Letting the Rest Roll

Let it be known that I’ve been slacking off.  Really, I have.  I feel it.  Because I’ve needed to slack off, to be honest.

One, I’ve been tired a lot.  The last couple of nights I’ve taken sleeping pills–just one each night–to help me get through the night and not wake up at three-thirty AM with no chance of getting back to bed.  I’ve managed to get some sleep out of these nights, and even though I was awake at four AM needing to use the bathroom, I went right back to sleep and woke up only moments before the alarm went off.

Two, I’ve been distracted of late by wanting to do things, be it watch TV, read, get out of the house and travel–anything.  I’ve needed to change up my routine for some time now, and it’s great for recharging.  Tonight I’ll go out and do a little grocery shopping, and when that’s over I’m going to stop at Panera, get something to eat–probably a big bowl of soup–and then set up my computer and write.  I did this last week and plopped down a thousand words; I want to finish this scene I’m in, start on the next, and maybe finish it as well.  Because I’m moving ahead.

Annie's letting me know I better get her scene finished, because . . . well, because.

Annie’s letting me know I better get her scene finished, because . . . well, because.

And, admittedly, I enjoy the break.  Which leads into–

Three:  I’ve been feeling a lot burned out.  I’m two hundred and thirty thousand words into the novel, maybe two-thirds of the way through, and after ten months I’m ready for something else.  This is the doldrums part of the story, where you want to keep pushing, but you also want to do something else.  You’ve lived with these people for so long it’s like having guests who never go away, and just like you want the Guests Who Wouldn’t Leave to pack up their shit and move on, I’m ready for another project.

Not that I hate what I’m doing, but like anything else where you do it over and over every day, it starts to wear you down.  I feel that what may be needed is an adjustment of schedules.  Set aside the time I need to do something, and do it then.  I’m thinking Wednesday afternoon is going to become a new writing time for me for the next few months.  After that I’ll find something else to help with the time.

My fear is taking a break from writing for a week or two.  I’ve done that in the past, and when I have I’ve managed to take a month off and get back into things without a problem.  Then again, I’ve also taken a break that lasted years, and I don’t want that to happen.  Because I’ve got the story where I want it, and I don’t have time to take a year off from this project.  Sure, I might be able to get other things done, but I want to finish this story.

Let me correct that:  I need to finish this.

Because it’s too damn important to put to the side.  No matter how I feel right now.

The Juggling of the Duties

The novel did not advance quickly last night.  If anything, I managed a few hundred words–just under three hundred, in fact–because . . . well, so many things happened last night.  Allow me to explain–

Believe it or not, I’ve got a bunch of different things floating around at the same time.  Mine is not a simply life of “Get up, work, come home, eat, write, sleep.”  There are times when it does feel that way, but last night wasn’t one of those night.  No, it was more like I had miles to go before falling off into sleep.

First off, I walked throughout most of the day like a zombie.  It wasn’t a good time, because my “Hey, it’s four AM, let’s get up” body was doing just that to me, and I’d only gotten to bed just a little after midnight, so I was running on just under four hours of sleep.  Not a good way to start the day.

"No, I can write code when I'm half asleep . . . Um, what does two plus two mean?"

“No, I can write code when I’m half asleep . . . Um, what does two plus two mean?”

Then I get home feeling sleepy at four-thirty in the afternoon, and it’s time to eat.  And write.  Only it takes an hour to get dinner ready, and I can’t concentrate on writing.  So I jump online for a bit and chat up a bit.  And then I get into discussions with people:  we talk about things they’re working on, I give a few opinions on copyright protections (this is something that’s come up a lot among the people in the crocheting group in which I hang out), I lay out a few memes for people because, in another life, I am The Memestress, and I come bringing the snark.

One of the things I got involved in while on line was helping out a woman who was having a problem with mold in her house.  She rents but it seemed the landlord not only wasn’t going anything about the mold, he was being confrontational about it.  As I have mad Google skills (no, I won’t spell it the other way), I did a quick search and discovered three sites in the city where she lives (which, by the way, is not in the U.S.) and posted them for her to use.  It does appear that she received help with her problem, and she posted a thank you on my Facebook wall which greeted me this morning when I logged in.

Ah, but then!  I had to take over asking questions in a book club.  Yes, the person who was running the show this month went MIA, and I sort of got elected to step in and ask questions for the book in question, which I read.  So late at night, as I was trying to work on my novel, I jumped in and set up a few questions for other people–in fact, I did a few more this morning, because I’m nothing if not diligent.

There you have it:  my crazy night.  Juggle, juggle, juggle.  Maybe tonight I can actually get back to work on my novel . . .

Maybe.

"I need to have Annie kick some ass here.  People better just leave me--oh, look, a message!"

“I need to have Annie kick some ass here. People better just leave me–oh, look, a message!”

Signposts Amid the Shadows

I’m touching on writing a little here, but I’m getting into some other stuff as well–like mental illness.  That’s a heavy thing, so if you don’t want to read what I have to say, look at the picture and move along.

This looks like it's near Annie's house--which makes sense, since I'm going to talk about her.

This looks like it’s near Annie’s house–which makes sense, since I’m going to talk about her.

Onward, then.

 

Though it may seem like a strange thing to consider when writing a novel about tweens and teens who are training up to be magical people, one of the things I had to consider when putting Salem together was the issue of counselling and mental health issues.  That’s a very important thing to consider when you one realizes that pulling some kid in off the street and showing them they can alter reality to suit their whims may just put a weird-ass bend on their personality in time.  The Foundation isn’t going to be happy if, after your second year at school, you turn your parents into ferrets and keep then in cages the whole summer.

And that’s a minor thing.  Imagine what happens when you get really good?  Say . . . like my main characters.

