Loving Affermations

It’s the Solstice today, so not only is it a good day for positive energy, but every day gets shorter from here on out.  Good things all around, and if you can get out and take in the day, do so.  Don’t be like me and stay shut in all the time writing.  Then again, I’ll be on the road for a few hours today, so I don’t think I’ll fit the definition of “shut in” this summer day.  Oh, and if you wanna dance skyclade tonight, knock yourself out.

Given how crazy last night was, it’s nice to have a little calm this morning.  I was tired, I was chatting, I was writing with the goal in mind of cranking out one thousand words, because it’s been a while since I did that.  Energy levels have been in the toilet since returning to The Burg, and with the weekend starting I wanted to change that.

I also changed a few other things . . .

While at work I started having ideas about a scene in my kid’s lives that takes place some time in the future–like five years after the current story time.  Yeah, I’m mentioned before that I think things out that far in advance–so far advanced, in fact, that I know what happens to my characters after they die.  This was a change to their time line, and adding-on to events that are going to happen–

What was I looking at?  Their hospital time.

Don't worry:  The Foundation gives them full coverage and all the nano-tech they can handle.

Don’t worry: The Foundation gives them full coverage and all the nano-tech they can handle.

I had to work this out because . . . well, because.  I’m strange that way.  And yes:  they are in a coma, which should give you some idea that whatever happens in that strange sounding name right before the coma line must be bad.  Eh . . . not that bad.  I mean, they live, right?

Then, while I’m chatting my butt off, I get into the writing.  It’s Annie’s turn on the magical firing line, and she might be Kerry’s Dark Witch, but even dark witches have off nights . . .

 

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

 

Annie knew the process, knew how to craft her Art. She picked the most innocuous plush for her target, a grey and pink cube on the right side of the table. She visualized it rising and floating under her control into her hands. The energy was there, as was her will power.

Annie gathered the energy and let it flow through her—

Nothing happened.

She stared at the cube, wondering what went wrong. There were a few things she could point to and say that they might have prevented the spell from happening, but she didn’t want to analyze that here and now. I’ll just do it again, just as Pang and Kerry did.

She did just that. She readied herself; she found her energy; she began Crafting; she willed it all together—

Nothing happened.

Annie breathed a deep sigh, then turned to the students, though she was mostly facing Wednesday. “I guess I’m not feeling the spell as much as I did a few weeks ago.” She locked her feelings down least anyone see what she felt inside.

Wednesday shrugged. “It happens to us all at this point.” She waved her hand in the direction of the table. “It’s okay; there’s no hurry. Take your time and just relax.”

 

Oh, yeah, Wends:  that’s easy for you to say, sitting there watching everything unfold.

There is such a thing as performance anxiety in the magical world, and it would appear Annie is feeling it a little.  She’s not feeling it, she’s not getting something out, and she knows it.  That’s when her lovey-dovey boyfriend comes out of his chair, but rather than acting like a baseball manager who’s going to pull his starter because he’s lost his curve ball, Kerry just wants to talk–and talk in a close, comforting way.

 

“I know.” He deftly stepped around her until he was between her and the table full of frustrating plushes. “Please look at me.”

“Kerry—”

He lightly touched her upper arm. “Please?”

Though Annie felt this was the worst time to talk about anything, she turned toward Kerry because he asked, and tried not to look at the table behind him. “Yes?”

She was surprised when he stepped so close as to almost press against her. He took her hands and gently laid his forehead against hers. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s—” She sighed again, then, with her head bowed against his, looked up into his eyes. “Kerry, I don’t know a lot of regular spells. Most of what I’ve taught myself was sorcery—but when it comes to regular spells . . .” She slowly shook her head against his. “I’m not that good. I don’t feel I should be here.”

 

That’s about as close to any admission she’d ever come about her abilities, and, of course, there’s only one person she tells.

Kerry start talking her down.  He’s admitting he screwed up, too, that it took him four tries to get it right.  Also,  she did that ice encasement, what’s the big deal about a little levitation?  She tells him that she likes practicing alone, and that she didn’t mind having him there in the spell cell because–well, he’s her soul mate, right?  He tells her, again, that he know she can do it, because . . .

 

Kerry didn’t allow any time for those thoughts to bounce around inside Annie’s mind. “You can. I know you can.”

“Why do you say that?” She almost pulled back to look him in the face, but there was something intimate and comforting standing with him close to her. “You always say that.”

“Because it’s true.”

“Because I’m the ‘dark witch’?”

“No.” Kerry drew a deep breath through his nose. “You’re better than me—”

“I am not.” She pinned Kerry with her stare. “You’re as good as me—”

“Only because of you.” He turned quiet for a moment, but when he spoke his voice was softer and filed with awe. “You showed me a few weeks back how to be a better witch, a natural witch, a great witch if I worked at it. You gave me hints and offered suggestions. You offered ideas and told me what I should study and what I should ignore.” He chuckled. “You even have me reading those book on divination.”

