Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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Spectacular, Spectacular!

No, I have not taken over the Moulin Rouge and I’m doing my Harold Zidler impression to get you to spend you hard earned gilt on Satine–I do not accept Bitcoins, by the way.  No, no:  this is something else.

This is something really spectacular.

Late last night my daughter returned from Indiana University, where she was competing in the state Science Olympiad.  It’s not a science fair:  these kids do real scientific stuff, like figuring things out through the scientific method, or building things that work.  My daughter is in ninth grade and this is her second, and last, year competing, and for the second year her school won their division state championship.  Not only that, but she scored three golds out of three events.  Here’s one of them, Disease Detectives, which is sponsored by the CDC, so that means she’s got her shit down cold for when the Zombie Apocalypse(tm) breaks out.  Her other events were Meteorology and Music, and in this last event she and another kid built a working violin.

I should also mention she plays cello–no, she doesn’t know someone named Coulson–and paints as well as draws, so she’s not only got the science stuff down, but she’s artistic, too.  This is what comes of letting her do what she wants to do.  Nice to know she’s doing it right.

In other creative news, I edited like a mofo yesterday.  Yes, that’s a technical term, mofo.  It means I spent most of the day at the computer reading my work, and had a great time going over the work I created.  I edited Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten, and went over some great stuff, if I may say so.  I wasn’t paying attention to the word count yesterday, but in the light of this morning’s light, it was just over thirty-eight thousand words.  That’s a good day’s work.

No, really:  it only looks like work.

No, really: it only looks like work.

I found things wrong.  I found some things misspelled.  I found words that weren’t needed.  I found Coraline doing something that was completely out of sequence, so I rewrote a couple of paragraphs, and when I think about it today, I can rewrite the first paragraph to have her do the absolute correct thing, because when you got magic working for you, it’s easy.  I found Kerry using an “s” in one of the words of a song title he’d know better than to use–sure, I could leaving it and say he was excited and didn’t know what he was saying, but no, that’s not happening.

One of the scenes I edited was the demonstration fight between Ramona Chai and Coraline, and since I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I should excerpt that scene–well, guess what?  Here it is:

 

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

Ramona walked to the south end of the mat, directly opposite Coraline. They bowed, then pressed the palms of their hands together. The air around each woman shimmered for a second, then all was normal. Ramona began moving her arm while she widened her stance, preparing to fight. Coraline did the same, planting her feet wide, getting her left arm back while she raised her right hand as if to block. They watched each other for a few moments. Ramona exhaled slowly before giving the command: “Begin.”

It was all Kerry could do to follow the two women.

Both moved so quickly their motions were a blur. Ramona was off her spot and moving to her right, while Coraline came at her directly across the mat. Though their moments didn’t look hurried, both women were moving at least—Kerry figured their actions were maybe ten times faster than those of a normal person. He was reminded of the scene in The Stars My Destination where Gully Foyle was being chased by the Martian Commandos, all of them moving at similar speeds and trying not to run into each other least they be killed by the impact.

That wasn’t the case here, however. Ramona turned and ran towards Coraline before throwing two punches which the head nurse appeared to block. Kerry assumed they were blocked because not only were the punches difficult to follow, but there was a quick flare of light against Coraline each time Ramona struck her.

Ramona jumped back about three meters and seemed ready to set up another attack. Coraline leapt across the space with ease, almost flying through the air, and kicked the instructor once in the chest, knocking her off her feet and back towards the students. She landed on her back and was immediately on her feet, moving her arms as if she were drawing something towards her. Then the air before Ramona’s body swirled into a visible form—

She pushed it away, driving it towards Coraline. The head nurse saw the attack and jumped straight up into the air to get out of the way. The attack struck an invisible wall on the far side of mat; whatever protective force was there became visible for a second, and the air rippled from the impact.

Coraline hadn’t yet touched ground. Kerry watched her soar five, almost six meters into the air, slowly back-flipping into position like a character from an anime fight. She finally touched down and readied herself before drawing back her right arm. A ball of bright light appeared in her right hand, but this was nothing like the orange globes Kerry saw her make in the hospital. This one was reddish-white and crackling with energy. The head nurse spun twice and threw it at Ramona, who raised an arm to block.

The instructor did more than block, though: Coraline’s attack hit the barrier she’d thrown up—one that flared brightly when it was struck—and shot off towards the students. Most of the students screamed and threw up their hands; a few dropped to the floor. Kerry grabbed Annie and put himself between her and the mat, almost knocking her to the floor in the process. The energy attack hit another invisible wall at the edge of the mat and flared brightly. The wall rippled again, then all was once more as normal as possible.

Stop.” Ramona brought her feet together and her hands to her sides: Coraline did the same. They bowed, then walked towards each other to met near the center of the mat. There was another shimmer around them, then they shook hands, both smiling. “You still are one of the best.”

Coraline brushed a strand of hair from her face. “I learned from the best, Sifu.”

 

Yeah, you can keep your wand:  I’m gonna stand over here and toss fireballs at your ass.  I should point out that later in the story Coraline tells one of my kids about how, before she became the Head Nurse of the school and she was working at a woman’s clinic in the city of Salem, someone tried to mug her as she walked home one night.  Poor bastard never knew what hit him.

