Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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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.


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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 encased the whole school–and throwing up a similar defense screen around The Pentagram, protecting the students who’ve been sent to their towers.

Madam 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 Safe Haven–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 if it, 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 complected, 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?


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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 really 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–


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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 my 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.


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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.


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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.


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The World Beneath the Water

Lets roll out the new from last night, first.  It was “I’m Off Night,” last night, because after dinner and a little shopping I had zero creative energy to sit and do anything.  I knew what I wanted to write, but after a good hour of looking at the story, I finally say, “I think I’ll just sit and relax,” and did that until I started falling asleep at ten PM.  It’s not a bad thing:  sometimes you need to recharge your batteries, and if that means a night off, then take it.  I don’t have anything to do today, so it’s a good time to make up for last night’s lost time.

So what I’m going to talk about today is something completely different, and in the process of this discussion I’m going to bring up some things about a rather well known television show about zombies where no one ever says the word zombie.  There will be times when I’m gonna go all Ms. Spoilly McSpoil, so if you don’t want to read something that’s going to cause you to shake your fist at your computer screen while you scream, “Curse you, Cassie!” through clenched teeth, then read a book, listen to music, or watch some good movies–TCM will show Bonnie and Clyde, Jaws, and Alien back-to-back tonight, so you might want to keep that block open.

I have given warning–you know–

Or is that, "Don't Dead, Open Inside"?  Maybe I should check . . .

Or is that Don’t Dead, Open Inside? Maybe I should check . . .

There’s a meme that’s been rolling around Facebook of late, one that doesn’t actually involve some kid getting picked up for a DUI in Miami.  No, this is a picture of a huge iceberg, floating peacefully along while waiting for a ship to smack into it.  As you know an iceberg is pretty much under the water, a huge thing you never see, which is probably good because you’d likely get hypothermia swimming around trying to get a look-see.

The part above the water–the small part–is labeled “Movie”, while the part below the waterline is labeled “Novel”.  You know what they’re trying to say:  the parts you see in a movie are only a small part of the story that’s adapted from a novel–if, of course, the movie is adapted from a novel, and it’s not an original tale.

But this is often true.  One could point to any of the biggest movies of late–the Harry Potter films, the Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games–had to leave out a lot of the story to get the tale up on the screen.  For some tales you need to do a four or five hour flick if you want to get everything on the screen–or do as was done with The Godfather, which took the early life of Vito Corleone and worked it up as a flash back around original material.  And in doing this, they still left out a lot of the story.  (Maybe due to threats of a lawsuit by a certain Italian-American singer and actor who’d won an Oscar who didn’t like a character in the novel who was Italian-American singer and actor who ended up winning an Oscar, all with a little help from his godfather.  Purely a coincidence, I’m sure.)

When you translate a novel to television, however, you are allowed a little more leeway, because you have, if you’re lucky, more time to develop your story.  Rich Man, Poor Man was a good example of the early television mini-series, where you could take your time moving as much of the story from the page to the screen, and stay true to the material.  Yes, some things don’t get translated well–maybe due to things that are going on inside a person’s head, or, depending on the times, there are things in the story that violate a network’s “standards and practices,” which is a fancy way of saying you’ll never get a particular scene past the censors.

This is pretty much alleviated by the advent of premium cable these days, where one can pretty much get away with showing so much that the joke has  become, “It’s not porn, it’s HBO.”  Yes, there are some things that HBO won’t show–in A Song of Ice and Fire our lovable Mother of Dragons was more like I’m Just Barely a Teen Mommy of Dragons, so she was aged up just a little for Game of Thrones.  And by “just a little,” I mean she could have appeared on 16 and Pregnant–with DRAGONS!  Which is a reality show I’d watch . . .

Basic cable has gotten into the act as well.  Breaking Bad was a true gem of drama, with a story and characters that was at both times compelling and revolting.  This was, however, an original show, and the story could develop as slowly and fully as the creator/producer liked.  And that brings us to the real iceberg of this tale, The Walking Dead.

"I don't speak with an English accent.  I'm from Kentucky; no one from the South speaks with an English accent."

“I don’t speak with an English accent. I’m from Kentucky; no one from the South speaks with an English accent.”