Annie grinned and kept her eyes hooked on Kerry’s. “Yes, you are.”

“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.”

 

Kerry knows she’s helped him get to where he is now, and now it’s his time to help her get this thing done.  The fact that he, and eleven year old boy, is willing to admit to the person who calls herself, and whom he thinks of as, his girlfriend, that without her he wouldn’t be anywhere as good as he is now . . . that’s powerful thing to admit.  Just as she’s willing to admit that, yeah, I’m not always the bad ass Dark Witch you think I am.

I’ll finish this scene either today or tomorrow.  Today is a lot of driving and whatnot, and then there’s the finale of Orphan Black tonight, which is probably going to leave me feeling depressed–but there will be writing sometime this weekend.

You can rest assured of that.

Oh, and did I mention I wrote 1004 words?  Yeah, there was that.

Oh, and did I mention I wrote 1004 words? Yeah, I did.

Outrunning a Sunset of Feelings

After a long day of getting up, blogging, packing, and driving, I’m finally back at Casa Burg, aka my Harrisburg home away from home.  Unlike when I left The Burg a week before, I kept caffeinated where necessary, and alternated between working out scenes with my characters, and playing music real loud.

And having a Butterbeer Frappachino, only because someone said I had to try it.  Well, she didn't say, "Try it," but you know what I mean.

And having a Butterbeer Frappuccino, only because someone said I had to try it. Well, she didn’t say, “You have to try it,” but you know what I mean.

One of those magic moments I had on the return home was watching the sky turn a deep blue before setting into black not long after passing through the Allegheny Tunnel.  I was playing REM’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi at a comfortable but you-can-feel-the-music volume, and there were certain songs that simply hit me a certain way.  I’d had that happen a couple of times on these trips to and from The Burg to The Vall, but they usually hit me hardest when I’m zipping along a twisting turnpike at seventy miles per hour, or one hundred and twelve kilometers per hour, which makes it sounds like I’m on a road course.

The coming of the night brought out some unusual feelings for me.  Feelings for others, feelings about my work, feelings about others close to me.  There was a lot of crazy shit bouncing about in my head for most of the trip, but during that three hour run through the mountains and the tunnels, I think I was as close to epiphany-grade thinking as I’ve ever gotten.

One of the scenes I played with on the way back is something that happens in this novel, right near the end as one of the last scenes in the book.  In fact, I can say with certainty it’s not the penultimate scene, but the one before that, whatever “Two Scenes Before the Last” is called.  (I looked it up, of course, and that is called the antepenultimate or propenultimate scene.  You can thank me anytime.)  It’s when Annie and Kerry return to Amsterdam after leaving school, and being reunited with . . . in Annie’s case her mother picks her up, and in Kerry’s Ms. Rutherford comes to collect him.  One has family, one doesn’t.  One can talk about being a witch all they like to their witch of a mother–and I mean that in a good witch way–and one can’t say a word about what really happened the past year at the strange, hidden school in the middle of Cape Ann.

Kerry gets introduced to Mama, there is pleasant small talk, and then it’s time for the Annie Family to hit the road.  Annie and Kerry say their finally goodbyes for the year in front of the adults, and then handle the emotional impact in their own way . . .

Annie internalizes most everything except with the right people.  Mama is not the “right people,” and the last thing she’d ever talk about with her is how walking away from Kerry is making her feel.  It’s been a strange, hard, first year, and leaving her Ginger-haired Boy behind is tearing her up inside.  She won’t show it, though.  She’ll get home, great her father, have dinner, and go to her lake house where she’ll sadly reflect her loss.

Kerry’s not like that.  Before coming to school he’d kept his emotions shut down, and only on certain occasions for a certain someone would he actually reveal what he felt.  But not anymore.  In the last few days of school he’s discovered that love and pain go hand-in-hand, and watching the person you’ve been attached to for more than nine months walk off complete in the knowledge that when you wake up tomorrow morning she won’t be there to greet you, to share meals with you, to walk hand-in-hand with you–

He loses it in the airport.  Major crying jag, has to hold on to Ms. Rutherford because he needs that human touch, and she helps calm him, gives him words of encouragement, and helps clean him up because she doesn’t want his parents to see him that way, distraught over having to “spend the summer without his special love.”

And what happens after that?

You know, one day I will get around to writing those last two scenes . . .

The Birthday Girl

I didn’t think it was going to happen, because yesterday was such a lazy day and nothing seemed to wanna move.  But at some point–probably after The Longest Day finished and my mini-tacos were consumed, but before I got into a long conversation with another woman over guys that have been hitting on me on Facebook of late.  But I got my writing done–a lot of writing done.  Like two thousand words on the nose writing done.

