaking. “When did you get up?”

“I’ve been up about twenty minutes.”

“And Papa?”

Pavlina set her tea aside, chuckling. “I let him sleep. Though I expect him up within the hour.” She folded her hands in her lap. “I wanted a little mother-daughter time—like what we had before you went off to school?”

Annie didn’t remember there being a lot of mother-daughter time, but she wasn’t going to start contradicting, not now. She’s searching—and I think I know what she’s looking for . . . “I did miss chatting. I only had your letters.” She smiled. “At least we wrote. A few of the students didn’t hear much from their parents.”

 

A year later and Annie can tell her mother is fishing for something, but she’s playing along.  Any idea about what she’s looking for?  And as I’d said, as Kerry’s last thoughts upon reaching San Francisco and seeing his family were of Annie, Annie’s first thoughts upon waking–at the same time, mind you–were of Kerry.  There’s some kind of symmetry with those kids, I tell ya.

How much have I put behind me with this story?  As of last night Act Two finished up with 140,960 words; the full manuscript is 291,665 words.  I stared Act Two in May and I’ve been trudging along for a little over five months now, and I’ll finish it in November for sure.  And then it’s on to Act Three and the end of the novel.

Soon.  I hope.  I want to have some kind of NaNo, even though I haven’t bothered registering yet, and may not.  I’m still on the fence about doing so, because I’m really not sure I can keep up the pace this year.  Far too many things happening, far too many things to get in the way.

Or . . . I just have to suck it up and put my two hours of writing aside and not be distracted.

That would probably work better, yeah?

Travels of a Crocheting Groupie

Over the years I’ve done some strange posts.  I’ve written about a variety of things, most of them revolving around writing, but sometimes I go places and do things that are interesting to others.  And there have been times when I’ve reveled things about myself that have surprised and sometimes shocked people.

This post . . . it’s a little of everything.  A tail of travel to exotic movie locations, a look at things on a long journey, and a bit of strange, personal information about me.

So, let’s get to the full disclosure:

I am a crocheting groupie.

I’ve been a member of a group on Facebook, HodgePodge Crocheting, for as long at the group has been around.  Why, you ask?  Do you crochet?  No, I am not a hooker, which is what we call someone who does.  Then why are you there?  Because my bestest friend, Tanya, owns the group, and she included me in the group when she put it together.  In fact, there are only three other people who joined before me, and the owner of the group is one, so there.

For the longest time I was a private groupie, because I wasn’t out as a woman yet, and the thousands of people in the group–yes, that’s true, we’re over three thousand strong–weren’t aware of my status as a transwoman.  But one day I jumped in on a question about gender identity in young kids, and that was it:  I was off and running.

These days I’m the Memestress and Keeper of Helena, our own Drama Llama, one of the Lorekeepers of TARDIS Knowledge, and a member in good standing.  I’ve also been promising to show off our groupie tee shirt . . .

See, a while back we sold tee shirts to our members, one with the group logo and the wording that proclaimed that we were proud HodgePodge Groupies.  Many members have already shown theirs, and I was getting questions about when I was going to show mine.  The answers were always the same:  I’m going to show it soon, and I’m going to do it at a famous movie location.

A couple of weeks ago, it was time to get to some picture taking.

To get to where I needed to go was gonna take some time, so I headed out early, pretty much as the sun was coming up, and began driving west:

Look:  mountains ahead!

Look: mountains ahead!

As you can see the Pennsylvania Turnpike is curving up into the mountains.  Just behind that “Blue Mountain” sign is the first of four tunnels I needed to traverse.  There are two just on the other side of the sign, then another about ten miles beyond that, and then further to the west, the Allegheny Tunnel, which is the longest on the turnpike.

Now, what do I do when I’m out driving for long periods of time?  Wouldn’t you know it, I shot a video!  First off, it’s not the car moving, it’s the camera:  I was holding it in my right hand while I drove with my left, and kept the vehical on cruise control.  The music is loud because that’s usually how I keep it when I’m driving.  Don’t try this at home, kids:  I’m a professional.  And at about forty-four seconds you’ll probably notice some caterwauling which is me doing my best to sing.

My best isn’t that good.

Beyond that is Sideling Hill–a place I visited last year–and this place:  Breezewood, home of a lot of places to stop and eat, as well as Gateway to the Abandoned Turnpike.

You should see this place at night--I have.

You should see this place at night–I have.

I needed to get a bit of breakfast and some coffee, and since I was running just a little ahead of schedule, it was a good place to relax and decompress.  Because I had a long ways to go to get to my first stop . . .

Right here, just south of Pittsburgh.

I heard the shopping here was a little "dead".

I heard the shopping here was a little “dead”.

I know more than a few of you are saying or thinking, “Cassie, why’d you drive half way across the state to visit a shopping mall?”  Because this isn’t just any shopping mall:  this is a famous movie location.  Monroeville Mall was the location for the filming of the original Dawn of the Dead, the second of the original George Romero zombie movies, released in 1978.  Filming took place from ten PM until 6 AM; at which point the mall Muzak came on and since no one knew how to switch it off, that was a wrap.