Today will be a lot of running about and getting things done away from the home, but I’m two chapters away from finishing a first pass on Act One.  That’s a little over twenty-three thousand, three hundred words–that’s all that remains on this pass of the edit.  While I have time I’ll do another full pass on the act, and while that happens I’ll start on Act Two next Monday.  I’m looking it over, and as I view the metadata it comes back to me what I needs writing.  What’s going to happen.  How things are going to go down at my Magical School On the Cape.

Everything's so nice and simple--until I get to that Big Time at the bottom . . .

Everything’s so nice and simple–until I get to that Big Time at the bottom, then it all goes to hell.

It’s a good time to be doing something you love.


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Off to a Wrong Start

Sometimes I drive myself a little batty with the extent I go to on some scenes to make sure everything’s about as right as it can get, even when it’s fiction.  Yesterday was an excellent example of not leaving well enough alone and simply saying, “It’s a story, you know?  People ain’t gonna care, yo.”

Case in point:  this scene I’ve been working on for the last couple of days, the one I said has been stuck in my head, so I’ve played with the lines of time to figure out when everything happens where.  It’s been a fun exercise, in part because I tried a little something different this time.

It only looks complicated.  When you first look at it.  And tried to make sense of the vision . . .

It only looks complicated. When you first look at it. And try to make sense of the vision . . .

This is what time looks like when you’re viewing events as they are viewed from three different time zones.  If you’d like to know, the top zone is where everything is happening:  it’s GMT +10 if you’re keeping score.  The middle zone is Salem, or GMT -5, and the bottom is the West Coast, or GMT -8.  So the thing I’d do here is simple:  I’d figure out when something happened on the West Coast, adjust for the East Coast, then add fifteen hours for where stuff was happening.

I have something else going here:  the bottom of the Aeon display shows relationships.  You set up the people who are involved in a scene, and then you set the dots to let you know if they are an active participant–the solid dots–or if they are just watching–the open circles.  So it was a fairly simply matter, given the limited number of people in each possible scene, to figure out who was acting and who was watching–particularly when two of my characters were on the other side of the world viewing events.

See, I mentioned yesterday that in one of the smaller scenes in this event, my kids would happen into the area where all the badness happens and find themselves bathed in the warm glow of the northern lights.  Sure, that’s a pretty easy thing to say, and an even easier one to write once you get it in your mind that you’re gonna start writing.  And if you don’t look too hard at the reality of the situation, you can make it work.

Then I looked at the reality . . .

I decided to pop up Sky View Cafe and have a look at the sky for my little part of Mother Russia in mid-April.  Even though the town where all my action happens isn’t in their search list, it’s simple enough to bring up the time zone and plug in the longitude and latitude for the location.  Then I roll the clock over to 23:00–or eleven PM for some of you–and see . . .

That the sun hasn’t fully set.

"You promised I'd see an aurora, Kerry."  "There was one, but you slapped it out of me."  "Smack!"  "Owww!"

“You promised I’d see an aurora, Kerry.” “There was one, but you slapped it out of me.” “Smack!” “Owww!”

This meant that the date I’d selected just wouldn’t work.  I mean, I could use it, but just as Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle changed a solar system in The Mote in God’s Eye just so they could keep a single line in the story, if I wanted to keep this scene, I needed to change my dates.

Since I already knew some of the events happening in their E Levels I looked about, found a time that would work well, realized that something happened in that same period that would really help out with the scene.  I checked the view in Sky View, saw that things were going to be dark at 23:00, and that was all I needed to get to work.  I changed dates, moved everything ahead, and managed to keep my aurora.

The things a writer does just so they can show the wonder in their character’s eyes for a novel they haven’t written.

Yeah, it’s a thing of beauty.


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The Road to Camp Reka

Cassidy is dragging a little this morning, in part because of this stupid Daylight Savings Time thing which should be abolished to hell and gone, and in part because I was out last night and didn’t roll into the apartment until half-past midnight.  It was nice getting out for the first time in a long time, and I’ll have to do this more often.  Of course, I need to find a few more friends to go out with to make that happen . . .

Since I was out yesterday, this means I spent a lot of time getting ready, ’cause that’s what you do when you’re planing on a night out.  A big part of my afternoon was spent doing my nails, and if you’ve ever had to do your own nails and get them so they look half-way decent, you gotta put in the time.  This means there are a few moments when you can’t type on the computer, but you can use a mouse–

And you can think.

I did some of that yesterday because this scene I have in my head for a part of a novel to come is really obsessing me.  And when I get like I tend to work on it a little if I’m in the middle of a work in process, or a lot if I’m not.  As I’m not, then I’m working on this sucker like crazy mad.

The strangest thing about this scene is that things are happening, at one point or another, in four different locations in three different time zones.  Since people tend to get a little freaked out by time, it’s always a good idea to know your zones when you’re reaching out on a global stage.

The main website I use for this sort of thing is Time and Date, which has been around for a long time.  Most of the time I use it for it ability to give me a calendar for just about any year–do you need a calendar for Saudi Arabia for 2132 so you can figure out when Ramadan begins?  Have at it, people.  And in case you didn’t generate the calendar, it’s 10 November–but of late I’ve been looking at the time zone calculator.  ‘Cause if you get confused about when things are suppose to happen at a certain time in different parts of the world, then you need to check out their Time Zone Converter page.