Right there:  2000 words.  And a First Draft label all over the place as well.

Right there: 2000 words. And a First Draft label all over the place as well.

As you may have guessed from the post title, the scene concerned one of the kid’s birthday.  Since Professor Semplen gave his birthday greeting as “Chestit rozhden den”, it’s probably a safe bet that it wasn’t Kerry’s birthday.  Not to mention the title of this post has “girl” in it, so that pretty much narrows down the character in question.

Yes, Annie turned twelve, and it was an important moment.  Her last year as a tweener, sure, but this occasion involved something she didn’t expect:  a present from the last person she expected to see one from.  Kerry tried not to act like a goof, and since they had a lot of time before Astronomy class, he walked her up to the north shore of Lake Lovecraft, the place where they’d rested after flying around the school grounds the second Saturday they were there.

And what gift did he give her?

 

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

There wasn’t a need to feign surprise: the last thing Annie expected was a present from Kerry. “How did—?” She took the package from his hands and held it close to her body. “When did you find time to buy this?”

“I had help.” Kerry had gone from looking at the ground to looking at Annie when he spoke. “I asked Professor Sladen and Nurse Coraline for advice, and then if they could pick it up for me.”

“That was nice of them.” She examined the package, which was slightly larger than a paperback book. “This is unexpected.”

“I felt it was needed.” He nodded in her direction. “Go ahead: open it.”

“I will.” She unwrapped the gift it slowly, careful not to tear the paper, which she then handed to Kerry and asked him to fold it into a small square. The package was a brown, unmarked box that felt far too light resting in her hand. She popped open one end, found brown packing paper, and pulled it out. There was something smaller inside: Annie tipped the box to one side—

A red jewelry box slid into her hand.

“Kerry . . .” There weren’t a lot of moment where Annie found she couldn’t express her feelings, but now was one of those moments. “It’s—”

Kerry cleared his throat. “I hope you like—”

Shush, you.” She locked eyes and Kerry instantly grew quiet. Annie stared at the red box in here hand for maybe five seconds, then opened it slowly.

A silver heart-shape locket lay in the middle of a red velvet pillow.

 

Awwww.  In some countries giving a gift like that is pretty much the same as getting married, dude.  Particularly after you had Sladen and Nurse Coraline engrave something on the back.  Something that Annie saw.  Something that touched her deeply:

 

“You—” Annie’s gaze met Kerry’s. “Do you mean this?”

A red haze returned to Kerry’s cheeks. “You mean about the love part?”

“Yes, silly.”

“Well, I mean . . .” He place the wrapping paper and brown box back in his backpack before answering. “As much as I’ve learned about loving you this last month . . .” He rolled his shoulders as he looked at scenery around the lake shore. “Yeah, I mean it. I mean—” He sighed slowly, the red in his cheeks growing brighter. “You needed to see that and keep it close to you all the time.”

Annie clutched the locket in here right hand, then opened the clasp before turning her back to Kerry while holding the ends of the chain above her shoulders. “Would you fasten this, please?”

Kerry fastened the clasp while Annie held her hair up. Once in place she smoothed her hair, then faced Kerry. She pressed the locket to her chest. “I love this. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He managed a slight smile, though his cheeks remained bright red. “I know it’s not a lot—”

Shush, you.” Her right index finger shot up like she was going to press it against Kerry’s lips. “Don’t ruin the moment, my love.” Once again Kerry grew silent, saying nothing more least he raise Annie’s ire.

 

Yeah, be quiet, Kerry.  You’re gonna get the evil eye if you keep that up–and given that Annie is your Dark Witch, she probably can do something evil if  she puts her mind to it.  Not that she’d do it to you.  Ever.  You’re lucky there.

Because Annie is so happy–after all, this is the first time she’s gotten a present from someone other than a close family member–things . . . develop.  Tender things.  Kissing things.  And just like in The Princess Bride, they must be read:

 

Annie felt the difference in their embrace. Since the first Midnight Madness and the kiss under the comforter, there had been pecks and brushes, tiny kissing on the cheek, but nothing like the first night when she admitted her love. She allowed Kerry to feel his affection for her, to grow used to her presence—perhaps to remember something they’d shared in a dream. Kerry had not taken an initiative to advance their romance beyond the hand holding and cuddling—

This wasn’t the same. Her soul mate’s kiss came back to her with the same passion she gave him. Her right hand moved from his chest to his shoulder, slid over it, held him from behind. Annie pressed her lips against his, their kiss fueled by the emotions flowing between them. Their lips parted, then kissed, parted once more, kissed, parted . . .

Annie noticed the light pressure along her waist, then around her lower back, then sliding up to the middle. She was relaxed in Kerry’s embrace, leaning back into his arm. He’s holding me; he’s pulling me closer. She tightened her hand against his shoulder, drawing him into her. He’s not pulling away; he’s not hesitating. He’s not afraid to kiss me like this . . .