There will come a time at Salem when the pressures of what’s happening in their lives becomes a little too much for Annie and Kerry, and they start to lose it a little.  I mean, Annie admitted first day of Sorcery class she knew how to kill someone with black magic, and Kerry was already seen suffering from depression.  Sure, becoming better witches is going to make their feel a lot better–until they snap.

Then all hell breaks loose.

In these stories there will come a time where Kerry nearly dies.  There will come a time where Annie loses her shit and almost kills someone in school.  There will come a time where both Annie and Kerry will be put through a most stressful day that pushes them physically, magically, and mentally right to the edge and beyond.  There will come a time where both of them are faced with a situation that may seem like it’s the final night for them both, and they not only talk about their impending demise–they promise each other that if one should die, the other will follow, because continuing to live without their soul mate simply isn’t an option.

That’s an issue that’s really simple for them as well.  Annie points out that they both know enough transformation magic and sorcery that if they wanted to die, it would be over in less time than it would take to work up the spell.  Stop your heart, freeze your blood, shut down all chemical reactions in your brain:  stuff they could do to others they could easily do to themselves.  It would be quick, it would be painless, and they’d know someone would be waiting for them on the other side once they were gone.  It’s not something either would do because of depression:  they’re not like that.  But to join the other in death?  Yeah, not a second thought is needed.

It’s the  part about being able to do this to others that keeps The Foundation on their toes.  At various times in the stories they both get counselling.  They both suffer depression; they both go through periods of intense anxiety; they both exhibit signs of PTSD at various times.  All before they ever get out of school, so imagine what their adult lives are gonna be like.

But they get great counselling.  The Foundation has some of the best counselors in the world, and when you have a couple of people like Annie and Kerry representing your future, you want them to get the best psychiatric case possible.  And they do.

They live in a world where they can get all the best medical care possible.  They live in a world where, after a particularly hard day of fighting the magical fight in the shadows, they can spend the next month chilling and talking to someone about the experience.  They go to a school that has enchantments in place to prevent people from jumping out of high towers, or crashing brooms into walls at a few hundred kilometers an hour, or setting themselves on fire, or any number of ways one may try to harm themselves.  They live in a world where certain people–whose names start with an A and a K–could, if they decided to just go completely batshit insane, could do up River Tam considerably and take out a couple of dozen people with their minds.

It’s not a perfect location for that, but the school does its best, because training kids up to be the future shadow runners of the world is sometimes gonna leave an invisible mark.

We, on the other hand, aren’t that lucky.  I’ve never hidden my own mental illness, never admitted that it isn’t there.  Between depression, being bi-polar, and having GID, I’ve been a mess most of my life.

Mental health treatment in the country of my birth is a joke.  Most of it isn’t covered by insurance.  Nearly all my therapy has been covered out of pocket since 2009 on, and believer me, it’s not cheap.  I don’t take meds because I (1) have no health insurance, and (2) didn’t like how I felt when I was on meds, which was either zombie-like or not much better than I was before getting on them.

These days I do what I can to get by, and I’m usually successful.  Usually.  I have my “Break down and cry” moments, and they’re usually bad, but I get over them and move on.  I was crying Sunday when I went out to pay a bill, because I do that–cry, not pay bills.  Saturday night . . . well, that was a disaster.

I have a hotline number on my phone, and my therapist’s number as well.  When I’m feeling bad I don’t go out on my balcony, because I live twelve stories up and I have enough knowledge of physics and laws of gravity and acceleration to know once you’re over the side it just about two seconds and done, finished, out of the blue and into the black.  Quick, easy, and pretty much painless.

When I’m feeling really bad I visualize.  I have two people that mean everything to me.  One is my daughter.  The world can suck enough and she doesn’t need anymore suckage in her life.  The other is a person I spoke of last week, the one person who means the world to me.  When I get really bad I imagine her alone in a room in the dark, crying because she’s heard that I’ve move on beyond The Veil and I’m not coming back.  I hold that image in my mind for a few moments, then shuffle all the bad shit away and move on.

I’d die for her, but not that way.  It isn’t fair to her.

My novel kids will not always have an easy time.  Before they turn eighteen they’re going to see a world of shit, and it will be difficult for them to walk away unscathed.  It’s stuff that they’ll take into adulthood, things that will remain with them for a long time.

But I’ll take care of them in the end and see they get help.

If only I could do that for everyone.

Here I Am, Speaking Wise Stuff

Today I’m doing something I haven’t done in long time:  I’m speaking on another blog!  Yes, I did a guest post over at My Write Side and I am giving Wednesday Writers Wisdom–which you can probably take or leave.

You’ll find me here on this link, so come on over and share the love, and see what I have to say.

I'm even having coffee.  Come join me.

I’m even having coffee. Come join me.

Once Upon a Time in China

Story-wise, it was a barn burner.  What do I mean?  I mean with all the chatting I was doing, either on certain Facebook walls or in PMs from people I know, I still managed to write one thousand, three hundred, and fifty-five words to finish up the current scene.  That means there are only two scenes left in Chapter Fifteen, and one will be very short, so the hell that is gonna be The Witch House A Level Beginning Sorcery class is coming sooner than you think.

Sorcery:  it's always closer than you think.

Sorcery: it’s always closer than you think.

Believe it or not, Act Two has reached a word count of thirty-nine thousand, nine hundred and three, if my memory servers me correctly.  When you add the up almost one hundred and fifty thousand words in Act One–well, you see where this is going.  Sometime tonight I’ll pass forty thousand words on this current act, and that will probably put me over one hundred and ninety thousand words for the novel by this evening or tomorrow.  And if I keep on keepin’, somewhere in the middle of July I’ll bump past two hundred thousand words for only the second time in my writing history.

Yep, it’s a big one.