Since I was in the area I thought, hey, stop in and look around.  See if any of the undead are still around . . .

Zombies?

Zombies?

Yoo hoo?  You around?

Yoo hoo? You around?

Calling all Walkers.

Calling all Walkers.

Since it's fall, all the girls who love fall will be here trying to get their pumpkin spiced candles.

Since it’s fall, all the girls who love fall will be here trying to get their pumpkin spiced candles when they’re undead.

The mall has changed a great deal since 1978:  new stores, new look, probably even a layout change here and there–though the food court still looked pretty funky, so I gotta wonder if there’s been many updates there.  Since I didn’t see any zombies, I bought a pair of boots and a pair of flats.  Because . . . shopping.

Here we have Dawn of the Bitchy Resting Face.

Here we have Dawn of the Bitchy Resting Face.

But this isn’t where I really wanted to show myself wearing my groupie tee shirt.  I said I was doing it at a famous movie location, and I knew just the place.  Because before you can have a Dawn, you need a Night . . .

Night of the Living Dead wasn’t just a genre changer, it was a genre maker.  Before this movie zombies were some drugged-out losers controlled by a bokor.  Everything that we know and love about zombies started with this moving, and while many have added to the mythos, without this little film you wouldn’t today have a guy on TV running around drilling zombies with a crossbow, a woman lopping off heads with a katana, another guy running around yelling “Coral!” and a woman who wants you to just look at the flowers.

Romero started the zombie apocalypse with a virus brought back from space (just like Robert Kirkman would lie about a few decades later when he pitched The Walking Dead and said the zombies were begin created by aliens) and before you knew it, the dead were crawling around looking to add to their numbers and fill their bellies at the same time.  He didn’t have a lot of money for filming, and he pretty much had to just shoot wherever he could–like an hour up the road from Pittsburgh in Evans City.

All of the shooting took place outside a house that is no longer standing, and inside a house right inside town that is still there.  But George needed some place special for the opening shots, which would involve–what we didn’t know at the time–the first attack by a zombie on a living person in cinematic history.

Where would you do that?  Where do you think?

"I need dead people.  Where's a good place to find them?"

“I need dead people. Where’s a good place to find them?”

Welcome to the Evans City Cemetery, and that sign in the above photo was in the movie.  This is it:  Ground Zero for Zombie History, because up the winding road and at the top of the hill is where George filmed Barbara and her douchey brother Johnny visiting their father’s grave before Johnny stupidly joins the ranks of the undead.

Here’s the small chapel in front of which Johnny and Barbara stopped:

It looks a lot better when it's not in black and white.

It looks a lot better when it’s not in black and white.

Here’s the lucky couple paying their respects:

Johnny can't even remove his driving gloves.

Johnny still being a douche, however.

And the site today:

Much better in color.

Much better in color.

And then Mister Don’t Say the Zed Word shows up and Barbara trying to escape from the horror:

Run, Barbara, Run!

Run, Barbara, Run!

And almost forty-five years later, Cassidy is trying to do a Barbara.

Zombies?  Are you there?  This is Cassidy.  Come and get me.

Zombies? Are you there? This is Cassidy. Come at me, bros.

Famous movie locations:  since a lot of my friends, Tanya among them, are huge Walking Dead fans, where better to show off my HodgePodge Groupie tee shirt than the site of the first cinematic zombie attack.  And am I worried I’ll be attacked by the undead?  No.  Not only because it’s a bright, sunny day, but . . .

Back off, Walker dudes:  I got my hooks.

Back off, Walker dudes: I got my hooks.

And I bought a big one just in case things get serious:

I'd be about a million times more bad ass if I had a katana.  And I was a bad ass woman who knew how to use it.

I’d be about a million times more bad ass if I had a katana. And I was a bad ass woman who knew how to use it.

I even managed to get my get my favorite traveling companion in one shot, my trusty CR-V with almost 150,000 miles on the odometer.

 

A girl and her car can't be seperated.

A girl and her car can’t be separated.

So there you have it:  travels to Zombieland, with stop-offs for breakfast on the way out:

Good morning!

Good morning!

And a stop for pumpkin spice latte on the way back:

Here

Good afternoon.

All that took place two weeks ago, on a Sunday, the 14th of September.  But I wasn’t quiet done . . .

See, today–the day of this post–is my friend Tanya’s birthday, and one of the things I wanted to do was wish her a happy birthday in a special way.  Because she’s . . . well, she’s a friend like no other, and you do lovely things for those friends.  I had intended to film a message for her while I was snapping pictures back in Evans City, but then realized, “Nope, I’m in the zombie graveyard, I need a better place.”  Which brings me a little closer to home:  near my apartment, down in Riverside Park right by the river.

So, without further ado, my birthday greeting.

And there you have it:  the travels of a crocheting groupie out to show off her tee shirt to not only her friends in her group, but to her friends on this blog . . . and most importantly, to try and make today a special day for my friend and, in many ways, my creative muse.

Until next year . . .

Intervention Time, Start to Finish

Chapter Twenty-two is history, complete, done.  I only managed about four hundred and fifty words last night, but this morning I felt inspired to complete the scene and end the chapter, and after a hour of writing I’ve accomplished that very thing.