For example, for the scenes I’m imagining, this parade of crap begins when Annie and Kerry–yeah . . . Kerry–get hauled out of bed at somewhere around six-fifteen in the morning.  The person coming for them has teleported in from San Francisco, and the hell that has initiated all this activity happened far gone and out in the wilds of Siberia.  So I go into the Time Zone Converter page, put in a date and time and some city names, and . . .

I know I said four locations, but the forth is in the same zone as San Fran.  Chill out--I got this.

I know I said four locations, but the fourth is in the same zone as San Fran. Chill out–I got this.

If I was the sort of person who needed to know when all this stuff was happening–and you already know I am–I’d just plug this into one of my Aeon Timeline spreadsheets.  In fact, I just this moment came up with something insane for keeping track of everything.  Just wait until I show you . . .

The gist of this little part of the story is it takes about three hours to get everything explained–this is where the fourth location comes in, because the rest of the gang going on this trip are located there–so when Annie and Kerry and the people they’re working with finally jaunt over to Russia it’s 23:00 local time, or eleven PM for a lot of other people, and the thing Annie and Kerry see when they get their wits about them is a sky burning bright with the aurora borealis, something Kerry got used to seeing for a couple of nights while flying The Polar Express.

"So it was like this when you did The Polar Express?"  "Yeah, only it was Emma holding my hand--"  "SMACK!"  "Owwww!  I was just kidding!"

“So it was like this when you did The Polar Express?”  “Yeah, only it was Emma holding my hand–” “SMACK!” “Owwww! I was kidding!”

No, Kerry:  never kid about shit like that with a witch who can kill you in the time it takes to think about the magic she needs to kill you.

And just as an added bonus, since I wasn’t certain about how to do that Owww! I Googled “Sounds of pain” and was instantly given directions to The Written Sound website, and in particular the Onomatopoeia Dictionary, because sometimes you do need to know the sound uttered by a person choking, or that Blam is the sound of explosion–unless it’s being uttered by Rocket Raccoon after he, well . . .

He gets testy when he discoverers you've locked down your trash bin lids.

He gets testy when he discoverers you’ve locked down your trash bin lids.

There’s my madness out in the open for all to see once more–

Yeah, it’s a great life, isn’t it?


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Sightseeing Along the Broadway Everglades

Yes, it rather was like this.

Last night was Writing Night in a lot of ways.  I more or less finished an article I’d promised to write and put it up on a site waiting for images and proofing.  It’s something with a lot of references and links and fact that I need to look it over again before I release it for publication.

One of the things that troubles me is that it sounds very much unlike me when I’m writing stories.  I once had a person tell me that they liked reading my articles because there was a personality to them, even little bits of humor.  The way they read came across almost like someone was telling you about the stuff in person.  Sometimes I manage that rather nicely:  sometimes I come off like a stilted off biddy.

My article writing is so unlike my fictional writing.  I enjoy doing it, but it comes along mostly when I want to pass some information to others without trying to put it into a story.  Think of is as my “science fact” writing as opposed to my “science fiction” stories.

But I’m still telling a tale when I write an article.  Maybe that is what troubles me about this new one:  it doesn’t feel like a tale.  It feels like I’m spouting facts.

After I wrote about a thousand words on the article, I headed back into The Foundation Chronicles and ended up writing another eight hundred and fifty words.  I talked about some rather interesting things:

 

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

With that out of the way . . . “Miss Kirilova.” Annie’s eyes snapped towards her. “What is the name of the category that defines the various spells used to kill someone with sorcery?”

Annie stared back at Professor Lovecraft for nearly five seconds before responding with her own question. “Why are you asking me, Professor?”

“Because you are a Legacy.” Her smile was as close to sweet as she could manage. “Your parents were also quite good at sorcery—this I know, because they were my students the first year I taught here. Therefore it’s not unreasonable to believe that you’ve taken up the same interests.” Helena crossed her arms and gently cupped her chin. “Or am I mistaken?”

Annie shook her head. “No, you’re not.”

“So you do have an interest in sorcery?”

There was no point in trying to deny it now. “Yes, Professor: I do.”

Helena nodded. “Good. Please tell the class of the name I asked for earlier.”

Annie slowly drew in a breath, holding her answer for as long as she thought she could manage. “It’s known as morte.”

“Morte.” She moved slowly towards Annie. “As in ‘death’.” Helena’s tone was so passive that one could almost imagine she was discussing something unassuming. “Have you ever read of any of your parent’s books on the subject?”

Annie felt she was being held up for display to the rest of the class, and she wasn’t liking it at all. There was little she could do, however: he choices were limited to refusing to answer—and probably getting on the professor’s bad side should that happen—or admitting to her background. “Yes, I have, Professor. I’ve read both.”

“Did you ever get any others to read?”

“Yes.” She was meeting Helena’s nonchalant stare with one that was filled with far more emotion. “I picked up a book on the subject two years ago—”

“When you were nine?”

Someone behind Annie said something too faint for her to hear: she imagined they found the idea of a nine year old girl reading up on death spells a bit morbid. “Yes, Professor. I was for my ninth birthday, actually.”

“Your parents obviously had your future education in mind.” She didn’t chuckle or appear to make fun of Annie: if anything, she was showing an interest in what she knew. “What’s your favorite morte spell?” She arched her left eyebrow. “I’m certain you have one.”