She finally stopped the kiss but didn’t pull break the embrace. She met his gaze nose-to-nose. “You didn’t run.”

Kerry’s eyes were having difficulty focusing. “I what?”

“You didn’t run. You didn’t stop. You didn’t tell me you didn’t know how to react.” She cocked her head left to right, examining him in the gathering gloom. “You weren’t the way you were—”

He placed a finger upon her lips. “Shush you.” He kissed her on the nose. “Don’t ruin the moment, Sweetie.”

Annie hugged him tight. “You’re right. I don’t want to spoil this moment.” She twisted them them from side-to-side. “I’m only taking this off when I sleep and shower. The rest of the time I’ll wear it for everyone to see.”

 

Whole lotta shushing going on, you know?

This was an important scene for me, because things are happening here, stuff is opening up, and changing are occurring.  Chapter Fourteen starts out disgustingly fun–you’ll see–and then moves into something that’s going to change things for the kids in ways they didn’t expect.  That starts today, getting into the first scene which I do hope is not only geeky, but disgusting as well.  Because sometimes you gotta roll that way, and my Self Defense and Weapons Instructor doesn’t keep boggarts in her wardrobes . . .

Lots of "To Dos" on my To Do List.

Lots of “To Dos” on my To Do List.

The Untempered Dance

Blessed Beltane to everyone, near and far.  It’s the traditional first day of summer, and it’s a time to build some Maypoles, set out your flowers and may bushes, then build some bonfires and dance your heart out.  It’s a time of joyous celebration, and one that we should get back to–but we don’t, ’cause those commies had to go and ruin it for everyone.  Thanks, Lenin!

At my fictional Salem school, today is a big deal.  Coven Blodeuwedd is responsible for setting up the celebrations–better The Flower Girl than Cernunnos, because Beltane is also tied to fertility, and the last thing you want to do is send half your student population home to the folks in a family way because The Horned God kicked out the jams.  Don’t worry:  Cernunnos does the Ostara Festival, and they keep the kids busy singing and dancing then.

Beltane at Salem has its own traditions.  First, there are no classes:  it’s casual lay about day for everyone.  Despite being metric to all hell, the Flight of the Mile High Club takes place right after breakfast.  What’s that, you say?  It’s the day a few brave A Level, first-time for flying students, hop on their Class 1 PAVs and fly them a mile, 5,280 feet or 1,610 meters, into the air.  It’s described a bit like getting on your mountain bike and riding to the top of a mile high peak–only your mountain bike hasn’t any wheels, and there isn’t any mountain under you.  The only thing keeping you in the sky is a thin sliver of enchanted technology and a whole lotta willpower.  Think about sitting on a bicycle with nothing between you and The Big Splat but emptiness–and then think about doing that when you’re twelve.

Yeah, it’s like that.  Either you stay home because that image is too much, or you become a leaf on the wind.

Funny, I left the splating part out of my outline.

Funny, I forgot the splatting part in my outline.

Then, after it gets dark, about half the instructors head out to Selena’s Meadow where awaits the mother of all bonfires.  They bring about fifty, sixty students with them, all there by invitation only.  They say a few words about how great the school year has been, how there’s only a month left and they’re going to miss everyone, they bless all those who reside within the hallowed walls of the school–then light that sucker up with a few well-placed fireballs.

It’s at this point that people are encouraged to dance, have fun, and let their feelings hang on their sleeves.  It’s also where the optional part of the show kicks in:  anyone wanting to dance “skyclade” is encouraged to disrobe and get right down to their nothings.  This is why it’s invitation only for the students, because you need to have a not-easily blown mind to know you’re not only gonna be dancing around naked with a few of your fellow classmates, but you’re liable to find the instructor you’re having class with the next day cavorting around in her birthday plumage.  Don’t worry:  only about two-thirds of the instructors and staff attending get down to their altogethers, so some students may be spared some momentary embarrassment.

It’s actually in this year, March 2014, that in my fictional universe Professor Erywin Sladen tells Kerry the story of her B Levels, her “Year of Hell” as she dubbed it.  It was the year she came out as the first openly gay student at Salem.  It was the year she got her ass beat in the girl’s bathroom for her troubles.  It was the year she was shoved back inside the fishbowl by a huge portion of the student body, because it was 1979/1980 and shunning was the order of the day.  It was the year that everyone was afraid they were gonna get lesbian cooties from her.  (Sure, it wasn’t like the school hadn’t seen lesbians before–like three hundred years before–but times get strange, you know?)