Interestingly enough, Kerry’s final scene of this chapter had nearly the same word count as Annie’s final scene, though it was a few hundred words shorter.  Whereas Annie was all about bringing out the homicidal feelings, Kerry was fighting to stay alive.  One almost brought about death, the other was doing his best to avoid death.  A strange, neat little dichotomy, I believe.

Here it is:  Kerry’s run from death and the aftermath that brings a close to Chapter Twenty-two:

 

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

 

18:38 to 18:42

Kerry couldn’t get away from the creature chasing him.

Since running from The Diamond Kerry had tried everything possible to shake this thing on his tail. He’d zigged and zagged from east to west. He’d changed altitude rapidly. He’d made one high speed run from the south to the north and back several times.

Nothing worked. The creature kept on his tail, and was slowly closing the distance.

Kerry was tired and growing exhausted. It wasn’t the high speed runs from on end of the school to the other: it was the dips, the weaves, the turns at the north and south ends of the school, the ones that brought him closer and closer to the screens, which were becoming more difficult to see at hight speed in the growing darkness. The g forces were tremendous, like he’d expect in a race car. His head hurt, his back was sore, and his knee was on fire. He’s learned quickly to stay out of the area of the school north of the Observatory, because the area there was smaller compared to the rest of the grounds, and it was there he slipped up and not only all most slammed into the screens, but allowed this monster to gain a couple of meters on him.

And no one was responding to his cries for help.

He knew it was only a matter of time. Eventually he was going to miss a turn and go into the screens, or misjudge a weave and feel a tentacle wrap around his neck and rip him off his broom and drag him to the forest below. While he thought it was possible it might throw him to the ground and let him die on impact, a nagging fear in his mind told him it would pulled him screaming into the forest, alive, and it was there it would . . .

He turned back to the northwest, heading towards Sunset Tower and the West End portion of the Green Line. He couldn’t help but notice The Pentagram, glowing a soft blue in the darkness under the defense screens. Annie was in there, safe, maybe working, maybe wondering about him. He had no idea what the people inside the Blue Bubble knew, and even less what she’d know. The image of her face as they said goodbye in the Dining Hall this morning instantly came to mind, and he fought to control his emotions as he fought back the notion that the next time she saw him, it might be to identify his body—

 

Remember, parents:  the next time your kids complain that, two months into the school year, they’re bored with everything, tell them they could be flying for their lives trying to get away from some monster that probably wants to eat them.  They’ll likely remained bored, but at least you can lay some nightmare fuel on them.

But Nightwitch gets on the comm and gives him instructions to fly towards Selena’s Meadow, to come in close to the pavilion on the west side, and to break left when word is given.  It’s all quick and clear, and if there’s one thing Kerry’s shown throughout this ordeal, it’s that he knows how too follow orders.  With the word given he does exactly as told.

 

He reached the tree line north of Selena’s Meadow and pushed hard towards the ground, dropped almost seventy-five meters in a few seconds. He pulled out at just under three meters, and a couple of small adjustments set him at two meters as he stayed on the west side of the meadow and headed straight for Toft Pavilion. He didn’t look back; he didn’t glance over his shoulder; he didn’t bring up the rear view display. He didn’t want to know how close that thing was, if it was only a couple of meters away and was now reaching out to snatch him away—

Break left; break left.”

Kerry did exactly as instructed, throwing his broom into a sixty degree turn while speeding away from the pavilion as fast as possible. There were bright lights behind him, and Kerry didn’t need to look back to know someone was throwing some destructive magic at the creature.

For the first time since leaving The Diamond Kerry felt safe. He felt he could relax. Most of all, as he slowed he felt there was nothing more to do that find a place to stop and wait for orders, perhaps get taken to a place of safety—

He saw two people pop into existence up ahead on his right. It was hard to see given the night vision and distance, but it looked like two women, one supporting the other. A couple of seconds later another person, obviously a man, popped into view, standing behind the women. His right arm was drawn back slightly, and there was something blue and glowing in his hand. Kerry had seen this before—his exhausted mind recognized it from the time Annie showed him the spell. Kerry kept his eyes locked on the ball of cold fire in the man’s hand—

The broom shook hard; Kerry felt the force through his hand and up his arms as it threatened to wrench his shoulders from their sockets.  As he continued flying something warm and sticky splashed his face—

He sailed through the air, finally giving into the exhaustion that wanted to take him for the last five minutes. Kerry surrendered and went limp, waiting—

He barely registered smashing into the ground; he paid little attention to the violent tumble that followed. There was only one final thought:

Annie.

Darkness greeted him long before he came to a stop . . .

 

And there you have it:  Chapter Twenty-two coming to a stop, just like Kerry did.

I could end the novel right here, but that would probably drive a few people mad--myself included.

I could end the novel right here, but that would probably drive a few people mad–myself included.

Now we just have to wait for Chapter Twenty-three.

Won’t that be fun?

Aid Time, Emma and Annie’s Quiet Moment

Finally, a pretty good night of wirting, even if there were more than a few distractions happening.  But I’m used to that these days; it seems to be the way of a writer’s life.  You work your way through them, adjust, and keep moving.  As it was I managed about eight hundred words last night, but more importantly, I inched closer to the end of Chapter Twenty-Two.