But I’m not talking about writing today.  Why not?  Because one of the conversation I had last night concerned something about my past as related to a few hookers I know.  Get your mind out of the gutter:  not those kind of hookers.  These are women I know who crochet, and while I don’t hook myself–I have no talent there, believe it now–I am fortunate enough to know the owner of a Facebook group who sorta, kinda, pretty much lets me hang out and act as comic relief.  (One of the reasons I have a big white HodgePodge Crochet button on my page, because I always return favors for my closest friends.)

What happened was someone was saying they ordered something off Amazon that was listed as “hand made”, but when they got the shipping conformation–surprise!  It was shipping from Shenzhen.  I mentioned that I knew Shenzhen rather well, since there was a time when I used to work right down the road from there, and one thing led to another–usually with comments like, “You should write a column for us!”–and it got me thinking about my time in China . . .

Or as I like to call it, "The Land Where I Was the Minority."

Or as I like to call it, “The Land Where I Was the Minority.”

There were many times, from 1998 to 2005, that I used to fly into Hong Kong (the area to the bottom of the map above) spend the night, then while all jet lagged to hell and gone (traveling from my home to Chicago to Hong Kong used to take almost twenty-six hours on the nose, from the time I walked out of my house, to the time I walked into the Sheraton on Nathan Road in Kowloon), I’d hop a ferry and head up the river to the area on the above map labeled “Shekou Residential District.”

And I’d stay here, at the Nanhai Hotel, my home away from home, and where I’d usually have a morning conversation with the dragon in the fountain, because why not?

Hotel to the right, Ferry Port to the left, and the prostitutes used to be found at the top.

Hotel to the center top, Ferry Port to the bottom left, and the prostitutes used to be found at the top area out of frame.

My company used to send me over to sling code for our factor just over the mountain in Chiwan.  The reason I was there was because the site had their own computer, but no one to program.  Since I didn’t have a problem traveling to the other side of the world, there I went, rocketing around the world–which, actually, I once did when I missed my flight to Tokyo, and I had to fly Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Hong Kong to Tokyo and back to Minneapolis before returning to Chicago.

At the plant I spent most of the time locked in the computer room, which was actually an old storage room not much bigger than my current location.  Most everyone in the office spoke English, so there was never a problem with communications.  Getting out of the office, however . . . there were parts of Shekou where people had no idea what you were saying.  I also ran into that in parts of Hong Kong as well, but I never let that bother me, because when you’re out and about exploring, you just go.  Or as some wrote to me yesterday, take the road less traveled and see where it leads.

I saw a lot of these roads.  Once on a walking trip I visited Tiger Balm Gardens–which is an insane terracotta garden meant to visualize the various Chinese hells–and Happy Valley, the large horse racing track, all the while walking westward across Victoria Island.  I’ve been up the Tram to Victoria Peak in good weather and bad, and sat meditating on one of the highest points with a great view of the city.  I visited the location of Kowloon Walled City, and once ventured on a rickety bus to the Po Lam Monastery, home of the gigantic bronze Buddha that you may have seen.

There he is in the bottom center of the picture.  Hey, remember me?

There he is in the bottom center of the picture. Hey, remember me?

There was a noodle house in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong that I used to visit all the time, where for $90 HKD you could get a huge bowl of noodles with a little pork and eggs, and green tea.  The exchange rate then was $7.50 HKD for one US Dollar, so for one of the most expensive cities in the world, it was cheap eating.  (The other end of that spectrum was dining at a steak house one night with a friend and running up a bill of $250 USD on two steaks with normal trimmings and a couple of beers.  They were, however, damn good steaks.)

In Shekou there was a mountain overlooking the area that had, what looked like to me when I wandered out of the hotel, a white building on it.  One day I went looking for that building and found stairs leading up the mountain.  I eventually found the building–it was a covered rest stop–and discovered there was a path going up one side of the mountain, across the top, and coming down on the other side.  I was the first one from my company to find this, and every time I was working in China I made a point to walk this path at least two or three times.

And on one trip I counted the stairs used to get up and, at the northwest end of the mountain, get down to ground level.  How many were there, you ask?  2,846.  And at the end of that particular walk I came across a street vendor selling grilled sweet potatoes.  He didn’t speak English, but it didn’t matter:  I pointed to a potato, handed him 10 RMB (exchange rate of 8 RMB to 1 Dollar), and he gave me 3 RMB change.  I slowly walked back to the hotel nibbling on that potato, letting the sugars and carbs replenish my energy.  It was one of the best moments of my life.

One thing to point out to some of my friends who were asking about this last night:  Hong Kong is not a big city.  It’s crowded and compacted, and most of the city on Victoria Island isn’t even on the island.  Allow me to explain:

Here is an area I know very well, because I’d walk this way from the Star Ferry building to the Peak Tram station.  The Bank on China building is on the right, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) building is on the left.  The HSBC building is famous because it’s not only a lot of glass from one wall to the other, but most of the floors are glass, and standing under it you can actually look up into the offices.  Reason for this is not only because having a clear view of the harbor is good feng shui, but a feng shui master informed the company that the dragon living in the hill behind the building needed to see the harbor, too.

And are you gonna argue with a dragon?

And are you gonna argue with a dragon?

In the picture above do you see the thick line of trees just below the HSBC building?  That’s the actual edge of the island.  Where those bank buildings stand, that was ocean maybe a hundred years ago.  So when we expand our view . . .

We're still keeping that dragon happy . . .

We’re still keeping that dragon happy . . .

Nearly all those building above that dark green tree line are built on land fill.  And that’s not a wide stretch of land:  maybe a half mile (800 meters) from the harbor to the edge of Victoria Peak.  On the north side of the harbor Kowloon found land by knocking down the eight mountains there–and yet, there are still parts of that area that are all land fill.  Until you visit Hong Kong, you can’t imagine how close together everything is.