Annie wasn’t about to back away from the professor’s questioning, not now. Exsanguination.”

Helena stopped and did something unexpected: she smiled. “Oh, my.” Now she chuckled. “That was my mother’s favorite. It was one of the first spells she taught me—”

This time the voice that spoke—a boy’s—was much clearer. “Huh? What a freak show.”

Silence.” Helena pointed into the class, not bothering to look in the direction of the comment. “Or you’ll find out just what sort of freak show this class can become.” She addressed Annie. “Do you know what my favorite morte spell is?”

“No.”

“Electrify.” Helena shifted her weight to her right leg. “It’s one of those spells—like exsanguination—that once you understand how to control all the subtleties, can be used for more than killing someone.” She lazily stared off towards the class. “It’s comes in handy in my other duties to The Foundation.”

Though the professor’s comment was lost on the rest of the class, Annie understood the allusion:  Professor Lovecraft was a Guardian.

 

Nothing livens up an afternoon class like discussing various death spells with an eleven year old student.

Now, while I was writing all this stuff, I was listening to music, which is something I normally do, because it’s far less of a distraction than having the TV on in the background.  I was listening to old Genesis concerts–”bootlegs,” as they are properly called–and one was as far different from the other as you could get.  The one I listened to when writing my article was recorded on 10/30/1981, during the Abacab Tour and a few weeks after they were booed by fans during their Leiden, The Netherlands, show–that concert was where Phil said he was gonna come out and kick the shit out of everyone.  (True story.)  The second was recorded almost six years to the day, on 11/01/1975, in Lakeland, Florida, USA, during The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Tour.  Two different shows, very different recordings of different songs done at different times.  One might say the writing employed different voices for different projects.

Which was probably why I went for such a dramatic shift in music to carry off different shifts in my writing, because one was so unlike the other–

Or maybe I needed a simple break from reality.


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Selling the Sorcery

I’ll tell you, Sundays are never a good day.  I was busy all morning, busy all afternoon, and by the time you get to writing you feel dead–exceptionally dead.  Sort of like the Resident Evil movie that was on last night:  brain dead but still moving, albeit slowly.

However, I did think more on the idea I posted yesterday about the Mórrígan and Åsgårdsreia students–mostly the girls, the boys would probably feel foolish–squaring off during the Samhain Ball in the great hall.  Since everyone’s in costume, you’ll have your various interpretations of the Goddess of War on one side of the room, and your Valkyries and shield maidens on the other, and it’ll be like:

Come at me, Bro!

Come at me, Bro!

I am no Bro.

I am no Bro!

Yeah, I gotta write that.  Even if it’s only a short scene, and it’s taking place outside the Hall, and they aren’t really using swords, but being how they’re all witches and gifted students and technogeek mad scientists, they can probably come up with something else.

Part of the business was due to an article I was writing.  There was tons of research I needed to do, and at one point I was getting tired hunting down the correct papers I needed to write.  Still managed to get out five hundred words, and I’m not finished.  I’ll do my best to get that wrapped up by this weekend, though no promises.

That meant when it came time to actually write last night, I did about five hundred and fifty words.  Not a good total, but I’ll take it.  As I’ve mentioned before, some times you feel the words, some times you don’t, and perhaps it was a combination of being tired and feeling distracted that put me off my count.  Not worried, not worried:  I’ll bounce back tonight, hit a thousand, and start my, “Helena is a Bad Girl” section of the scene.  It’s gonna be great.

One of the things I like doing is setting my story in the current world while indicating that most, if not all, of our pop culture references do exist.  You’re in a school full of witches and super powered kids, with a mad scientist thrown in here and there, and when you have a room full of eleven-year-olds, who isn’t expecting to hear something asked based upon what they may have read or heard in the Normal World:

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

“This leaves sorcery. Whereas the other disciplines can used against another person, sorcery is designed to work against a person, whether directly or indirectly. You all encountered what Professor Sladen eloquently called the ‘Hell Shawl’ yesterday—” Helena grinned, satisfied by the looks on the faces of her students. “An example of my handwork.

“Sorcery is all about dominating people, controlling them, hurting them . . . killing them. You can do it directly, or you can do it with cursed items and various chemical product—” She heard a few students say, “Potions,” and almost mentioned that it was a good thing Erywin wasn’t there to scold them, for if there was anything she truly hated, it was hearing her lovely formulistic magic called potions.

“There’s also two lesser branches to sorcery: necromancy and daemonmancy. Adric will instruct you in the ways of dealing with spirits and the recently deceased, but even he won’t touch necromancy—we teach you that together. As far as daemonmancy is concerned . . . I only teach that on a need to know basis.” She half turned to her right. “I doubt if many of you will need to know.”

Helena was ready for her experiment. She had every student’s attention, had then following her every word—and now it was time to do what she’d planed for most of the week. All she needed was for someone . . .

“Is there like a main spell used for killing people?”

She didn’t know who asked the question, but Helena didn’t care. Every year someone asks that, and I have to answer. She turned her attention back to her students. This year I’ll have help . . . “There is more than ‘a main spell’. I can think of a half-dozen different ways to kill someone with little more—” She raised her right hand and snapped her fingers. “Than that.”