This is the penultimate scene, and if you can’t tell by the title of the post, Emma and Annie meet.  How do they meet?  Like this:

 

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

18:32 to 1838

The warning alarm wasn’t loud, but the beep-beep-beepbeep-beeeeeeep was easily designed so as not to be mistaken as something other than an incoming teleport. The moment it started Coraline turned to the location about two-thirds of the way towards the center of the Rotunda and made her announcement. “We have incoming, people. Time to do our jobs.”

Annie got into position. Her instructions were simple: if anyone permitted to teleport through The Pentagram screen wasn’t who they were supposed to be, the Annie was to launch death spells on them without hesitation. She did so with the understanding that if any Deconstructors made it through the minute opening in the screens the Security Center allowed for emergency teleportation of the wounded, and they saw her standing off to one side watching everyone coming into the building, they might decide to launch a death spell her way first.

It was a calculated risk, and one she accepted ever since letting Coraline know that she could do the killing for them were it necessary. If you’re going to be a sorceress, you have to accept the life they lead. And it’s not always a safe one

An eerie silence filled the Rotunda right before the pop that came with the arrival of someone teleporting. Annie wasn’t certain who the person was, but Coraline rushed up to her, so she obviously knew the person. Addressing them by name helped as well . . .

“What do you have, Suhaila?” Coraline checked the person that Annie now saw this Suhaila cradled effortlessly in her arms. The Chief Medical Officer for the school motioned for the other woman to follow her to the triage area.

“Flier trying to get back in.” Suhaila didn’t have an issues with the person in their arms, which led Annie to believe she was an AP like all of Coraline’s staff. “Found her outside The Diamond; her wingmate and her reported in as soon as the comms were back on-line, and it was thought best to bring them in through there.” She laid the girl in on of the reclining chairs instead of on a stretcher. “She’s in shock: I think she was attacked by an Abomination.”

It was only when Coraline pulled the flier’s helmet off that Annie saw the cascading red hair that had been hidden there moments before she heard the question. “She got a name?”

Suhaila nodded. “Emma Neilson.”

 

Now we know who was supposed to go pick up the kids, and if there hadn’t been some Anime Wannabe hanging out and spoiling the night, Annie would be back with her Kerry.  Instead she gets the wingmate and some bad news . . .

 

Annie froze in mid-step as she listened to the conversation—

Coraline conjured the orange glow in her hand while looked at the monitor over the head of the chair. “Yeah, she’s in deep shock.” She nodded at Gretchen. “Okay, let’s bring her out.”

“Yes, Coraline.” She pulled a slap patch from her jacket and gently applied it to the right side of Emma’s neck. “That should do it.”

Coraline checked the monitor. “And three, two, one . . .” She placed her hands upon Emma’s shoulders as the near-catatonic girl gasped for air as she convulsed. The head nurse leaned in close to the girl’s head. “It’s okay, Emma; it’s okay. You’re in the hospital; you’re safe now.” As Emma stopped shaking and started to calm down Coraline turned to Suhaila. “You said you were out there to pick up two?”

“Yes.” She nodded slowly. “The other flier wasn’t there.”

“What’s their name?”

Annie shook her head slowly; she didn’t want to hear the name of Emma’s wingmate. Don’t say it; don’t say it. Please don’t say

“Kerry Malibey.”

 

No, not what Annie wants to hear.  Also, she didn’t want to hear an Abomination was there, so things aren’t looking up for her.  Even Coraline is a little worried–

 

Coraline shot a look in Annie’s direction, then quickly turned back to Suhaila. “Okay, we can take it from here. You need anything from us?”

“No.”

“Good, then.” She patted the security woman on the shoulder; as soon as she teleported out, Coraline turned back to the now fairly serene student in the examination chair. “Emma, I’m Nurse Coraline. You know me?”

Emma nodded slowly. “Yes.”

“Were you attacked outside The Diamond?”

Her eyes opened wide and she shook slightly. “I was. I—”

“It’s okay; you’re safe.” Coraline looked up at Gretchen. “There’s no injuries other than bruises and contusions.” She stepped away from the examination chair and led Gretchen away for consultation. “We can get her up to the ward—”

Annie wasn’t listening to their conversation: she had instead moved next to the examination chair and was now standing over Emma. She calmly looked over the girl before speaking. “Emma.”

Emma slowly looked up. “Oh, hi, Annie.”

 

I look at that last line and so want to write, “Oh hai!”–it’s so hard not to put that in.  Who’s the last person you expect to see after being attacked by a monster?  The girlfriend of your wingmate–I’m sorry, I mean, Soul Mate.  And, from the looks of it, a not so happy one . . .

 

She wasn’t in the mood for an “Oh, hi,” however. She wanted answers. “Where’s Kerry?”

Emma managed a weak smile. “He saved me.”

“What were you doing out in the open?” Annie moved so she was standing next to Emma’s raised torso. “Why weren’t you somewhere safe?”

“We couldn’t; we almost crashed.” Emma slowly licked her dry lips. “We were in the woods and Kerry got me to find a place to hide.” Her eyes rolled for a second. “It was nice, too.”