I’ve talked enough about this.  I haven’t been back to China in almost ten years, and while I still have those memories, like Roy Batty’s tears in the rain, they’ll fade away one day.  It was a great time in my life, and I can say I pretty much enjoyed myself–when I wasn’t suffering from loneliness and depression, but that’s another story.

And one day I’ll have to tell you about the Wan Chai reader who told me about my past life in the city . . .

The Spells Her Destination

Here’s a tip for anyone listening:  if you know you’re going to get your blood pressure taken, do not drink a double espresso that morning, even if you do it like four hours earlier.  Did that yesterday before driving off to have a consultation with my HRT doctor, and she was about ready to order an EKG.  Lessons learned, I guess.

That little event kept me out of the house most of the day, and once I did return to The Burg it was a matter of eating and watching some television before getting into the Orphan Black season finale.  That meant watching some old Star Trek TNG, and coming up with another one of those things that didn’t come to mind years ago, but hit me as a really important plot point:  whenever any of this alien races that still used money to get around the galaxy demanded payments from Star Fleet personal to get something/go somewhere, what the hell did the Federation people pay with?  They didn’t have money!  Did they pay with toenail clippings?  Cat litter?  Sexual favors?  It never really bothered me in the past, but these days it’s obvious as hell a huge plot hole.  Everyone in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants had to know the Federation didn’t deal in currency any longer, so why demand payments from their people?  In the end they were gonna get stiffed.

It was only after Orphan Black finished that I finally found the third wind I needed to get into the story.  But not before I discovered something with Scrivener–pretty colors!  I mean, most of the time my display looks like this:

Pretty simply, right?

Pretty simply, right?

But then I discovered I could color the folders . . .

This is looking a bit more interesting.

This is looking a bit more interesting.

Then I started coloring the binder–

Ooh, where did this come from?

Ooh, where did this come from?

Or, if I want, I could color the folders and pull that over into my outline!

Reminds me a little of an acid trip I took in 1978.

Reminds me a little of an acid trip I took in 1978!

For those of you with Scrivener, play with F5, F6, F7 (this affects the cards on the Corkboard), and F8, and you’ll see the same thing I’m showing you here.  Have fun!

About the writing . . . as I said I would do, I finished the scene.  It ended up taking a little over an hour, but I chewed it up like a cat with a catnip mouse.  I just had to finished the sucker, because–well, there was a urgent feeling that completion was necessary.  In the process of getting this written, I came up with this little moment on the spell floor . . .

 

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

“The thing is . . .” Annie thought he was pressing harder against her forehead, even though she didn’t feel an increase in pressure. “I listened to what you said, and if I’m good, it’s because of what you’ve done for me. It’s all because of you.” He tilted his head a little so it seemed as if they were facing each other. “That’s why I have faith in you.”

“You have faith in . . . me?” Kerry’s confession caught Annie by surprise. She’d never heard anyone say that her actions made them better—and she suspected that Kerry wasn’t used to having anyone show enough interest in him to want to make improvements in him. And he probably found it incredibly difficult to tell me that . . .

“I have faith in . . . faith.” He smiled. “’It isn’t necessary to something to believe in. It’s only necessary to believe that somewhere there’s something worthy of belief’. That’s from The Stars My Destination—” He lightly touched Annie’s chin with his left index finger. “You’re the something that’s worthy of my belief.”

 

For those of you who aren’t aware, The Stars My Destination is probably one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written, and even if you’re not a fan of the genre you should still read it, because it can stand beside anything one might consider “literary”.  And in case you can’t find the novel to buy, the Internet Archive actually has the scanned issues of Galaxy Magazine from October, 1956, November, 1956, December, 1956, and January, 1957, which were the issues where the novel was serialized in four parts.  You won’t be disappointed.

That little snippet, however . . . that’s another of Kerry’s breakthroughs in terms of dealing with this whole girlfriend/soul mate thing.  He find Annie worthy of his belief; she’s important to him in ways that makes him feel she’s sort of the center of his universe.  He knows, he believes, that she a point upon which he anchor himself–his center, so to speak.  After all, he’s already told her that she’s made him a better person, and how many eleven year old boys would ever tell that to a girl they’ve only known a month?

There’s more going on here than you can image, though, and I know this.  You don’t.  Not yet.

One day . . . yeah, you’ll find out what’s happening.

You can believe in that.

The Bridge, the Dreams, and Everything

The first day of June was a good one:  sunny, not too hot, not too chilly, just right for getting out and walking around.  Which, surprise, I did.  I left the confines of the hovel and ventured out into the sun for the first time in a while, because I’m not a complete hermit or vampire, and every so often you need to prove to yourself that you’re not going to burst into flames the moment you walk around in daylight.

And just to prove that I was out, here:  pictures.

Nothing say The Burg like a bridge.

Nothing say The Burg like a bridge.

And an island.

And an island.

And there’s even more proof I was outside . . .

Photobombing Ol' Shaky, yo.

Photobombing Ol’ Shaky, yo.

So there:  two point two miles of walking–or three and a half kilometers as my kids back at my Salem school would say, ’cause screw those Imperial measurements.  You’re part of the Real World now, so Go Metric or Go Home.

There was a strange dream I just had, too.  I was time traveling with someone–a person I’d never seen before–and I had to travel back to 1984 to pick up a couple of people in an alternate reality, and then when we found them and were ready to come back, we discovered that our foci for channeling time winds or some crap like that was missing.  So we managed to get a message back to wherever our modern time was, and discovered the whole thing was a prank set up by Ricky Gervais–which, if you’re going to get pranked into time travel, you might expect that from him.