At the moment the AMC show is three-and-a-half seasons into a four season run, with a fifth promised.  It’s done very well in ratings and has a loyal, sometimes fanatical following, but that’s to be expected with any fandom.  The show follows this guy, Sheriff Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a gun shot-induced coma and discovers that, no, he’s not in Indiana, he’s in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypsetm, his family is missing, and everything he’s known has gone straight to hell.  In the process of the first episodes he finds his family, a group of survivors, and most of all his best-I-left-you-for-dead-and-I’m-bangin’-your-wife-friend and former partner from the force, Shane.

The show has followed the meta plot pretty closely:  they find Atlanta messed up, they find  Hershel’s Farm, they find The Prison, they find The Governor, they fight The Governor, they lose the Prison, and as of right now they’re On The Road looked for each other and safe harbor.  Since it’s been stated they run into the traveling trio of Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinosa, and mullet-sporting Eugene Porter, the metaplot will have them heading northward to the Alexandra Safe-Zone, where life won’t exactly become any easier for them.

I’ve only watched the show off and on throughout the years.  I usually haven’t had the time to watch the show, though these days I find there is more time in The Burg for relaxing, so I have watched episodes off and on.  I’ve also been an off-and-on fan of the comic, which has run since October, 2003, and is now up to Issue 120, with a confirmation of printing through Issue 132.

In terms of iceberging, this story is the perfect iceberg.  There is so much that has been set by the wayside in order to get the story on the screen.  About half of the Prison story was removed, for example, which could have been an entire season in of itself–instead of, say, a whole season of hanging out on The Farm.  That season could have seen Hershel losing two of his kids to his zombie kid in the barn, Tyreese’s daughter and boyfriend messing up their suicide pack, the beheading of Hershel’s twin daughters by crazy prisoners, Tyreese giving Rick a beatdown and throwing him off a second-story walkway, Carol deciding to do Death By Walker–

Wait, what?

Like I said, there were a lot changed to move the story from the comic to the small screen.  For one, they got rid of a few characters:  Hershel had a huge family, and he pretty much gets to watch six of them die almost right before his eyes–the last one, his son Billy, does when he takes a bullet to the head during the Woodbury assault on the prison. There are a few prisoners who make it as far at the Woodbury assault but no further, and one of two Woodbury defectors also meet their end at that point as well.  Dale–he of the famous show’s Dale Face–survives well beyond the Woodbury assault, only to be eaten by cannibals while on the road to Washington, D.C..  He is also the one who loses a leg, but since Dale was long-gone by the time of the show’s Prison Time, that leg bite went to Hershel.

Oh, and the Show Rick swears a lot less than that Comic Rick, but that’s because It’s Not HBO, It’s AMC, and while the show may be able to get away with a “shit” and “asshole” now and then, having Rick throw out the word “fucker” every so often wouldn’t go over well, and tell Michonne and Tyreese that the Woodbury folks “have fucked with the wrong people!” is pretty much HBO fodder.  And there’s a few sex scenes, because even when you’re surrounded by the undead, there’s always a moment for sexy time, right?

"This is my resting bitchy face.  I'm really not as bad as I'm made out."

“This is my resting bitchy face. I’m really not as bad as I’m made out.”

And then there is Lori.

If there is a part of this ‘Berg I find way the hell off, it’s the way a few of the women are portrayed.  In the original story, Lori is concerned, she’s protective of her family, she admits to having had sex once with Shane but no more, she makes it through Judith’s birth, becomes a protective mother–and then dies in about as gruesome a manner as one can imagine.  If it’s any consolation, her death–and the death of another–leads to the death of The Governor, but by that time Lori’s a Walker in Training and gives no shits.

The Show Lori, however . . . when your character is made out as the worst thing in a world full of undead looking to eat you and your loved ones twenty-four/seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, until the day you join the shambling herd, there is something seriously off.  By the end of Season Two most viewers, given the choice of having their face gnawed off by a hungry Walker, or having Lori ask them if they saw Carl in the house, would say, “Hey, Walker:  you want a side salad with my face?”  No way was she ever getting Mother of the Year awards, and given the narrowness of that field in the story, it’s a pretty damning indictment for her character.