“What were you doing at The Diamond, then?” Annie’s voice remained steady and level, but a dangerous tone began creeping into her words. “Why weren’t you hiding?”

“I wanted to get underground.” Emma’s voice was growing distant as the medication she was given was removing all the effects of her shock. “I thought we’d be safer. Even Kerry thought the plan wasn’t bad.” She chuckled. “We were almost all the way there when Nightwitch told us to go there and we’d get picked up.” She nodded. “See? It was good.”

Annie leaned over Emma, the distance between their faces closing. “Emma, what happened to Kerry?”

Her voice was weak and far off. “He saved me.”

She grabbed Emma by the front of her flight jacket. “How did he save you?”

“He attacked the monster.”

Annie’s eyes turned cold as she calmly pulled Emma towards her. “He attacked an Abomination?”

Emma chuckled once more. “I heard him screaming at it, and then it screamed at him, and there was more screaming . . .” She gulped as her breathing turned ragged. “There was a lot of screaming.”

As her hands slipped up to the collar of Emma’s flight jacket, Annie fought to keep her anger under control. She was loath to show her feelings to others, but this very moment she felt as if she were about to go off on this stupid girl. “Mozhete glupavo malka kuchka . . .” She pulled the jacket tight around Emma’s neck. “What happened to Kerry? Where is he?”

“He flew off.” Emma continued speaking calmly, as though nothing out of the ordinary were happening. “He flew off and the monster went after him.”

Kerry’s out there with an Abomination after him—” Annie pulled Emma to within a few centimeters of her face.

Emma stared back at Annie as if dumbfounded. “He saved me—” She slowly blinked twice before chuckling. “You’re so lucky.”

 

Yeah, that little bit of Bulgarian there . . . Annie’s not happy.  And the “You’re so lucky” line . . .  Full disclosure here:  as I’ve stated a few times before, Annie and Kerry came out of a role play that me and another person did for most of a year.  This actual scene was more or less played out, with my friend playing Annie, and me playing Emma.  Some of what happened in this scene is as presented–I’ve had to change a few things, and our role playing scene was shorter–but what Annie does to Emma here is what my friend did with Annie.

And when I laid the “You’re so lucky” line on her, she lost it.  Annie literally went all murder time on the girl.  I was actually a bit shocked at how she went at Emma, but now I understand her motivation.  I understand that you don’t mess with her soul mate, and if you did something stupid that might have gotten him killed . . .

You’re gonna suffer, honey.

A couple of days ago I saw my friend who played Annie on-line, and I told her I was getting ready to write this scene, and after I said, “You’re so lucky”, she tells me–and here is the exact quote:  “And the lucky thing . . . honestly . . . If I could have gotten away with it, I would have pulled her lungs out of her body and squeezed them.”

No, she wasn’t bothered at all by what Emma did.

What does Annie do?

Well . . . I’ll write that up tonight.  Considering Annie’s the Dark Witch–what do you think?

And here Emma thought she left the horror outside . . .

And here Emma thought she left the horror outside . . .

Abomination Time, The Fight

This is what it’s come to, and you knew it was coming.  If they’re moving and contact, and the last thing you remember is someone getting dragged off by Octo-boy, then there’s gonna be a fight.  And here it is–

It’s not a good place for Kerry right now, and things are about to dive right down the toilet for the poor kid.  How bad is it going to get?

"My money's on the not-human."

“My money’s on the non-human.”

Your money’s no good here, Hastur.

Let’s look in and see for ourselves.

 

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

Kerry was frozen, held in place by surprise and terror. This was on of the creatures that made it through the screen breach: some octopus-like monstrosity that seemed to scurry along or spider or crab legs. He sat there on his PAV, Emma’s broom in his right hand, and listened to her scream as the creature kept her pinned against the wall of The Diamond—

It’s going to kill her.

Another voice in Kerry head responded. What are you going to do about that?

Do? I can’t do anything.

Yes, you can. You have the call sign of a hero, a woman who wasn’t afraid of anything, who would do anything to help her friends. You are a witch and a sorceress; you can do anything. Are you going to let your wingmate get eaten?

I

Are you going to let her die?

I—

Keep your wits about you

Kerry mumbled between clenched teeth. “—When everything is going to hell around you.” He raised the broom in his right hand and charged his broom forward, screaming as loud as possible.

 

When all else fails and you don’t know what to do, attack.  Scream.  Go at . . . things.  Even if you’re not sure you’re doing the right thing.  Because sometimes you score–

 

The sixth or seventh blow failed to attract the creature’s attention, and Kerry knew he had to do something fast or Emma was gone. He he couldn’t use an Air Hammer foci to chop at this thing—but there was nothing that said he couldn’t use the spell for stabbing. Kerry pulled back a couple of meters and fashioned the spell around the forward tip of Emma’s broom. He didn’t know how many shots he’d get with this, or even if it was going to be effective, but he had no choice: Emma’s screams were fading, and for all he knew she was already dying . . .