With that out of the way. . . “Miss Kirilova.” Annie’s eyes snapped towards her. “What is the name of the discipline set aside for the various means of killing within sorcery?”

That Helena:  she doesn’t care to keep hearing about all this fantasy crap, does she?

Lastly, I was upset–well, just a little–that Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany didn’t win a Best Actress Golden Globe award last night.  You play seven characters, some whom interact with each other in scenes that take the better part of a day to film, and people just don’t give you props.  I’ve fallen in love with Orphan Black, mostly for the acting and writing, and the life Tatiana brings to each member of the Clone Club.

The hell with them.  Lets get out on the floor and move to our groove.  Go, little psycho bitch, go!

And this is the part of the post where we dance with the tail!


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Education of a Chemical Kind

Here we are, early morning, and it’s time to write.  I wrote last night–worked my way through writing–and I am sitting close to the ninety thousand mark I thought I’d make before the end of the year.

Last night was research night.  I had a few things the my current instructor, Erywin, needed to know in order to say them to someone in her class who was going to ask her–as eleven year olds often do–a stupid question.  What was I looking for?  Chemical processes.  What was the question?  Here, take a look:

 

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

Erywin turned her back on the front row. “Do you kiddies have any questions for me?” There was one she expected to occur sometime today, and she felt it we best to get it out of the way as quickly as possible—

Franky Smith, the Canadian student now in Ceridwen, won the prize for asking the Question of the Morning. “Can you cook meth?”

Thank you.” Erywin turned around and slowly clapped her hands. “Thank you Vince Gilligan for turning every middle and high school chemistry instructor into a possible narcotics manufacture and drug lord.” She eyed Franky, who was sitting far back in the fourth row. “Yes, I can cook meth. I can do more than cook it, however, because I am a chemist, which means I know how to anticipate variations in the process and make modifications where necessary.”

Franky and several other students were smiling, almost laughing about her response. Erywin supposed they were amused believing that she was telling them what they wanted to hear, rather than actually knowing anything about making drugs. She wasn’t one to walk away quietly whenever anyone questioned her competence . . .

“What would you prefer, Mr . . .” She held out her right hand and her tablet floated off her desk and over to her. “Smith. Do you believe I should use the Nagai Nagayoshi method and employ pseudoephedrine as a precursor and reduce with hydroiodic acid? Shaking and baking may be a preferred method where you live in the arse-end of Deer Bollocks, Canada, but I’m not a small-time operator looking for quick, cheep stimulation, so I need a better process.

“Since I’m not in the habit of frequenting your Wal Marts—or as I call them, ‘Tesco for the Chavkind’—to make off with as much over-the-counter medication to extract pseudoephedrine as I can carry, I’ll go with reductive amination using phenylacetone and methylamine: Akira Ogata developed it in 1919, and why try to improve on something that works so well?

“However, methylamine is difficult to procure: here it’s on the DEA watch list. With enough work, however, kiloliters can be had. P2P, though—oh, sorry: I mean phenylacetone—is extremely difficult to come by as it’s a Schedule II chemical in this country, so I’ll need to synthesize the element through the dehydrocarboxylation of phenylacetic acid and acetic acid.” She stared hard at Franky, who now looked as if he wanted to hide. “Would you like to hear how one shouldn’t use platinum dioxide reduction because PtO2 is a pyrophoric and will blow up if you’re ignorant enough to expose it to open air? Hum?”

The room was completely silent, and a few appeared a bit uncomfortable listening to Professor Sladen easily rattle off chemicals and the various processes. But she was far finished, and this time she addressed the entire class. “What I’m leaving out here is the magic, which could be used at just about any step. For example, I could have used magic when synthesizing P2P from PPA. Magic would change to properties of PtO2 so that won’t ignite and burn your bloody face off. I could use magic to transmute methanol—CH3OH—into methylamine—CH3NH2—so I don’t have to go through the trouble of creating a dehydrocarboxylation reaction with phenylacetic acid, since that’s also on the DEA watch list now.

“And then there are the special properties that come with the manufacturing of any controlled substance. I can make it one hundred percent pure. Yes, there are chemists who say that’s impossible: magic tells me otherwise. I can remove all addictive properties, both physical and psychological, from the end product—while on the other hand I could add any number of properties that could make a user go days without feeling hungry or needing sleep. Or, I could make a user completely susceptible to ordinary suggestions, like ‘buy more meth’, or eat only at a particular restaurant chain . . . or that they should wait forty-eight hours and then kill everyone close to them before killing themselves.”

Erywin floated the tablet back to her desk. “This is why The Foundation keeps a close eye on those who know the things I know. The Foundation knows that a chemist such as myself could do irreparable damage to a Normal population—not just dozens of people, but thousands of them, maybe tens of thousands of them.” She smirked while her eyes pinned several students in their seats. “I know The Foundation watches me.”

She turned her back on the class and motioned towards the white boards. “It’s my hope that The Foundation will watch you as well some day, so . . .” Words and symbols began to appear on the boards. “Lets begin by seeing what you can cook . . .”

 

Trust me:  they aren’t going to cook meth.  It’ll be something far more fun.