It was also the year she met her “pretty girl”, her ta mokoed Kiwi, Helena.  It was the year she finally made a mate, and then a bestie, and at Beltaine a skyclade Helena convinced Erywin to cast aside her prudish Protestant upbringing and join her to dance under the stars, and Erywin did that.  She dance first for the first time, she actually made friends–who finally realized she wasn’t some perv and that she wasn’t there to seduce them, and who was, all in all, a pretty damn good witch.

It was also at that bonfire she cried, because someone told her they loved her, the person remained the center of her life and who still taught along side her as she tells Kerry this story with misting eyes.

It’s a time to change, to bring in newness.  It’s a time to find direction and focus.  It’s time to cleanse yourself of the staleness of winter.

It’s time to get out and dance–

With wild abandon.

Sky Captain and the Dark Witch

Here it is, Tuesday, and by this evening I’ll have the first read-through edit of the The Foundation Chronicles finished.  There are three and a half scenes remaining, and one of those scenes is seven hundred fifty words and a no-brainer to do, so I should burn through that in no time.

The scenes I was into last night were lovely:  Kerry way, way up in the air, and Annie suffering in some deep despair.  It’s an interesting metaphor, because until last night I didn’t realize that it’s a moment where Kerry is finally learning to soar, to accept that he’s not this huge loser that he’s believed he was for so long, while at the same time Annie’s sinking, telling Deanna the Seer that she wonders if she’s dragging him off to a destination not of his choosing–and then hearing of the report The Foundation put together on Kerry–and it doesn’t give a flattering description of the ginger lad.

It’s a nice dichotomy–not Die Me, Dichotomy, mind you–but it’s strange that until last night I didn’t recognize the inferences.  And these tie in with the scenes that follow, which bring a nice resolution to the prior four scenes.  If I’d actually considered writing it that way–well, it probably wouldn’t have turned out as well . . .

"I haven't seen something this bad since the last time I visited White Castle."

“I haven’t seen a mess this bad since the last time I visited White Castle.”

I’ve already started looking ahead to the next scenes, taking what the metadata is telling me and putting the ideas in my head.  I already knew them when I laid the novel out, but now everything is starting to gel in a good way.  I mean, take a look:

It all means something--doesn't it?

It all means something–doesn’t it?

Chapter Thirteen looks pretty straight forward–spells, something at the Madness, Nurse Coraline working her magic, and–oh, look, a Genesis song and someone must be having a birthday.  Yeah, those are easy to work out.  Now Chapter Fourteen is a little more difficult–there are labs and rhymes about September, and something about confronting students–doesn’t sound good.  And The Walking Tests?  Yeah, I’m having fun with that one.

What this tells me is that my kids are gonna have a busy September, and with that they’ll get the first month of classes behind them.  They’ll be well tested by them–maybe.  Who knows what’s going to happen with this stuff, right?  I do, but that’s because I’ve been living with this in my head for a couple of years, and now it’s time to let it out and run around the yard for a while.  Otherwise it’s gonna go nuts and start tearing up the furniture.

Today or tomorrow I end one segment of this story, and next Monday night I move on to the next.  I may do some editing passes on this once I start Act Two, or I may wait until Act Two is finished and do it all from the beginning once more.  Act One will go quickly because I’ve already given it a bit of a polish, and then I can go nuts on Act Two.  And then . . .

I can’t think about Act Three right now.  That’s off in the future and I’m not Deanna Arrakis–

Or am I?

Twice as Fast Upon the Course

Writing isn’t always going to turn out how you want it to turn out.  Things tend to get a little crazy within the mind, and when that happens all hell tends to break loose.  It might just be hell inside your head, but that’s enough to make things crazy.

Which is funny, because someone found a post I wrote during Camp Nano last year.  The post started out with advice from Henry Miller on how one should write when they are writing.  It’s a good time to bring back those rules:

 

1.  Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2.  Start no more new books, add no more new material to Black Spring. (At the time this was his WiP.)
3.  Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4.  Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5.  When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Number one has always been important to me, because when I start on a new WiP, I tend not to deal with anything else.  There’s no point to working on three or four different things at the same time, because you end up distracting yourself to hell and gone trying to tie together all these threads that have nothing to do with each other.  And then you end up with crap.  Lots of crap.  And who wants that?

Number ten used to be a problem for me.  I’d find myself in the middle of a story and then–“Hey, why don’t you think about this story?”  Oh, sure.  Why not?  Because this is just like Number One, only with a zero after.  Distracted, distracted, distracted.  You don’t need that.  It’s like the people who say they have trouble working on a story because they come up with ideas for ten stories they should write:  you end up writing nothing doing that, my friends.

I will cop to this:  Number five happened last night.  I was editing.  I was doing a good job editing.  Things were coming along nicely, and then . . . I started thinking about yesterday’s post, and the idea of the course I’d created for a story that, were it to happen, wouldn’t come around for a few years.  I mean, to me some future history on my kids is a little more cement in their lives; it’s world building and it makes them become more whole.

Things took a turn, however:  a dark turn.

