History on a Math Shell

There are times when I’m writing my stories that I have to get all geeky for real.  The Foundation Chronicles actually takes place against the backdrop of our world of 2011, so there are times when things are referenced as being something real in my world.  Which is why, during the little time I had to write–driving a few hundred miles in the day tends to make you tired by the time night rolls around–I was able to come up with a short history of Professor Elenore Karasek, one of the school’s former flight instructors, and how she used her love of the city of Chicago to rename the school’s race courses after three mass transit lines.

You can't tell your race circuits without a map, right?

You can’t tell your race circuits without a map, right?

What you have in the picture above are two of the three school race course:  the Green Line (which is the solid line closest to the wall) and the Blue Line (the inner solid line).  I don’t have the third course up, the Red Line, only because designing it will be insane, and no one’s racing the Red Line right now.

(Oh, and in the picture above you’ll see, off to the right, that light green mat is Selena’s Meadow and, right below that, the Flight School.  Doesn’t look like much of a walk, but it is.)

Why go through all this?  Because I knew there would be a part in the current novel where racing was going to come into play, and that time is now.  Which means I have to do my prep to set everything up so I can write about what’s going to happen in the Great Illegal A Level Race of 2011.  And not only do I have a course, but I know the names of  the different sections of the course.

Always good to have a nice little cheat sheet of the neat racing names for your course.

Always good to have a nice little cheat sheet of the neat racing names for your course.

Just like an auto race track has its names for their straights and turns, the Green Line has the same, and the notes I have above show the areas that’ll get passed during the scene.  Most of those names are pretty literal, though you may wonder why there’s a section of the track named Graves . . .

"Don't worry, kids.  It's not like a turn called 'Graves' could mean anything bad . . ."

“Don’t worry, kids. It’s not like a turn called ‘Graves’ could mean anything bad . . .”

Like I said, some are very literal.

There is one part of the upcoming scene where a couple of my kids will race down a long, semi-straight stretch known as West End.  Why?  Because it’s on the west end of the school, that’s why?  It’s two kilometers long–that’s one and a quarter miles for you metricly challenged–and it’s the section of the course where one will get the most speed out of their PAV.  If they are of a mind, that is.

There it is, the West End, Girls.  Sorry:  bad 80's music pun.

There it is, the West End, Girls. Sorry: bad 80′s music pun.

How much speed are we talking?  In what I’ve already written for the scene, Annie recalls when Kerry and she were trying out the course a few weeks before, and they managed to reach about one hundred and seventy kilometers and hour without even working up a sweat.  She mentioned that she knows enough Imperial Units to know they were flying along at about one hundred miles an hour (one hundred and five, to be exact) and that probably would have gotten them in trouble if they’d been caught.

For this scene I want to know how long it would take Kerry to get up to a much higher speed, and how long he could fly down West End at that speed.  For that I head over to the Tutor 4 Physics site, which has a lot of nice calculations that I’ve used in my science fiction writing.  How will I used this?  Let’s look at what Annie said:

If they came out of Northwest Passage (that bend at the very top right of the above picture) as a speed of sixty kilometers an hour, and accelerated at forty-five kilometers an hour, it’ll take them seventy-eight meters, or two hundred and fifty-five feet, to get up to 170 kph.  That’s just under the length of a football field, so that’s some good acceleration.  And with those numbers, it’s easy to calculate they could cover the entire distance of West End in about forty-three seconds.

Of course Kerry will be going a lot faster, which is why I need to know just how much time he’ll have to think about what he’d going to do next.  Ergo, calculations are needed.  Which is why . . .

You tell 'em, Jessie.

You tell ‘em, Jessie.

All to get a few thousand words into a story.

Yeah, I’m like that.

Living in Pond Life

First off, a good Ramadan to all my Muslim readers, and I know I have a few because–well, because.  That’s one of the great things about reaching out around the world:  you touch everyone.  Pretty soon I’m gonna have to keep track of things everywhere, and imagine how busy I’ll get then.

The second bit of good news is Chapter Fifteen is finished.  The last scene waited for me, and after taking a long nap in the afternoon I decided I was going to bring it all to a close, because I got more chapters to write and I need time to write them, I got to work.  It was just a little over twelve hundred words, so no big deal, right?

With all these First Drafts I could run a good race at Daytona.

With all these First Drafts I could run a good race at Daytona.

The idea behind the last scene was getting Kerry set up with the music tutor Professor Ellison promised him all the way back in Chapter Ten.  Kerry gets to the practice room a little early mostly because that’s normal for him, and also . . . well, let’s find out, shall we?

 

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

There were a half dozen keyboards in the room, as well as a couple of drum machines. One of the keyboards was a dedicated electronic piano, but the other five could probably play just about anything once hooked up to the two racks of MIDI controllers in the corner. You’d run out of hands before you’d run out of sounds.