I’m not one of those people who believes I’m going to be monitored now by the shadow law enforcement people out there because I did my research into how to make methamphetamine–and all of the above is legitimate information.  (Just for your information:  Nagai Nagayoshi method, named after the person who discovered methamphetamines, was developed in 1893.)  I also needed to look up certain other bits of information pertaining to chemical processing, so I was still digging up information while I was writing along.  It was fun, it was distracting–

It was all in a night’s work.

I have so much to do in the next couple of days, but I will hit my ninety thousand mark.  That means I should make one hundred and twenty by the end of January, and I hope by that point I’ll be finished with this “First Episode” of the First Book.  Then it’s into February and . . . what?  What happens then?

For once I’m not sure.

But I do know writing will likely be involved.

 


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Second ‘Versing

Yesterday was all about playing around.  There wasn’t any writing going on, no novels to edit or develop, so it was all about doing things that might not seem interesting to you, but could be great fun to me.

There’s the whole “brainstorm the story” thing  I’m working on, and while it goes slow–because I have to think about whats happening, to come up with a few ideas here and there, and then line it out–it’s interesting.  I see how the program works, how the whole idea should come together.  If I see something that I forgot, I make a note and tag it back to a certain, particular idea.

I can see how I can use this to work on one character, one that needs more defining than I’m able to give in my head.  I can lay their name out in the middle of the page and start putting character ideas together.  I might only have a couple of weeks to work on it, because this public beta goes up in smoke on 15 September, but that’s okay, because I can save the information off, and even export the map to a pdf or image and show it to someone who . . . well, they’re always a good help.

But the one thing I really wanted was to do The ‘Verse.  By “to do”, I don’t mean engage in some strange sexual congress:  I mean I wanted to design it in my AstroSynthensis program.  I wanted to bring the information down from various sources and load it up in my program, and see what works.

There is a map that’s been created that is now considered cannon, so I decided to use that as a guide.  I mean, you look at the stars and it’s pretty easy to figure out what they should be.  But then I came across a white paper that has just about everything in terms of planetary data, and this helped a lot, because suddenly I have something which makes modeling far easier.

Right off the bat I discovered something:  The ‘Verse is huge.  If measuring the orbit of the farthest star in the system, it’s about forty light hours across.  From the next orbit in it’s about thirty-five light hours across.  Distance between close systems–and by that I mean when they are in conjunction and you are at the shortest distance between their outermost planets–averages about twenty AU, or about three billion kilometers, or about one billion, eight hundred sixty million miles.  That’s in conjunction, which doesn’t happen too often.

What this means is if your little Firefly Class transport doesn’t go really fast, it’s going to take a hell of a long time to get from one place to another.  Having to travel a distance of, say, twenty-five light hours isn’t that bad–if you’re a beam of light.  If you’re not, you could find yourself getting a little bored on your years-long flight.  But we know they have fast ship in The ‘Verse–

They travel at the speed of plot, don’t you know?


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Scribble Scapple

So another is in the books, for yesterday I finished the Final Draft for Couples Dance.  The short novel now stands at fifty-three thousand and change for the word count, and that’s not bad for a short story of erotic horror.  How erotic and horrifying it is I won’t know until it sells, but then if it sells as well as my other stories, I’ll never know how well it is doing.

This time the editing went with little drama and strain.  If it seems as if I was driving myself crazy editing Her Demonic Majesty, this time the editing went off as orderly and easy.  I’d sit and do a thousand, two thousand words in a sitting with little problem.  There was one time when I put down about six thousand words and didn’t think anything of the matter.  Maybe I’m getting better at this, or maybe I came into the editing with a different set of eyes and a different mind set.  Whatever the reason, Couples Dance was actually a pleasure to fix.  And I do mean fix:  there were parts that were messed up, that didn’t make sense, that were simply wrong.

Now time to find readers and get their feedback.  Find more errors and fix things up.  Get a cover and bang!  I’m ready for big time publishing once more.  Yay me.  If this is the breakthrough, then next up:  gnome porn!  I know there’s an untapped market there . . .

I know the question that’s being asked:  what’s next?  Good question.  I could edit another story, for I don’t intend to start another original story until November–at least that’s the plan at the moment.  But one never knows with me.  I’m thinking Fantasies in Harmonie would be a good one to clean up:  follow up one erotic story with another.  Why not?  I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  I’ll make up my mind in the next few days, because with nothing to do I’ll begin getting crazy by Wednesday.

Not that I need any help there . . .

Since I’d finished editing my novel by seven-thirty PM, I had plenty of time to play with Scapple.  There’s a story idea that’s been floating about in my head for the better part of a month, and I figured, “Hey, what better to lay out, huh?”  I’m the sort of person who likes to flowchart, because that’s what comes of being a computer programmer for a long time.  I wasn’t putting notes all over the place; I wanted to see if the plot flowed well, and if things made sense.

I managed the first couple of chapters and realized the program is great.  Does it do what I want?  Yes.  Does it do it well, with a short learning curve?  Yes.  Are there problems with the beta?  Yeah, but that’s why it’s a beta:  you have people play with it and then tell the developers what you’ve found that’s wrong or not working.  I’ve found one problem in particular that bugs the hell out of me, so I’ll see about leaving feedback so the issue will get fixed.

Will I buy this program?  You know it.

A girl and her software shall never be parted . . .