Kerry sailed into the creature again, this time using the Air Hammer foci for Emma’s broom to harpoon the monster. A blueish-green liquid jetted out of the puncture wound, splashing all over his jacket and gloves. He pulled it out with difficulty; this creature may look like an ambulatory octopus, but it wasn’t an invertebrate, making it far harder to damage—

He finally managed to get its attention, though—and piss it off at the same time.

 

And sometimes you piss off the wrong thing.  Not like that wasn’t going to happen, though, right?

 

The creature spun around and knocked the broom from Kerry’s hands. Three tentacles reach for him, but he was quick enough to back away some six or seven meters before they could latch on and drag him away. His breathing quickened; he fought to keep from shaking and loosing control of his senses and mind.

He had his first real look at the monster he faced.

He saw the thick spider-like legs, eight of them holding the creature off the ground. He couldn’t tell how many tentacles the thing had: there were at least six around the body, maybe eight, but there are more around the face, perhaps six, maybe more. The mouth was lip-less and wide, stretching nearly all the way across the three meter wide body. It was impossible to tell the color of the creature’s hide; everything in the low-light goggles was tinged green.

But the eyes . . . They weren’t human, or even like those of an octopus, but rather eight large saucers maybe twenty or twenty-five centimeters across, ringed around the mouth and up onto what passed for a forehead. It opened its mouth and showed a double row of pointed teeth, perfect for piercing and tearing.

It reared back and turned loose a low rumbling growl that made Kerry’s teeth vibrate. He knew what it was: ultra low frequency sound. It must be adapted to do this . . . It hurt his head and nearly made him throw up, but as Professor Lovecraft taught, he kept his wits about him. For the first time since the breach he was glad he had to ride a broom due to his damaged knee, because Kerry knew he couldn’t out maneuver this thing on foot.

He would have died the moment it turned on him.

 

In case you’re wondering, twenty to twenty-five centimeters is eight to ten inches, but those Foundation people:  they drill the metrics into you.  And those are big eyes–all eight of them staring back at you, sizing you up for dinner.

 

It moved slowly towards him, snarling, not with low frequency sounds, but as an animal would do before killing its prey. The tentacles around the mouth began writhing, and Kerry figured it was going for a quick kill: probably grab him with the larger tentacle’s, then pull him close to the mouth, have those tentacles latch on, and . . .

And he wasn’t about to make himself a late afternoon snack for some mutated Spawn of Cthulhu.

The creature leapt at him, screaming, it’s mouth wide open, the tentacles reaching—

He pulled hard to his left and dodge it, then turned to face it in time to dodge another leap. He wanted to check on Emma, but he couldn’t take his eyes off this thing, not for a moment. If he did—

Kerry couldn’t help himself, however; he had to know. He glanced to his left—

The monster charged forward.

 

Important lesson learned:  never take your eye off the Cthulhu creature.  Even if it’s driving you mad.  Fortunately, the kid has his wits about him . . .

 

Kerry threw up his hands and tossed out the biggest Air Hammer spell he could pulled together. The creature slammed into it and stopped dead in the air about two meters from the front of his broom. He didn’t damage it, but he did shield himself from the attack.

I can’t keep this up for long, though. Kerry figured someone would come soon, but he was worried that if he continued to fight this thing it would grow bored and go after Emma again—or, worse, attract the attention of identical creatures.

He couldn’t continue to wait.

He had to act.

He was frightened, breathing hard, fighting to hold himself together—

He held out his right arm and extended his middle finger at the monster intent on killing him. “Come on, bitch.” He spit at the thing. “Come ON.”

The creature hurled itself at Kerry.

There was only one thing to do . . .

Run.

He jerked upward on this control shaft as hard as possible and shot forty meters into the air. He was vaguely aware that the creature was off the ground and coming for him. He turned hard to his left and sailed over the roof of The Diamond, accelerating as he turned towards the north and The Pentagram. He cast a quick glance behind: the creature was there, maybe eight meters behind. It kept pace with him as he picked up speed and rocketed over the Flight School and Selena’s Meadow.

He was running; the only thing left to do was get on the comm and tell someone. “Nightwitch, this is Starbuck.” He looked out over the school before him, trying to put the things intent on devouring him out of his mind. “I’ve got something chasing me, and I need help. I need it now. Someone, HELP.”

 

There you go.  Emma left in an unknown state, and Kerry zooming through the darkening sky with Octo-squid monster after him.  And that’s where I’m going to leave her, because the next scene takes us back into the Great Hall–

Because I don't like leaving people helping people out of the action.

Because I don’t like leaving people helping people out of the action.

–Which is going to move the action forward just a little more.  Chapter Twenty-two is almost finished.

And it’s going out with something of a bang.

Abomination Time, Contact

A strange last twenty-four hours, mostly because I didn’t know I was going to make it to this point today.  Because yesterday, at work, I nearly passed out.

I’m breaking in these new glasses, which are not only bifocals–yes, I need those–but are larger lenses as well as high definition.  Which means everything is so bright and clear.  I also received a new computer monitor, which is also bigger and HD and bright and clear . . . and I was sitting way too close to it because my other glasses were kind of the suck.