The same thing was done with Andrea.  On the show she was something of an annoying pain in the ass who got separated from the group, was rescued by Michonne, went to Woodbury, hooked up with The Gov, waffled back and forth with the, “Is he good, is he psycho?  I can’t kill him, the sex was pretty good,” line, and ultimately ended up dead due to her own kind of stupid.

"No, I never shot a redneck by accident.  If I shoot him, he ain't gettin' up!"

“No, I never shot a redneck by accident. If I shoot him, he ain’t gettin’ up!”

This is more the way she really was:  kicking ass and forgetting the names as soon as they were dispatched.  And that scar on her face?  That’s from taking a rifle shot to the head, which sort of kinda put her out of action just a little in the final Woodbury assault.  But, in the comic story, Andrea’s still alive, still kicking ass, and pretty much Rick’s girlfriend at this point.  A lot of her personality in the original story got ported over to Carol, who, on the show, you learned not to be near if you had a bad cough.

I can understand some of the changes that were made:  it’s basic cable, you only have so many episodes in a season that can air, you wanna cut through as much of the Peyton Place stuff as possible and stick to the action, and you never know how long your actors can stay with you, so sometimes you kill off ones where they shouldn’t die, and keep around those who should have died because they’re good for the story, which is to say fans like them, and fans equal viewer, so go with that.

That, ultimately, is why you have the iceberg when you translate a story to a screen.  Reading is one thing, the visual medium another, and a lot of the people doing the viewing aren’t necessary going to be doing the reading.  There are a few exceptions to the rule–Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings instantly spring to mind, as well as a few superhero movies based upon other comics–but in the case of TV, it does seem that you have a lot more people who watch the story, and are surprised as hell when one tells them that what they’re watching was based upon a book, or in the case of TWD, a comic.

It’s an interesting thing to look at from the point of being a writer.  I’ve seen more than a few Facebook threads that go, “If your story is made into a movie, who do you want to play your characters?”  A better question may be, “If your story is made into a movie or television show, what would you be okay with getting changed or dropped?”  After all, your story would end up someone else’s iceberg.

And there’s so much water in which to hide.


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Hurting the Ones You Create

For a while I when got up The Burg looked a bit like London.  There was heavy fog in the street, and even the well-lit hospital and parking garage across the street were hard to see.  Now, twenty minutes later, there is fog, but it’s not that bad.  The Weather Channel is telling me that we will have dense fog until nine AM, and there’s black ice on the highways.  Good morning!

About last night’s writing:  yes, it was good.  Yes, I finished one scene and moved onto the other.  Yes, I hurt one of my students badly–

How badly?

Eh, I just electrocuted him a little.

My black magic woman–not a gypsy queen, mind you–had something she wanted to test.  I can’t tell you what that is, because in all likelihood I won’t write down that reason for a couple of days.  Helena was going on about how she liked the spell Electrocute, and . . . she tried it out.  On Kerry.  Several times.  By the time she was done zapping him he was slumped over his desk moaning and crying.  With that Helena whisked him off to the hospital to leave him under the tender mercies of Nurse Coraline, who is going to get Helena an ass chewing before she leaves.

I knew this was coming, because I’ve thought about this scene for a while–more than a month, more than a year, actually.  It wasn’t suppose to be a nice thing, and as I said there are reason why poor Kerry needed to get his finger stuck in the magical light socket.  He’ll be all right;  I mean, it’s not like I’m going to kill him off this soon in the novel?

I have a bad feeling about this . . .

I have a bad feeling about this . . .

Or will I?  Bwah, hahaha!

Go on, get that look off your face.  I haven’t killed anyone–yet.  But the whole idea that I was going to feel bad about bringing major harm to the character–naw, not a bit.  It was planned, thought out, and finally written, and the biggest trouble I had was figuring out how to write it so it didn’t drag, and described what was happening.  Because sometimes you gotta hurt those characters.

Whacking out people for the fun of it isn’t my style.  But if I gotta get down on someone’s butt–even if they’re eleven years old–for the sake of the story, then downing will commence.  You have to keep things “real”, even in a science fiction story (and even though this has magic it in, yeah, I’m calling it science fiction, ’cause I’m rolling that way), and people are going to get hurt in interesting ways.  There will be pain, both mental and physical, though I won’t dwell on the physical aspect.