I was working, but I was also creating, and the creating side sorta pulled me away from the working side.  I starting thinking about this test run I set up for Annie and Kerry, and my Muse was saying, “You know The Foundation isn’t all rainbows and happy unicorns, that one of the mottoes of Salem is they’ll push you to your limits, and then push you beyond once you’ve reached them . . . so if someone really wanted to know how good these kids were, how far would they push it?  Knowing, of course, that no one is watching the watchmen.”

It’s a good question, and it defines the character of some of the people who aren’t connected to the school, but who are also responsible for keeping the world running as best it can.

How far would they push my kids?

Answer:  all the way to hell and beyond.

Oh, what I came up with was glorious.  It was a layer cake of hardship and pain.  You have a couple of advanced students who are touted as the best of the best, and people behind the monitors thinking, “Yeah?  We’ll see how good they are.”  And then the hike becomes a battle of wills with my kids figuring out how to game the course they’re upon–which, if you know your magic, you can totally do–and the monitors who are becoming more and more frustrated by the minute that they can’t keep up.

When that happens, it won’t take much for someone to finally say, “Screw it.  Time to pull the trigger on this lot.”

"Wow, it's really beautiful out here.  Though it'd be so much better of people where throwing fireballs at us every five minutes."

“Wow, it’s really beautiful out here. This would be a much better hike if people weren’t trying to kill us with fireballs every five minutes.”

That is the way of my world:  it’s not all nice, and if you gotta put kids through hell to test them, there are people who will do such a thing.  Naturally, there is a lesson learned at the end by one person, and if I’m right–and sometimes I am–this does set up my dynamic for the D Level experience they begin in a few months.

Really, it’s not wrong to torture your characters–

Not if it builds their character in the stories to come.

Blithe Future

The night was not one of my best:  I woke at least three times, and there was a point around four AM when I didn’t know if I was falling back into sleep or not, and I considered getting up and doing something.  Which isn’t the best thing to do when you’re not able to sleep, because it makes for a very long day if you never sleep from that point on.

There were some disturbing dreams during the sleepy time moments, too.  These days most of my dreams see to revolve around rejection and loneliness.  I was getting that last night here and there; people just didn’t want to be around me, and dismissed my creative efforts.  It was quite off-putting, and there are times when I don’t want to dream because I’m tired of what awaits me on the other side of the curtain of dreams.

A long time ago in a high school far, far away, I took an acting class.  I was a bit of a puzzle for my instructor, because most people in the class thought I was one of the best when it came to acting (notice I didn’t say ACTING!  because that stuff ain’t for me), but for the life of me I couldn’t memorize my lines worth a damn.  Part of the problem was not being able to work with other people to get my lines down:  I was always at home, always alone, unable to hook up with the people who may have been able to help, and I was just too much of a mess to develop the discipline to get this stuff right.

I can still remember the first thing I did in front of the class:  it was a scene from Blithe Spirit, and I was acting opposite the ghost Elvira–well, the person playing her.  I managed to get half way through the scene, and then the brain locked up.  I couldn’t remember a single line.  The teacher sort of ripped into me for not bring prepared, and the girl I was acting opposite was mad because she had her part down cold and I ended up making her look bad.

Yeah, Elvira wasn’t happy with me, which sort of paralleled the plot of the story.  What a surprise, right?

"You screwed up my big scene, Cassie, and now I'm going to come and haunt you every night--just like in the play!"

“You screwed up my big scene, Cassie, and now I’m going to come and haunt you every night–just like the play!  Who says life doesn’t imitate art?”

You’re looking a little green, Elvira.  Maybe you should go lay down.

My sucking at acting literally coincided with my sucking at my first attempt at writing.  At least I kept trying the writing thing–and, let’s remember, giving it up as well–until I finally got good with myself and found I didn’t really suck all that much, but there still seems to be something going on in my subconscious that is keeping me from getting relaxed with this creativity thing.  The deeper I’ve ventured into The Foundation Chronicles, the more the dreams of, “You suck, you’re a failure, you’ll never amount to anything, shun the loser–Shuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn,” keep coming like an iTunes playlist on repeat.

Though there was a slight change in the tune this morning . . .

Yesterday, in the afternoon and before heading off to bed, I was working out a couple of scenes in my head.  I call them the Presents scenes, because that’s what they are about; one has a panicked Kerry beseeching Nurse Coraline and Professor Sladen to help him with getting a present for Annie’s rapidly approaching birthday, because he’s an eleven year old boy who knows nothing about what to get girls, particularly for one who a few weeks before told him she’d loved him all her life.  The other scene takes place after the kids return from Yule holiday, and Annie gives Kerry a belated Christmas present.

They’re sweet scenes, and both will appear in Act Two.  I was playing them out now because I’m bored, there’s nothing to do, and like I said yesterday, I’m always thinking about my stories even when I’m not writing.