Needless to say we had a repair kit, and I was getting ready to repair our trusty machine when I woke up.  Probably for the best, though, because where the hell was the dream going to go after that?

It is something, however, that I can remember the dream, or even that it was so vivid.  I remember writing recently that I was upset that I didn’t seem to have vivid dreams these days, and then, bang!  The last couple of nights they appeared to be returning.  We’ll see what happens, if this is a phase, or if spilling about it kicked out some block I had.

I was also working hard on some time line stuff, because I’m like that.  Always thinking ahead, I am.  Even so far as to come up with a scene for one of my kids that was . . . the only way to put it is heartbreaking.  A lot of pain, and lot of crying, a lot of wondering why, if you’re born into being one of The Aware, does one have to suffer because you’re perceived as different?  Because, in this fictional world I’ve created, all the Normal kids have to hide who their are from their parents for a while, and then–Coming Out Time!  And as you might figure, it’s viewed by the folks like any other coming out:  some times there’s happiness, some times you’re kicked out on your ass.  You’ll find out from the instructors who were raised Normal that they all went through various rotations of that particular wheel–some had happy parents, some had confused ones, and some had to leave home before they were beaten–or worse.

And you’re find that some students got the worse . . .

And lastly:  writing!  It happened.  Eight hundred and forty-six words of happened.  No excerpts today, though:  I’m giving away too much.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe the day after.

We’ll see, won’t we?

You Are Not My Darlings

First off, writing:  yes, I did.  Almost seven hundred words before I reached a point where I knew the scene would get hot and heavy and I didn’t want to get into that section and then run out of creative steam.  So that scene gets finished today, along with the chapter, and then I can move onto the next chapter, which is going to be magic heavy.  Yeah, baby:  it’s gonna be nice.

But the real reason I’m here:  the writer is annoyed.  Well, not really, but it sounds like a great lead-in.  Kinda.

There is a meme about writing that has made its way around the world, and has become so prevalent that it’s now found on mugs, tee shirts, and pillows.  It goes as follows:  “Do not annoy the writer.  She/He/They may put you in their novel and kill you.”  Because we’re like that:  volatile and creative at the same time.  Maybe this is why we do things like figure out how to topple one hundred and fifty story buildings full of people in 1991, because we need to do that for a scene.  Or maybe that was just me, because I totally did that.  (My research came from examining how various office buildings I worked at in Chicago were put together and extrapolating what I knew about skyscraper construction.  The downside was I never finished the story with that particular scene of destruction.  Pity.)

Now, basing characters in stories on real people is nothing new–writers have done this for centuries.  The comic book character Tintin was based upon fifteen year old Palle Huld who went around the world in forty-four days to win a contest.  Norman Bates was based upon Ed Gein, and Sherlock Holmes was based upon Dr. Joseph Bell.  Dirty Harry Callahan and, to a lesser extent, Frank Bullitt, were based upon Det. Dave Toschi, who later had his life turned into a few movies concerning his most famous case, the Zodiac Killer–which, it should be pointed out, was the basis for the movie Dirty Harry.  And a certain English chemistry teacher, John Nettleship, ended up better known as greasy haired potions master Severus Snape.

Harlan Ellison wrote often about how, as a kid, he’d been bullied badly by a certain individual at school whose name escapes me at the moment because all my Ellison books are six hundred miles away.  So when he became a writer he kept putting this guy in his stories, using his real name, and said bully always came to a bad end–a really bad end.  If I remember correctly, Ellison was finally contacted by this guy and asked if he’d stop doing that, because it was getting embarrassing to hear from friends that the Jewish kid he used to beat up every day for lunch money had just written another story where the character named after him had his spine ripped out in a convenience story by a fae he’d pissed off.  If you know Harlan, then you know his response was probably . . . pleasant.  After all, we’re talking about a guy who received a B in a writing class at Ohio University, along with a note from the professor telling him he had no hope whatsoever of ever becoming a published author–and after every story sale Harlan made, he’d send said story, along with a copy of the note, to the professor in question.  I’m sure there was another note included as well, but I doubt very much that it said “Nener, Nener, Nener.”

But as far as characters getting put into a story because they annoyed the writer?  I know there was a novel–and I’m blanking on the name–where the bad guy in the story, who happened to be a murderous pedophile, was based in whole on a critic who’d panned the author’s last work.  I also know of one instance in a movie where characters were based off of individuals who’d pissed the creators off:  the 1998 Godzilla movie by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  The mayor of New York City and his closest aide were based upon movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who had been, shall we say, less than kind in their reviews of Emmerich and Devlin’s last movie, Independence Day.  There wasn’t even an attempt to hid who the characters were:  they physically looked like Ebert and Siskel, were named Mayor Ebert and Gene, and at the end of the movie, to show his displeasure at all the mayor’s actions, Gene gives him a “thumbs down”, something that Siskel and Ebert were famous for doing on their review show.

Being a writer I’d do the same, right?

No, probably not.

When you create characters, you are giving them life.  If you base those characters off of people you know, then you are, in a way, giving your friends a life beyond their own.  And if your work becomes wildly popular, then you’ve granted your characters–and by extension, anyone they were based upon–a form of immortality.  We know that Huckleberry Finn was based upon a close childhood friend of Mark Twain, and one hundred years after Professor Nettleship has left this mortal coil, people will remember who Professor Snape was based upon.

So here I am sitting in Panera, and if some annoying asshole should approach me and start getting in my face with stuff like, “Whatcha doin’?  You writin’ a book?  A blog?  You blog?  Is it about sex?”, I’m going to give him or her–probably a him, sorry to stereotype–the Michonne Side Eye, turn up the music on my computer, and finish what I’m doing.  I’ve been fortunate not to have that happen, probably because I scare people sitting here behind my gigantic laptop, but that’s a good thing, right?