The upshot of all this is I was getting some wicked vertigo while coming down with something at the same time.  I realized I was getting sick when I made it home and relaxed with my glasses off and my eyes closed for a bit, and felt the illness coming on.  That was when I slipped into my warm red flannel pajamas and slipped into my comfy Fuug boots (fake Uugs, if you’re wondering), and drank tea to get the warm fluids into my body.

If I'd had the blue cozy I'd probably been sitting at my computer in it as well.

If I’d had the blue cozy I’d probably been sitting at my computer in it as well.

Did I mention sitting at my computer?  Where else would I be?  I wrote nine hundred words towards that character I told you about on Sunday, and then . . . well, I have a novel I’m slowly building too, yeah?

The last time we saw my kids they were ripping along the south end of the school when they got word the comms were back on line.  Ergo, it only makes sense to let someone know they’re alive . . .

 

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

Though he wasn’t suppose to respond, Kerry felt he had no choice but to let the professor know Emma and he were still alive. “Nightwitch, this is Starbuck. Selene and I are still out here; we’re trying to get to safety. Please respond—over.”

Vicky was on the comm immediately. “Starbuck, Selene, where the hell are you? Over.”

Emma took this one. “Nightwitch, we’re on Gloucester Bend going flat-out towards The Diamond. We want to get underground. Over.”

There wasn’t any time wasted making a decision. “Okay, stay on the Green Line and head for The Diamond. Pop over Chicane and proceed to Exit Two. Everything’s sealed, but I’ll contact Fortress and see about getting them to drop it long enough to let you in. Acknowledge—over.”

Since that had been their plan all along, Kerry didn’t wait for Emma to give her okay. “Got it, Nightwitch. Over.”

“Copy on that. We don’t have the detection grid up yet, so radio in when you’re at the exit. Over.”

“Copy, Nightwitch. Over and out.”

Emma quickly looked back at her wingmate. “See?”

“Yeah, I see.” Kerry didn’t try hiding his smile. “Good call.”

“I told you.” They finally straightened out on their finally approach to Chicane. “They lost the detection gird, too?”

“Sounds like it.” Kerry slowed as Emma did, sliding into the sweeping left/right meant to slow racers before heading for the Start/Finish Line. “Don’t go too high—”

 

Yeah, don’t go too high because you never know who might shoot at you or see you.  But they get there okay–no one blasts them–and they make their way to the place they’re suppose to go . . .

 

Emma dropped to the ground and leapt off her broom some fifteen meters from the exit, allowing it to drop to the ground. She gave the status report as she ran for Exit Two. “Nightwitch, this is Selene. We’re at the exit. Over.”

Kerry settled slowly to the ground as Vicky responded. “Roger, Selene. Fortress is sending someone for pickup. Hold tight; they should be there momentarily. Over and out.”

Emma was standing next to the exit. It was not only physically sealed, but was covered with a screen that shimmered with a dark red. “Roger. Over and out.” She waved at Kerry. “Come on; hurry up. They’ll be here soon.”

Kerry dropped his broom as low to the ground as possible without scraping his bad knee and retried Emma’s broom. “Why you dropping your equipment like that?”

“Oh, please.” She stood with her weight planted on her right leg. “It’s not like—”

Something large dropped from above the exit, wrapped Emma up in two long, thick tentacles, and dragged her screaming form along the ground for nearly twelve meters before picking her up and slamming her against the side of the building.

 

. . . and everything goes straight to hell.  ‘Cause when something wraps their tentacles around you, it’s never a good thing.  Then again, this is Lovecraft Country–maybe this thing just wants to say “Hi.”

"Hey, tell her 'hi' for me, too!"

“Tell her ‘hi’ for me, too!”

Anyway, you wanted the Abomination–you got it.  I’ve got a thousand words even on the scene, and if I get into a good writing grove tonight, I’ll probably get closer to two thousand.

After all, Kerry just can’t stand by and watch Emma die–

Can he?

"And he watched the creature bite her head off, after which he just boogied on out of there."  Well, that would certainly be easier to write . . .

“And he watched the creature bite her head off, after which he just boogied the hell on out of there.” Well, that would certainly be easier to write . . .

Tally Time, the Hard Salem Life

First, lets have some news, good and bad.  First the good news:  I’m doing fine in the transitioning area, and I was told by my doctor that I’ve got “boobage going on,” which is one of the reasons I love her.

But the bad new is I may have hypertension, and that’s not good.  Three times I’ve had my blood pressure taken, three times I hit 150 on the top end.  So I need to start looking into how to get that down, because I really don’t want to start on blood pressure medication, nor do I want a stroke.  No, I don’t.  Not at all.

This is my worried face.  It's not a good one.

This is my worried face.  Can you tell?

I snapped the above picture in a Panera about five miles from my doctor’s office in New Jersey.  Since I knew I’d get home late, I wanted to get in my writing–which is why I always bring my computer with me when I’m out like this.  You write where you can, and since I like going to Panera, if their wifi up working, I can hop online as well.  The wifi wasn’t working yesterday, which is why I was able to write over seven hundred words in about forty minutes.

Now comes the part of the post were we start talking about bad things at my school, and if you don’t want to hear about people dying, it’s best you move away from here and return to the Internet, where just about anything is found for the click of a Google.