Your characters are your babies, but some times you gotta get hard on those kiddies.  Sometimes you do need to need to point at one and think, “Yeah, in the grand scene of the story’s universe, your time has come,” and you drop an elephant on them. (A term I learned from my role playing days.)  Since you are the writer, sometimes you gotta drop more than one elephant on a character–or a few elephants on a number of characters.

Sometimes you gotta look at what you’re creating and think, “What my story needs is a Red Wedding.  With a bit more death.”  Naturally.

Why does it have to end in tears?

Because the universe inside your head won’t let it end any other way.


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Coven Cravings

After a few days of bringing you the lowdown on layouts and software, I was tired.  My eyes were also hurting, going through some itching and burning that may be due to The Burg, or could be due to a ghost living in my apartment.  Either way, I was ready to decompress.

I’ve mentioned before I don’t watch television that much, though there are a few things that keep me interesting.  I watch Project Runway, which ends tonight, which may be a good thing as there was far too much drama this season.  I’m half way through Torchwood:  Miracle Day and Orphan Black, both of which I’m loving, though I’m not keen on the Americanization of Torchwood, but I blame the network for that.  As for Orphan Black–I wanna have my own Clone Club, and slap the Soccer Mom just because.

Last night I was waiting for a show to come on, so it was through Paranormal Activity and PA2.  I’d never seen either, though I knew how the first ended.  (I know the alternate ending as well; it’s online.)  No big scares for me, and the second movie tells you everything you need to know about why the first happens.  Thanks a lot, sis!

But then it was on to American Horror Story:  Coven, and what the hell did I see?  First off, gattor hunters baggin’ a big, then Stevie Nicks wandering through the swamp in her hippie dress and high heeled boots.  Poke Salad Annie, the dead gattor came to life and ate the swampbillies, chomp chomp.

It guest goes straight to hell on the crazy train from there–but that’s a good thing . . .

I love strange and crazy.  I was glued to the TV when Twin Peaks was on, I dug The Prisoner when I was a kid, and I know there are others out there, but my mind is a blank right now.  Last night, however, I get sarcastic witches with drinking problems; immortal racists; Angela Bassett, for whom I would crawl across broken glass just to say hello; a Frankenstein boyfriend; Stevie Nicks again, healing up the boyfriend with moss and alligator shit before foreshadowing her intentions like it was the Bat Signal; crazy witch sex with snakes; and a minotaur.  All because I wanted to see the girl with the killer fairy vagina, which is pretty cool method of keeping unwanted bros away.

I know the episodes are already filmed, but with the filming having taken place in New Orleans, the producers missed a golden opportunity.  I want you to imagine this . . .  Nic Cage’s character from Bad Lieutenant 2, showing up at the witch coven with his lucky crack pipe.  it would have been gold, I’m telling you:  gold!  It would have taken the show into heights of insanity that would be discussed a thousand years from now by the necromancers who’ll return to the Earth.

Like it or not, I have another show to watch.  Will it be enough to hold me over until Day of the Doctor?

Maybe I should start working on my spells.


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Promises of Lightness and Dark

This is what comes of fooling around on line all night and then getting a good night’s sleep:  you look at things in a different light, and ideas pop into your head.  Maybe they’re not good ideas, but they do come up, and you’re a damn fool not to do anything with them.

I really was intending on working on my NaNo Novel last night, getting the lexicon worked out, because I truly do need that cat in the bag.  But I didn’t.  I waited for a package that didn’t come, and by the time I’d stopped waiting, it was getting on six-thirty.  So in for a shower, getting nice and clean, and I pop back out and it’s already seven-fifteen.  I did go to plug in my external drive–

But I had people wanting to speak with me.

The one part of The Burg that is so much like being back in Indy is having little or not personal contact.  Yes, you can speak with people at work, but there is no one here who you can hang with after the day is over and chat up, and maybe go out for a couple of drinks afterwards.  I have this lovely balcony and sitting out there is nice, but it would be wonderful to have someone over to speak with.

At the same time, during one of the conversations, my mind started working on its own side project.  I was reading what they typed, and I responded one way, but in another part of my brain I saw myself typing something else.  Something that was dark and not a little strange.  I know, you’re saying, “You, honey?  Strange?”  Shocking, right?  Sometimes I surprise myself.