Would I want to put this person in my story just to kill him or her off?  Nah.  First off, I know who my characters are, and right now I can tell you who dies before the end of my current work in progress.  Hint:  it isn’t one of the main characters, but people do bite the big one.  And more than a few people in the story are based, in part, on real people I know.  People I know.  People I even love.

It’s my hope that this will be their form of immortality.

And annoying buttheads will never share the stage with them, even as cannon fodder.  The best thing to do with them is forget they were ever speaking to you five minutes after they leave you.

There’s always this to remember, too:

"I should make this guy the one who spreads the STD all over the world by sleeping with an advark--except he'll never buy the story, so what's the point?"

“I should make this guy the one who spreads the STD all over the world by sleeping with an aardvark–except he’ll never buy the story, so what’s the point?”

Ain’t it the truth.

Quibbles in the Bits

Yesterday I roamed off on my own to see Godzilla.  There are many reasons I wanted to see the movies, but mostly it’s due to remembering seeing the first movie as a kid and completely digging the idea there were gigantic reptiles living in the ocean that would come up and smash your cities into dust just for the hell of it–and if you have radiation breath, that’s a plus, too.  I wanted to see it to scrub my brain forever of something that was released in 1998 that showed the role of the King of Kaijus performed by a mutated iguana.

It was like watching Pacific Rim, only there weren’t gigantic mecha beating the hell out of monsters, it was monster-on-monster action, and a lot of property damage left in the wake of such throwdowns.  It also drove home the point that Godzilla does not like Goggle Hipster Buses, so suck on that.

But . . . I gotta quibble.

I know you’re rolling your eyes right about now:  “Cassie, it’s a movie about giant monsters, and you’re written articles about how that’s impossible because of the square-cube law, so of course you’re gonna quibble.”  No, you’ve got me wrong.  If I’m digging something, I can suspend my disbelief enough that I know what I’m seeing is in no way possible, but I’m still gonna enjoy the movie.  That’s why I like Pacific Rim:  I know you can’t build those mecha, but that doesn’t keep me from cheering for Gypsy Dagger from kicking kaiju ass.

No, I gotta quibble about something else, and that is . . . geography.

There is a scene in the movie–and you can stop reading right now if you don’t want this spoiled for you, but if you’re like the majority of my friends you’ve either seen the movie already, or you won’t case, because it’s a minor point–where Las Vegas gets its whomping (as seen in the trailers shown everywhere) because the American kept a monster egg somewhere they should:  namely the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.  That’s a doubleplusungood idea, folks, but the part that made me go, “Why did you do that?” is showing the monster walking towards Vegas, presumably to try the lobster and champagne Sunday brunch at Caesars Palace, from the point of view of the section of Yucca Mountain it just busted out from.

Ugh–why did you just spoil my monster madness with something so wrong?

Most people will see this and go, “Nuke crap is being stored that close to Vegas?  Horrors of horrors!  What the hell is wrong with those people?”  That’s because they don’t know where Yucca Mountain is.  I do.  Why?  Because I’m strange.  And I love exploring by map.

So allow me to explain:

This is the Yucca Mountain Repository.  It’s not hidden from sight–hell, little is these days.

"You're not catching me on my best day."

“You’re not catching me on my best day.”

Pretty desolate place, right?  That tends to happen in the desert.

According to the movie Vegas has to be right over the next panel, right?  I mean, you can see the monster walking there . . .

Hope the monster brought water; wouldn't want it to get dehydrated in the desert.

Hope the monster brought water; wouldn’t want it to get dehydrated in the desert.

In case you’re wondering. the distance between those points is 86 miles, or 140 kilometers, with the point in Vegas sitting in the middle of the street between Caesars and Bellagio, which we see getting smacked around in the movie.  Those must be good cameras to be able to see that far, you know what I mean?

And to pick a few more nits, the monster is suppose to be going to San Francisco–presumably with flowers in its hair–and if that’s the case, you’re going the wrong way!  You’re not going to find anything interesting in Las Vegas save for a lot of people crying over lost mortgage money when they doubled down on 18, so why visit?  You know what would have been an even better place to visit?  Here:

I'll bet property values here are low.

I’ll bet property values here are low.

That’s the Nevada Test Range, aka Where We Used to Make Atom Bombs go Boom.  Each one of those craters is the aftermath of a nuclear detonation, particularly the one top and center:  that’s Sedan Crater in Area 10 of the Nevada Test Range, produced by the Sedan Nuclear Test on 6 July, 1962.  The crater is big enough to be seen from the ISS with the unaided eyes, which is another way of saying it’s big.  It’s 30 miles northeast of Yucca, and monsters who just busted out from an underground storage area would probably enjoy hanging there for a bit.

But wait!  Why stop there?  Because if you go just a little further to the east you hit this place:

Who said the desert was empty?  There's all sorts of stuff here!

Who said the desert was empty? There’s all sorts of stuff out there!

There’s Sedan Crater in the lower left corner, but what’s this airport in the upper right corner?  That, my friends, is officially known as the Groom Lake Test Facility (Groom Lake is that extremely shinny salt flat to the north of the runway), but we all know and love this joint as Area 51.  Only another 13 miles, or 21 kilometers, hike from the crater, and the monster could of hung out with some alien buds from Independence Day!  What a missed opportunity for a great crossover.

What does this all mean?  Nothing, really.  I get to rant for the morning, and you get a bit of a geography lesson brought about because Gareth Edwards wanted to set up a scene of Monster Apocalypse in Sin City.  Don’t make it wrong or bad, but Gareth, please:  next time call me and I’ll do your research for ya.  And I’m cheep, too.  Just call, bud.