On to the next part of this tale . . . During my four AM wake up I lay in bed hoping to fall back to sleep, and during this time I thought a little about the gifts Annie and Kerry give each other.  I thought about how they would feel receiving them, how they both added little touches to make them more personal . . . all sweet little touches that add to the characters.

I did drift back into dreams, and for a while I was feeling a little of the old sensation of being alone and somewhat unwanted.  Then someone started looking through a box I was carrying.  They found something I’d written, and they slowly read it over, turned to me, and said, “I would love to format this on a large square and hang it up for all to see–”  The person who was saying this broke into a huge smile.  “This is brilliant–simply brilliant.  You should be proud.”

I know what writing they were talking about:  it was the scene where Kerry gives Annie her birthday present.  And I know who the person was telling me to be proud of my work–it was someone I know, but whom I haven’t seen or spoken with in a while.  Even though it was a dream, I needed to hear those words, and I needed to hear them from her.

Even if it was a dream, so often we require validation from those whom we respect and cherish.  It doesn’t always happen, but when it comes you feel as if you’re dancing upon a cloud and nothing bad will ever happen to you again.  The doubt can keep tormenting you like a nasty spirit–but you also have to remember that the spirit may be tormenting you because it remembers all the great moments you shared, and it wants you back by its side.  It’s not tormenting you out of spite:  it’s doing so out of love.

You’ll never lose this spirit completely, so make the best of the future to come.  And try to convince that spirit that, yes, you do have your brilliant moments.

Maybe then she’ll send you off to wonderful dreams with a kiss.

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.

Relationship Bytes

While stepping out of my car into the snowy Panera parking lot about twenty minutes ago a crow flew directly over me and cawed several times, as if to welcome me back after missing last Sunday, and in general to give me a good blessing.  I gave the bird a wave, then cawed back–yeah, I do that–then headed inside.

We’ve a little snow falling this morning, but after a week of being stuck in the apartment I needed out.  What these people here call, “Oh my gawd, it’s snowing again!” I call “Saturday”, and I’m damned if I’m gonna stay holded up for another morning.  I need my time out, even if all I do is sit in a corner and write my blog.

With last night came the start of one more scene, one more closer to the end.  After the happiness of flying around the school with Kerry, I was back in Deanna the Seer’s office, with her spilling to Annie what she knew of The Foundation report compiled on her said main squeeze.  Now, one might question why she’s doing this, why she’d taking confidential information and telling it to an eleven year old girl.  It’s because these people are different.  It’s because you’re dealing with children who are all of above-average intelligence with varying degrees of emotional maturity, but who are ultimately carrying a power that, if turned lose without the proper training, could probably smack around with little or no difficulty–or even level a shopping mall if sufficiently provoked.  You know, like being told to turn down their iPod.

Deanna treats Annie not as if she’s a child, but rather a maturing girl on the verge of womanhood who is facing a particularly difficult moment in her two-week old relationship with someone she claims to have known all her life.  A girl who’s report says she’d been practicing sorcery spell since she was eight, and who was labeled in that same report as “emotionally immature”.

Now lets tell her that her boyfriend is suffering from depression, has spent years isolating himself from the world, and can be considered detached from any emotions that might bring about a modicum of happiness.  What could go wrong?

"The Foundation said he was most likely to fireball his gaming group after growing tied of their crap. LIES, ALL LIES!"

“The Foundation said he was most likely to fireball his gaming group after growing tired of their crap. LIES, ALL LIES!  They just don’t understand him!”

I’d actually dreaded writing the scene, but once I was into it, I found the going a lot easier that I’d imagined.  But then, I remembered something:  the Kerry that people had seen in the last week wasn’t the same as the Kerry in the report–and their must be a reason for that, yeah?  There are changes in his behavior, and it’s not that he’s really that detached from his emotions, it’s that he doesn’t know what to do with them.  He needed a new environment, one where he’d find himself pushed and given the opportunity to challenge himself–

To be made to grow as a person.

Though now comes an even bigger reveal, one that won’t see a conclusion until about mid-way through Act Three.

How can I keep all these secrets to myself?

Relationship Bytes

Building Towards Excitation

Yesterday was busy; today is likely to be a bit of a madhouse.  Yesterday was taxes and medication, along with a little work that I didn’t want to do, but more or less was pushed into doing; today is going to be getting my car tested and shopping with other people.  The only thing that makes today a little bearable is that Doctor Who starts tonight, giving me something else to watch for the next seven weeks.

Oh, there’ll be writing as well.  What else?

I’ve the clock on me this morning, because I’d like to finished this post in another twenty-eight minutes so I can put my vehicle through some emissions testing.  So much fun, because you feel as if you have less and less of you own time due to these other obligations.  You have so many things throughout the day you wonder if you’ll get to the things you want, to be able to engage in the things that are important to you.