While I have a lot of story ideas, very few of them are dark.  Maybe that’s because I have enough darkness surrounding me and while I might not write the most uplifting prose, I at least have something close to a happy ending by the end of the tail.  What I saw last night, what was being typed on the other side of my mind–it wasn’t happy, it wasn’t light, it wasn’t a good ending.

Or was it?

Every so often I dip into the horror.  Every so often I imagine the dark spaces in life and wonder what exists there.  Oh, sure, cannibal hillbillies and shambling zombies and things going bump in the night are good favorites.  But what if someone was drawn into the darkness, and embraced it willingly?  Not because they’re crazy, but because what was promised . . . touched them in a special way?

At the end of the novel Hannibal, Clarice ran off with Doctor Lecter because she’d spent too much time staring into the abyss, and when it stared back, she shrugged and said, “Ah, fuck it:  this isn’t that bad.”  Sure, you can say the drugs and the brain washing played a part, but I’m of a mind that after all those years chasing the darkness, she finally caught it and allowed it to become her own.

I need some dark writers.  The people in my stories better watch out.


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You Are Now Leaving Silent Hill

First things first:  I didn’t write my article yesterday.  There were various reasons for this, mostly because the afternoon slipped away from me before I knew it was gone, and I walked a little over two miles in the rain to go to and from my dinner location before sitting down to watch Torchwood:  Miracle Day and Season One of Orphan Black.  I was very bad, I admit it, though during my walk I worked out a long scene between two of my characters.  So not a complete loss:  it’s still writing if you’re thinking about your story, right?

But the highlight of my morning was the drive up to Centralia, Pennsylvania, the location of a coal mine fire that’s been burning since 1962.  As was mentioned, the town was the inspiration for the look of the movie Silent Hill, though these days much of that inspiration is gone, vanished into the mists of whatever hell that movie rose from.

First off, the road into town.  State 61 is the main route into the town, but a stretch of the highway passed over the burning coal, and the heat caused the road to buckle and split.  Centrailia Enter 61These days St 61 detours along an old logging road that used to pass through Byrnesville, the other town that was eliminated by the fire.  The bypass route is winding, narrow, and a bit funky, but whatcha gonna do, right?

You can walk along the stretch of old St 61, which is covered in graffiti for most of the way to the most damaged section of the road.  You might not be able to tell from the pictures, but there was a heavy overcast, and while I half expected it to rain at some point, it didn’t.  No need to get drenched while keeping an eye out for things that want to kill you.

Even though the new St 61 passes close by, that roadbed follows terrain lowers that the old St 61, so when youCentrailia Down 61 02 factor in that, trees, and a light breeze, you get silence–lots of silence.  And I was the only one there that time of day–or was I?  That’s one of those things that plays through your head when you’re in a place like this, though being out in the open during daytime didn’t get that flight or fright reflex going.  This was more of a morning stroll with my computer in my backpack (yes, I wasn’t about to leave it in the car), walking along in a place you’ve heard of maybe times before.

Finally, you reach the spot where the road Centrailia Burning 61has buckled and split, and . . . yeah, it’s just as you might imagine, minus the demons crawling out of the ground, asking if you’ve got a minute to hear about their dark lord and savior, Leviathan.  There wasn’t any smoke coming from the highway, has has been photographed up until a few years ago, but that’s okay, because this was freaky enough.

There isn’t a lot of smoke rising from the ground these days.  According to the people who study these things, they believe the fire has moved into deeper seams of coal, moving the center of the fire away from Centralia.  At one time the town was shrouded in a light cover of coal smoke, but that doesn’t seem to the rule these days.  Today you’ll see a few plumes of smoke here and there, but nothing so thick that you’re going to feel like a character in a movie . . .

I did find a place where Centrailia Burningsmoke was venting, but the breeze was doing a good job of dissipating said plume.  Trust me, though, the smoke is there, and I stayed upwind the whole time.  i should mention that just to my left of this picture are the town’s two cemeteries, which at one time saw tombstones sinking into the ground because of the heat.  That means it was keeps all those body-filled coffins nice and toasty–and here I was, about a hundred feet from them all.  Anyone wanna go back there with me at night?  Anyone?  Tap, tap.  Is this thing on?