But what about me, Cassie?  Do you still love me?

But what about me, Cassie? Do you still love me?

I still love you, Big G.  You’ll always be King of the Monsters to me.

See you at the squeal.

And Today I’m With Rachel Carrera!

Before I get into my normal post, a couple of weeks back I was interviewed by Rachel Carrera, and today the interview is up on her blog.  Click on this link, go over and give her a little love, and read all about get into my work.

As if you didn’t know already.

To Ride the Residency

There are a few things I’d like to do while I’m out here in The Burg.  I have my eyes on a place I want to visit once the weather starts to agree with normal people, and there’s another location that I think I could visit under the guise of collecting resource material for a story.  (Hint:  it would have something to do with space.)  But now something else has appeared on my radar, and for the first time in a long while I’m excited by the possibly that the event in question could be one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I’m talking about Riding the Residency.

Okay, so what am I taking about?  It appears that Amtrak, the organization in this country that handles rail travel, has given to residencies to writers to ride the rails.  One writer has already taken the New York City to Chicago run, and another is setting up for a cross-country sprint in mid-May to travel from New York City to Portland, Oregon.  And by residency I mean they’re letting them ride for free so they can work on their writing and talk about the experience.  The woman who did the NYC to Chiberia (as we were calling the city during the January polar vortex attack) run spent fifty-five hours relaxing and writing and generally having a good time, and who isn’t about a good time when they’re writing?

So, Amtrak, allow me to explain why putting me on a residency run would be a great idea:

1.  I love riding trains.  I’ve commuted by train for years.  I’ve ridden from Chicago to Florida by train.  I’ve taken them to work.  I’ve even ran the European network and spent a few hours on the French TGV, which I consider one of the best experiences ever, and one of the reasons I feel we need high speed rail in the U.S. like yesterday.  I like other people doing my driving while I sit back and enjoy the view, so a long trip that involves getting some writing done in the process is a big win for me.

2.  I am Ms. Social Media.  You want Tweets of the trip?  How about I up that ante and start posting my adventure to Facebook with pictures?  How about getting two or three blog posts out of the adventure, which will go out world wide in case you’re interested.  I could even put this adventure together in an ebook and offer it up for free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

3.  I have friends in a lot of different cities, and many of them are creative as well.  I know an independent film writer/director down in the Big Easy; maybe she could take a return trip with me and work on a screenplay?  I have a writer friend in New York City who would like to run to Atlanta; we could do a run together and Chatty Cathy the adventure–or kill each other along the way, which would also be entertaining.  I’ve friends in Seattle and Portland who I could meet, and on the way to both those locations I could stop in Denver and make fun of the Hell Pony who apparently couldn’t bring any mojo to their local sports teams.  I could visit my Magical Girl Katie in Minneapolis and I could get pictures of my Twilight Sparkle plush kissing one of her mecha models.

4.  I am a writer.  Okay, so I’m not a big-time Stephen King-style writer who could probably buy a train for this sort of thing, but I have sold one story and self published two more, and I’ve always working and writing and trying to get my work out there.  That means I’m just like Rick Grimes in that I have stuff I’m working on–you know, things.  During a long trip I could probably do a great edit on a novel and prep it for publication.  Or start on Act Two of my current work in process.  Or write something completely new during the trip.  I’m open, you know?

It’s simple, really:  I need a seat, a place to put my computer and a plug for power, and a wifi connection to allow me access to the Internet, and I’m ready to roll outta Harrisburg for points unknown.  Oh, and I live within walking distance of the station, so I just throw my stuff in an overnight bag, get my computer into my backpack, and ten minutes later I’m ready to pick up my tickets.

I’ll be in touch.

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go . . .

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go . . .

Hangin’ With the G Friend

Yesterday it was talking about bad teachers in dreams and all the crap I went through it fourth grade–not a pleasant recollection.  The thing is, that recollection didn’t stay long, because by mid-day yesterday my mind was on something else, and it was a far better time than I had in that lousy dream.

What I’m talking about is the next year, and fifth grade.

Fifth grade was completely different from the year before, because my teacher then was a great guy whose name is, unfortunately, lost to me.  I want to say “Mr. Haney,” but I don’t think that’s right, though his name started with an H, so I’ll just call him Mr. H.

Mr. H was one of those teachers who didn’t dumb things down.  He knew which kids were good and wanted to learn, and which didn’t give a single shit if they made it through the year.  He loved reading and he loved science, and that was good with me.  He’d lived in Japan for a while, and while he was there he’d recorded an interview with someone who’d been a school boy in Hiroshima, and who survived the atom bombing by hiding in a cave being used as a bomb shelter.  Though he spoke English well, when he tried describing how the mouth of the cave lit up from the blast he completely lost it and started crying and mumbling in Japanese.  It was a pretty powerful moment for me, considering I’d already done my own reading on what happened then.  (And believe it or not I eventually dated a Japanese woman whose mother also survived the Hiroshima bombing.)

Mr. H pushed me in history and geography, because he knew I loved the subjects, and that I wasn’t content to stop at a certain point and look no further.  One class assignment we had was to do a report on a country, and the country I chose was Macau.  This was 1967 to 1968, and when you said “Macau” the majority of adults went, “Whu?”  No one in the class knew where my country was, nor if it was even real, but I was given extra points because just about everyone else went with stuff in Europe, or if they did Asia it was Japan and China.

The best thing Mr. H ever did was tell the Daughters of the American Revolution about my grades, and they came into class and gave me an award for “Excellence in American History”.  I was given a book, which for me, at the time, was better than money.

But I’m not here to rap on about Mr. H.  No, I’m here to talk about someone else.

I’m here to talk about Kim.