 

Ready?

 

Let’s Go.

 

We’re at the point in the story where the security people know if any deaths occurred during the breach of the outer defense screens.  They go off of who didn’t make it back to one of the two safe areas, particularly with the comms down, and also if there were any eyewitnesses who saw someone dying.  It’s not a pleasant task, creating a tally of the dead, and Isis is particularly sensitive to this, because eleven years before, as a student, she lost friends at the school during a Deconstructor attack known as The Scouring.

We pick up in the story learning that death is something that is always around . . .

 

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

During her tenure as Director of Security for the Salem Institute, Isis Mossman found it necessary to report to the Headmistress on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of six students. Though much was done to prevent such a tragedy from occurring, deaths happened—and most were not accidents.

One of the non-accidents occurred during a Call Out Match, which occurred when differences between students could only be worked out in usually quick, one-on-one, combat. Two E Levels squared off n 2008 and one student fired off and intense barrage of magic that the other student—the girl who’d actually initiated the challenge—was unable to block or deflect, making their demise a sudden, blood-soaked mess—all of which was allowable because of the Foundation wavers the students signed before entering the combat area. Isis was required to investigate, though the root cause of the death was easy to determine, the solution would have made it necessary to either eliminate the use of additional spells—death spells were already forbidden in magical combat—or forbid this form of combat altogether.

The second non-accident happened three months after Isis became the security director in 2006. A transformation spell backfired on a C Level student during class, and despite the best efforts of Jessica Kishna and Nurse Coraline and her staff, they were unable to resuscitate the boy. Isis was unable to come up with a solution, other than the completely unacceptable notion of no longer teaching transformation spells . . .

 

When it comes right down to it, killing someone with magic is a pretty simple thing.  We’ve already seen Annie and Kerry being warned after their Self Defense and Weapons class not to use their Air Hammer spells against other students, because they could probably cut them in half like so many zombies were they to use them.  And Annie knows a death spell, so she’s already a dangerous little girl.

There’s also something else that one has to take into consideration in this little hot pot of magic:  under the right conditions students will snap and perhaps find it to difficult to go on . . .

 

The school took every precaution possible to prevent students from killing themselves. All high places from which one could jump were protected by safety enchantments; ingredients that could be used to manufacture poisons were monitored and secured. The detection grills were always on the lookout for students suddenly registering zero life signs, and the vitals of students who attempted suicide through bleeding out or asphyxiation were immediately noted, which always resulted in the instant notification of the hospital staff on duty.

The staff and instructors were also trained to notice changes in behavior that could lead to suicidal ideation and/or action. Everyone working at Salem had been a student, and they knew all too well the pressure-ladened environment that existed inside the walls of the Institute. They’d seen the same behavior in fellow students, and with the additional training they’d received, they could now recognize it in their own students. With enough recognition it was possible for someone to approach a student and tell them, “We should talk.”

Sometimes, however, there were students who were impossible to notice short of reading their minds . . .

 

The possibility of suicide at school couldn’t be any different than the chances of it happening in Normal schools.  It happens here, too, and if you’ve figured out from the excerpts that at least four students have killed themselves from 2006 to 2010, then you know being a witch doesn’t mean you’re immune to the pressures of life.  That’s why there are three counselors at the school, and others can be brought in on a moment’s notice.

Noticed I didn’t write how they died.  I did in the novel, and as you can guess, if you’re good with sorcery or transformation magic, you’re out as soon as you think about the deed.  It’s something Annie says in later years:  once you know a few death spells, if you want to die, you put your thought, energy, and willpower into it, and in two seconds you’re gone.

Like it’s said, the teachers there have a hard time trying to keep the lid on some people.  And as Isis notes below . . .

 

In each case Isis was able to determine that beyond better observation of the student body coupled with proactive counseling, there was little one could do to prevent a student who was sufficiently skilled in magic, superscience, or Gifts, from killing themselves if they were looking to end it all and move beyond The Veil.

Today was different, however. Today Isis was reporting of the deaths of students that she may have been able to prevent. She knew it was impossible to have a defense that was one hundred perfect foolproof, that someone was going figure out a work around given enough time—and that the situation on the school grounds could be worse.

It didn’t make her mood any better.

 

There I stopped, and tonight I get into Director Mossman’s report to the Headmistress, and we–well, actually you; I know what she’s going to say–discover how many students were lost, and how Isis might have to deal with breaking this bad news to a student just down the hall from her.

Now here is the strange thing:  all this time I’ve been looking at Chapter Twenty-Two, and I realized I left a scene out.  It’s right . . .

There, because being an Abomination and getting Intervention.

There, between being an Abomination and getting Intervention.

It’s a pivotal scene, and I can’t believe I left it out.  I know what it is, but . . . as Ricky would say, “You know how it goes.”  Sadly I do.  But I remembered it today.

And something else happened during the writing of the scene yesterday:

It has something to do with numbers, I know that.

It has something to do with numbers, I know that.

Act Two finally crossed a hundred thousand words.  So, between the two acts, I’ve two novels.  The question remains if I can finish up this act in another fifty thousand words.  I think I can–

Yeah, I really do.