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Late Night Downloads and Star Smashing

Crazy times yesterday, let me tell you.  So many things happening all at once, and coming to a head today and tomorrow.  It keeps a girl busy, you know?

Though there’s been little mention of the activity, the editing on Couples Dance continues.  Two-thirds of the chapters are now clean and done, with four remaining–which means not a lot of work, right?  Wrong!  Three of the four chapters are among the biggest in the novel, accounting for almost half the story–about twenty-four thousand words total.  That mean there is considerable editing ahead of me, even if it is only four chapters.

Up to this point the editing has been great, and I’ve learned to look hard at what I’m doing and make certain things are right and tight.  I’ve caught a few bad quotation marks, lost words, stuff that just doesn’t seem right.  I’ve removed the “suddenly”s and “very”s from the story.  I’ve even taken a couple of passes at two chapters because I was certain tenses were all messed up, and I wanted to sleep on the story before looking at it again.

Editing is fun.  Really, I wouldn’t lie.  Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, because it is, but your story needs this work.  It needs your eyes to fix things like spelling and tenses and things that, when you read them, simply don’t make sense.  The editor on the other end of the Internet can’t always know what you, the write, wanted to say, and you lose time if they’re sending you a block of text with the notion, “The hell is going on here?”

That’s time taken away from the work in progress you’ve got before you at that time.  And you don’t want that.

Not only that, but once more I’m up early with things bugging me.  This article I’ve spoken of–well, a couple of them, actually–I’m laying in bed and it’s like four AM, and there are idea flowing through my head that simply won’t let me sleep.  And out of nowhere comes this thought:  “Hey, if I make that Lensman sunbeam gun, will that 9.15e10 megatons per second of energy it generates really destroy a planet?”  Most people wake up imagining some warm hotness lying next to them; I’m thinking about blowing up planets with a sungun.

You know where this is going, right?

Once the computer was up I start the Google, looking for a calculator to convert megatons to joules–and, what do you know, I find it.  I plug in the above number and end up with 3.82836e26 joules of energy.  Now, you’re probably wondering how do I know if this is enough energy to blow up a planet?  Because I wrote an article some time back about using energy weapons in science fiction, and I gave the amount of energy needed to overcome the “binding energy” of Earth’s gravitational field and let the planet come apart completely.

And that number is 2e32 joules.  Now, it is said that the energy from the Sunbeam is designed to melt the planet, so if you look at the energy being delivered, yes, indeed, in about a minute or two you’ll deliver enough energy to melt an entire planet to the point where it’ll pretty much come apart.  Maybe.  It might be a little more than that, but the concept is workable.

I’ll leave the proof of concept to you.


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Beyond the Realm of the Fantastic

Today is going to be one of those usual days for me, one where I get out of the house and actually do something besides sit and stare at a computer screen.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the later, but there are times when you want to immerse you mind in something else besides cat pictures, bad memes, and your own word smithing.

Today I’ll be down to the movie theater watching Pacific Rim, which my daughter and I have wanted to see since long before it appeared.  One hundred and ten minutes of monsters, the extraordinarily huge Kaiju, slugging it out with mecha, the tremendous Jagers.  It’s the sort of flick that appeals to the ten year old in me that wants to see incredible things happen–

Even when I know it’s all pure BS.

A while back I wrote a couple of articles for another website.  The first one was about powered armor, and the followup was about mecha.  Both were pretty well received, though there was a comment on the second article from someone who had taken exception with some of the things I’d said–like, “You know, really big mecha are impossible.”  This led said commenter to explain that I, like so many others, was wrong, the cube-square law didn’t work when something was really big, and he hates having to explain this to people; in fact, to do so makes him violently upset . . .

Sounds like a personal problem to me.

I know mecha eighty-five meters tall are pretty much stretching the limits of the possible.  Mad Art Lab covered the science points in far more detail than I could, and over on the Scientific American site, Kyle Hill writes about Jager Punches and Deep Sea Bombing.  While they might make some kick-ass drinks (“I’ll have a Jager Punch, straight up.”), the science is way wonky.

But I’m not going for a science lesson.  I’m going so I can watch Kaiju get their butts beat by a tiny Japanese woman in big freakin’ mecha.

I write some science fiction, and I love to play with things like space flight and time travel.  I try to keep things “in the real” as much as possible, but there are times when I know what I’m doing will require someone to suspend disbelief quite a lot.  Never as much as what passed for “reality” in the movie Armageddon or The Core, but I do have my moments where I think, “Yeah, probably never happen, but what the hell.”  I know when Arthur Clarke wrote Rendezvous With Rama and Earthlight, he knew the “reactionless drive” was pure handwavium, but he was writing a story and needed something incredible–ergo, something fantastic that can’t ever happen.  Though in the case of Rama, we don’t really want to say that aliens were responsible for the reactionless drive, but . . . aliens.

Writers of fiction write things that aren’t real.  We make things up in our head and put then down on a medium so they’ll exist in a form that others can enjoy.  While we can stay “in the real” as much as possible, in the end we’re gonna talk about stuff that just isn’t real.  And sometimes that’s going to involve things that are so far beyond real as to be impossible.

If you go for the fantastic, at least make it awesomely butt kicking.  ‘Cause people love watching a monster get its butt kicked.