I do my best.

I’ve finished the edit on Chapter Three of Replacements, and things are going smoothly.  Last night was a real good edit, because I was seeing things that shouldn’t have been there, and a couple of clumsy passages that made me cringe a little on the inside.  How the hell did I write that and think it was good?  Well, it was a first draft of things that were written for another site, and at best I gave those chapters a good looking over before posting them online.

Its wasn’t a disaster, however.  I’t wasn’t as if I was embarrassed by what I’d written:  it’s that these days I know how to look at something and know it doesn’t look right.  When other writers say, “Get good at your editing skills,” they know of what they speak, because there is so much more going on in these phases than I’d ever imaged before getting serious about my writing.  There were many times in the past when I believed my first drafts were so good that I didn’t need no stinkin’ editing–how wrong is that?    If anything, I can look at something I wrote five, six, ten years ago, and know it’s a bit defective, and that it needs a good rub down.  (You know, a polish?  What were you thinking?  Naughty people.)

Tonight I’ll polish up Chapter Four, then tomorrow I’ll get into writing a new chapter?  What’s that, you say?  New chapter?  Yep.  Figured the story needed it, and I have an interesting idea that I want to put in that shows the developing relationship between my two main characters.  Shouldn’t be more than a couple of thousand words, then I can let it sit, I can do something else for a while, then go back and give it a major edit.

Mean and clean:  that’s how I like my chapters.

At this rate I’ll finish the edit next weekend.  Do I edit something else?  You know, there are a couple of stories that need a good edit, and I should get into them if I’m serious about getting stuff published this year.

Only if it’s ready to go is it ready to go.

Seven thirty to seven fifty-two:

Looks like I can check off blogging for the day.

Love in the Shrunken Universe

Since getting into the development of Elektra’s life within Chapter Thirteen of Suggestive Amusements, I feel like I’m learning more about the state of New Mexico than I’d ever imagined I would.  When I put her together I created her home town on the fly, making her a Southwest Desert Girl from the go, so living in Las Vegas wasn’t going to be a huge climate change for her.

Culturally, though, I’ve got her growing in ways I wouldn’t imagine the rest of us would ever experience.  Then again, we don’t live in novels.  Or do we?

It seemed to take hours to write my eleven hundred words last night, mostly because I not only did my research, but I was doing my nails, too.  Hey, nothing wrong with a little base coat drying as you type away, right?  But for an hour or so I did a lot of set up, and then, when I was down to the last six hundred words, I imagined her visiting these different areas of the state, and before you knew it I had her hooking up with . . . Izzy.

Don’t laugh, but that’s her nickname for another person in her past who led her onto the Road of Kink.  Believe it or not, I took the name from a character that grew up in New Mexico, and I even mention that other character by name.  (I don’t need to tell any of you who it is, because I have very bright readers.)  So she and Elektra met, get to know each other, have dinner, get to know each other better, and before you know it, they’re meeting on a regular basis.

That’s how good relationships should begin.  Find your interests, get to know each other, and eventually end up on a side road near Roswell laying on the hood of a Jeep, staring up at the sky and holding hands while looking for UFOs.  That was how I left Elektra and Izzy last night, thinking it was a good place to jump out and gather my thoughts–and get ready for bed–because I needed the time to see where I’m taking this . . .

If you asked, “Straight into the gutter?” you’d likely be correct.

I like this chapter, and I like what I’m doing with Elektra.  All this, “What I did before I met you” stuff is giving her dimensionality, it’s turning her into a real–albeit kinky–person.  This is what we, as writers, strive to do with every character:  we want them fleshed out so when they turn sideways to us, we don’t watch them vanish.  Sometimes a writer doesn’t care if their character is two-dimensional, because the story is driving the character, not the other way around, but for this story, I’d like the characters to have a bit of thickness to them.

The question I have now is:  does Elektra think about some of the experiences she had with Izzy, and do I get into the fantasies she never got to experience with her?  I know the answer to both side, so it’s a no-brainer for me.  I believe the second part of that question should be shown in Chapter Fourteen, because that’s what we’re always being told:  “Show, don’t tell.”

Okay, I’ll do that.  I wouldn’t want to upset any writing instructors . . .

Getting the Word Out

And now, a public service announcement!

My friend Amber, she of The Amber Light’s Blog, will appear tomorrow on “Indy Style”, which is broadcast on WISH-TV, Channel 8, Indianapolis, between nine and ten AM Eastern Standard Time.  She is a writer, a life coach, and an innovator of her own form of Feng-Shui.  She’s also someone I’ve shared a lunch with at the Weber Grill in downtown Indy, and I hope to be able to do this again in the summer.

If you’re down Indy way tomorrow, or you’re hacking signals out of the Circle City, check her out!