These days there isn’t much to Centralia.  Centrailia Ghost TownA few years back the state went in and tore everything down, because why not, right?  Yesterday all I saw were empty streets and the places where homes and businesses used to be.  There are still people living there:  eleven at last count.  I saw four houses and a trailer, and someone had four vehicles all done up with camo paint jobs, and I don’t wanna know what that’s all about.  There’s no zip code for this place, but I saw a mail box in front of one of the homes, so someone is coming out here to deliver.  And since there’s a wind farm on the ridge to the north there’s mobile phone signals, ’cause when you’re working on the windmill, you wanna call in and let your boss know zombies are trying to get you.

Not long after I left Centralia I came down with the damnedest headache.  I suspected I’d been around carbon monoxide, and a friend told me the same thing later.  Makes sense:  coal fire burning deep in the earth, here I am standing near open vents, and the car is sitting close by with the windows up.  Or maybe it’s something else . . .  Well, I’m not sprouting wings, so maybe I’m okay.  Maybe.

There you have it:  my trip to a place you thought existed only in the movies and in games, but psych, it’s all real.  And if you think this is something that doesn’t happen that much, guess again:  there’s something like this in Germany known as Brennender Berg, and if you go to a Land Down Under you’ll find Burning Mountain, which has been burning and venting for six thousand years.  No, I didn’t add a zero there:  six thousand years.  Rock me, baby.

There is my tale, and like Sean Bean, Centrailia Big CI lived to bring it to you.  Next Saturday I’ll take trek to a another location that some of you have seen on the big screen, and give you some more historical lowdown.  As my buddy Big C says, “Y’all come back now, I need your soul–I mean, ya hear?”


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Asleep on the Drum Kit

I’ve a little bit of the shakes this morning, probably due to a drug interaction from last night.  It’s not too bad–I’ve had worse, you can believe if I say so–but it’s still a little disconcerting, because there is much I need to accomplish today before I can switch into glide and enjoy the weekend.

Last night was not without the strangeness, however.  I woke up about three in the morning with the vocal bridge from In the Cage running through my head, and I could have done without that.  When I fell back asleep I began dreaming that, first, I was cuddling on the sofa with someone I knew, the two of us in our robes enjoying something, I’m sure of that–and then, I’m crashed out on the floor right next to Phil Collins’ drum kit.  Must have been during the Invisible Touch tour, because he wasn’t at it, and Tony’s keyboards were back up front on stage right, and the music sounded like it was from the late 80′s period.

Yes, I do know these things.

Before heading off to watch Project Runway I was doing a lot of Google Street View of some of the areas in northern and central Alaska.  Yes, you can do that:  in fact, if you are bored and you have lots of time on your hands, you can drive State Road 2 from Fairbanks to the Dalton Highway–also known as State Road 11–and proceed on Dalton into Deadhorse, right up to the gate leading to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.  I didn’t do it all like that–most of the time I followed overhead, but I would stop and look around.  There’s not a lot to see but wilderness, and some of the street views show very spooky looking clouds and lighting.  It’s only of those things that gets your head moving in the direction of things that not only go bump in the night, but that run around raising hell and tearing up the countryside.

Not that you’d ever know there was something like that up there . . .

I’m in that phase where I have an idea that pleases me, and I’m running concepts through my head.  Characters, places, situations:  it’s all going on.  I haven’t done this in a while, not like this, and it’s sort of refreshing to feel the imaginative flow happening once more.  I’ve not got a lot down right now–I only came up with the idea the other day, remember?  But give it another month and I’ll have something a little more solid.

Speaking of solid, I have to start plotting out my NaNo Novel.  Yes, I will give it a try, but I won’t try to write eighty thousand words in thirty days, as I’ve done before.  This time it’s fifty in thirty, and I’ll finish the novel in December.  This gives me two months to plan it out, and perhaps edit some other things as well–and publish at least more thing.  I wanted to do four this year, but it’s looking more like two.  Of course, if it’s two novels, then I’m all that much more happier.

I’ll try not to sleep on the drum riser, either.

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