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Land of Confusion

Put another tick in the “completed” column.  Fantasies in Harmonie pulled into First Draft City, found a good hotel, and decided to shack up for a while, ’cause the diner across the street has damn good coffee.

It was a good afternoon of writing, and since I said I was gonna finish that story, I was for sure gonna finish the sucker.  Two thousand, six hundred words later I was finished, and it was a good thing.  Not because it was finished, but because my mindset had changed drastically over the last week, and where I had been pretty down on both myself and the story, as I wrote the final chapter I returned to the conclusion that while the story might not be down and dirty, smoking hot dirty porn, it was pretty good fantasy erotica, and I could give myself a pat on the back for completing another story.

‘Cause if you don’t know, completing a story is pretty much as important–if not more–than starting one.  And if you’re gonna start one, you better finish it, love.

Fantasies in Harmonie is not only finished, but I’ve got it out to a couple of beta readers already.  Yes, Cassie is quick on this one, because it’s a pretty clean story–you know what I mean–and after a couple of edits and a cover, I can work the world of smut with this beauty.  Maybe it’s not as good as a story about programming the girl next door to be your perfect sex slave, but it’ll be good.

With that out of the way, it means I got–let me check the big clock . . . a little more than nineteen days before Camp NaNo is in session.  Which means I need do to research.  It means I need to build my world.

I means I need a title.

That’s the thing that’s bugging me right now.  Not that I need to spec out the school, or the teachers, or the students, or the curriculum, or . . . well, any number of things.  No, the thing that bothers me now is that I don’t have a title.  I have an idea and the bare bones of a plot, but I don’t have a title, and just like Harlan, I’m strange about starting without a title.  I did that with Kuntilanak, because I really had no idea what to call it before I got all original and named it after a creature in the story.  Since then I always have a title so I don’t have to go and rename the Scrivener file once I’m about ten thousand words into this thing.

However!  Part of the story takes place aboard a 747-400, and while doing one of those magical things called a “Google Search”, I found the Seat Guru site.  While my plane will be a charter flight, I have an idea of what a current 747-400 looks like, and I can–what’s that word again?  Oh, yeah:  Imagine.  I can imagine what the inside of my place will look like.

If I get too crazy I may just model my plane in 3D–

I’ve done worse.


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The Fictional Facts

Back in the 1960′s, when I was growing up and my best friend was the local library, I spent a lot of time reading.  Since I began reading at a fairly early age, a lot of the fare I enjoyed was adult–and most of these books were science fiction.

I admit I’m a Child of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  At the time I began reading the era was dying out, but some of those writers were still around, and some would remain with me for decades to come, though they would have written their last stories, for the most part, by the 1980′s and 90′s.  It was a glorious era, filed with inhabited planets in the far corners of the galaxy, robots insane and otherwise, huge fleets of spaceships preparing to do battle . . .

Sure, it was all wild as hell, with writers coming up with faster than light drives, and hand weapons that could turn a man into vapor, shields of energy, dark aliens waiting to eat us alive:  if they could dream it, they would write it.  The majority of the writers had little in the way of a scientific background,  but there were authors who knew their math and engineering, and would often bring that knowledge into play when writing a story.

One of the most famous example of this was Edward E. Smith, aka “Doc” Smith of Lensman and Skylark fame.  Smith had a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and worked in the food industry before becoming a writer.  Robert Heinlein wrote about how he and his wife once spent three days calculating a orbit change so they could get one one line in a story right.  (When later asked by someone why he simply didn’t use a computer, his reply was, “My dear boy, it was 1948.”)  Issac Asimov had a BS and MA in chemistry, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry.  They weren’t the only ones, but what they knew tended to show up in their work.

With science fiction, it’s important to create your world and set your rules.  E. E. Smith knew that a lot of the stuff he wrote was too incredible to ever be real, but he wanted to create incredible stories, and didn’t care that the science was pure Handwavium.  (Look up the trope “Lensman Arms Race” and you’ll see some of the stuff the Doc pulled out.)

Back in the Golden Age, writers could do just about anything and get away with it.  These days, we know more about the universe around us; we know there are certain kinds of space drives that just won’t work as we’d like (I’m looking at you, Bussard Ramjet); we know how genetics works; we understand evolution better; we have a better knowledge of engineering.  There are some things that we know just won’t work the way we want them to work if we write about them in a story.

Does this take away from a story?  Or does it even prevent us from writing them in the first place?  Has technology and a greater interest in science mean there are stories we can no longer write?

This was true even one hundred years ago.  Certain things that had been accepted as fact in the early 1800′s was known to be bullshit by the 1920′s.  The trick here is not to throw a lot of stuff into your story that is just going to be crap science; the trick is to keep things tight with science that’s a good as it gets when we’re dealing with real things, and for the stuff you gotta handwave, keep the rules constant.  The Mote in God’s Eye was a good example of this:  the world was extremely real, with only a couple of things that were pure fantasy.  But, the rules for those items were kept consistent, and there was no instances where something that couldn’t have happened did.

In my own stories I have things that are pretty much handwavium, that likely can’t ever happen in real life.  But, for those things I keep the rules consistent.  I try not to pull things out of my butt that will violate my universe to the point where it implodes, and, at the same time, concentrate on the characters who are the real stars.

After all, if I wanna make my television the star of my story, I’ll rewrite Videodrome.

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