Kim was in my class.  She was about my height, she had long dark blond hair, and she wore glasses.  I also wore glasses, so it was always a bit comforting to be around someone who also had crappy eyesight.  Kim introduced herself to me in a rather unique way:  she walked up to me on the playground during recess and said, “Hey:  you’re the kid who knows all about flying saucers, right?”  Indeed I did, because since I was reading a lot of science fiction then, I was also reading everything I could get my hands on about flying saucers and the paranormal and what we know call cyptozoology.  If there was strange crap out there, I knew about it.  Kim was asking me about a story she’d heard where a horse had its head burned off, and I instantly told her about Skippy, the horse that had all the flesh on it’s head burn away–some say by a portable vat of acid, some say by aliens with a death laser!

Whatever.  That’s how Kim and I met, and we were good after that.

I don’t remember Kim hanging out with girls a lot.  Back then we called her a “tomboy” because she liked wearing jeans and button-down shirts and tennis shoes.  But she never came across like that to me.  She wasn’t rough and tumble; she always wanted to talk.  She liked horses and the mountains, and she liked math and history, too, so we had stuff in common there.  She also liked reading, but she found the stuff I was reading then to be amazing.  She was a smart girl, which back then meant she was different.

Then again, so was I.

It wasn’t just headless horses and flying saucers over which we bonded.  There was something else, and for that I have to go tap-dancing back into all those little corners of my past that I’d rather not exist, but are just waiting to jump me the first chance I get.  So here we go:

Every summer, right after school was out, my father would take me down to the barber shop and basically have all my hair cut off, so that when it was over, I looked like Ellen Ripley from Alien 3.  I hated this, because as a young child suffering with Gender Identity Disorder, I wanted my hair to grow out, and it was that summer between fourth and fifth grade when I started having arguments with my parents about getting my hair cut.  Maybe that was one of the reasons I never left my room those summers and just stayed in and read, but I do remember it was the last time I let my parent do that to me.

My hair grew fast, so usually by Halloween it was longer than most of the boy’s hair in the class, which again made me stand out a little.  This led to “getting picked on,” which led to getting bullied and called a freak and crazy and a lot of other shit, but I spent that school year avoiding a lot of those idiots and staying to myself.

Kim, however . . . I do remember one point in the fall when we were walking and talking on the playground, and she turned to me and said, “You’re hair is so . . . pretty!  It’s so curly!  I wish mine was like that.”  Which was true:  I had curly brown hair and long eyelashes, something my mother was always going on about . . .

I told Kim that I wished my hair was nice and straight–leaving off that, “and long like yours” because you just couldn’t talk that shit then–and bam!  I bonded with her over hair, because we weren’t like all the other people on the playground.  At that moment I felt there was something special between us, because not only did we talk, but we didn’t seem to care about what others thought of us when we were together.

"Seriously, you have lovely hair, and if I can use an expression that won't become popular for another twenty years, your parents are dicks."

“Seriously, you have lovely hair–and if I can use an expression that won’t become popular for another twenty years, your parents are being total dicks.  But you know about time travel, so there.”

The moment I remember the most, because it was just so damn strange, was of Kim and I on the swing sets all alone, with there appearing to be no one else on the playground–or if there were, they were sticking close to the building because the sky that afternoon was a rather strange gray and blackish color that appeared as if it was about to unleash Hell at any moment, but if you live in the Midwest and you’re afraid of a stormy-looking sky, you best move the hell out ’cause that’s pretty normal.

We were alone, and swinging like mad, talking, laughing, going higher and higher all the time . . . it was one of those magical moments that you don’t ever forget, and there was a timeless quality to what we were doing, because it did seem to go on for a long time, though we were probably only on the swings twenty to thirty minutes.  But it has become a fixed point in time, one that I flash back on now and then, and though I can’t remember everything that was said in those minutes together, it doesn’t matter:  we were together, and it was fun.  That’s what’s important.

Kim moved away after the school year was finished.  I knew this was coming, as she’d told me months before.  The last day of school we found a spot out by some of the trees at the edge of the playground and talked for a few minutes.  I told her I’d miss her, and she told me she’d miss me back.  We didn’t exchange addressed and say we’d write, probably because deep down we knew we’d never do that–though I wish I had, because I would have totally done so.  Before we parted, she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek:  that was the first time anyone outside of my family had ever done something like that, and it made my eyes mist up.  Then she was off, back to class, and so was I a moment later.  She left class as soon as the bell rang, headed for her bus, and was gone–off to Colorado, if I remember correctly.

I, too, was off to my bus and back home.  The summer sucked, I stayed inside a lot, and sixth grade blew chunks.  I wouldn’t talk to another girl until I was a senior in high school–I literally mean this, because people avoided me, or I avoided them, not really sure on this point.  I had a few friends, but for the most part I was always that weird kid who read a lot and didn’t want to do any sports.

I also missed my friend, but I didn’t talk about that much.

These days I kind of realize that Kim was probably my first girlfriend, but not the “I’m dating her” kind of girlfriend, but rather “My BFF besty” kind of girlfriend.  She didn’t think it strange to talk about the thing we talked about, and neither did I.  She saw nothing wrong with complementing my hair, and didn’t consider it strange that I did the same for her.  If she’d hung around I wonder what would have happened; would we have spent sixth grade continuing to talk about the things we did, and would we have expanded the conversation to include us?

I can’t say:  that’s all speculation.  I leave that for my writing.

I have no idea where she is now, or if she’s even alive, but if she is I’ve been sending her positive thoughts for years, and I hope they’ve helped.  I don’t dwell on her, or those moments together, because they are far off in the past, and as my Phoenix spirit told Kerry in The Foundation Chronicles, “That chapter’s over; it’s time to write some new ones, kid.”

You were one of the few good chapters in the story of my life then, Kim.

I wish you well in yours.