He spun around as the door opened, and gasped when he saw who it was: Nadine from the Advanced Spells class. “Hey, how you doing?” She waved the door shut and tossed her book bag into a corner. “Surprised?”

“Yeah.” Kerry set his backpack down next to her book bag. “How come you didn’t say anything the other night?”

“’Cause I didn’t find out about this until yesterday.” She smoothed down her skirt and tugged at the sleeves of her thermal undershirt. “I knew I was going to get someone to tutor a couple of weeks ago, but Professor Ellison didn’t tell me until after class on Thursday.” She smirked. “I think he was going to give me to someone else, but after you got dumped into The Pond last week, he decided to put us together.”

Kerry could almost hear the capitalization of Nadine’s terms for advancing out of your first level. “Does everyone call everything above A Levels The Pond?”

“Pretty much.” She wiggled the fingers of her right hand and a brush appeared, floating in mid-air. Nadine grabbed it and combed her hair as she spoke. “I’ve heard Sladen and Kinshna call it the same thing, and they’ve both been here like forever—Sladen in particular.” She made the brush vanish from her hand. “That old witch has been her for like thirty years, as a student and teacher.”

“What’s she like as a coven leader?” Kerry was genuinely interested in knowing more about Mórrígan Coven, which seemed to be about the most mysterious of the covens—though Professor Kishna’s Ceridwen Coven ran a close second.

“Pretty good. She’s a good listener, really empathetic, an if you really, really need something, she’ll get it for you.” Nadine stretched as she giggled. “She’ll also tear up your ass if you try to play her. She puts up with no bullshit.”

Kerry wasn’t surprised to hear an upper level student cursing. He swore once in a while, and he’d heard kids a couple of years old that him swearing as much, or more, than some of the adults on the block. “Yeah, I’ve noticed that about her.”

Nadine nodded, then decided it was time to get to work. “Okay, so Ellison tells me you’re considering performing at Ostara. That’s pretty ballsy, dude.”

“Well, I mean . . .” He had just recently gotten used to being complemented by Annie, and now he was getting complemented by not only a girl, but an older one as well. Though, technically, Annie was older as well. “I have a couple of ideas.”

“Let’s hear them.”

 

But you don’t get to hear them–I don’t even mention them in the scene, so neener, neener.  And there’s that Pond again, the one the older kids swim in and that Annie and Kerry got, as Nadine says, dumped into.  And, pretty much for the first time, we get swearing from the students!  Sure, Kerry swore, but he did it in Welsh Cymraeg, so it sounded like he was gargling.  But Nadine–who is thirteen, by the way, and will turn fourteen before the end of the school year–doesn’t mind letting a few things rip.  You’ll for sure see this happen in the next chapter.

The scene ends on the two students coming to an agreement–well, one that’s kind of driven by Nadine:

 

“You’re already thinking about this as a performance.” Nadine smiled as she flipped her hair back behind both ears. “Yeah, you could program a drum machine for the beat. For the guitar you could do that on a keyboard, and probably lay down the bass on a synth pad.” She looked off to one side of the room, her mouth twisted up while she thought. “You’d need help with all that, though. You couldn’t do it by yourself.”

“Yeah, I know.” He tried not to appear dejected and failed miserably. “I guess I should just worry about playing the piano.”

“Nonsense.” Nadine tapped him on the arm. “Let’s see what we can shake out of this, and what we can put together, okay.” She walked over to the computer station next to the MIDI racks. “I’ll print out the sheet music and we can start with that.”

“You can get sheet music?” Kerry was a bit surprised. He’d discovered the hard way how difficult it was to find proper sheet music for popular songs on the Internet.

“Sure can.” She brought up a browser then went to a page that Kerry had never seen before now. She typed in a user name and password, and ended up in some kind of song data base. “We can access just about every song that’s ever been written and recorded during the last four hundred years—including a few that, I guess, you could call demos that never saw the light of day.” Nadine turned and winked. “Welcome to The Foundation, Kerry. This is what The Pond looks like.”

“Yeah, I see.” He thought about something Nadine had just said. “You said ‘we’ just a minute ago—”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Are you thinking of helping me perform?”

She shrugged. “I was thinking about doing a performance, but . . .” She turned to him. “Would you mind? I could run the drum machine, the synth pad, and the back up keys, and you could do piano and vocals. It’d be your lead; I’d be your backup.”

Kerry winced thinking about vocals. “Yeah, that vocals part . . . I’m not that good a singer.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Nadine turned away from the computer to face him. “We got enchantments that’ll auto tune you better than anything Kanye’s ever had. You’ll do great.” Sheets of paper began silently popping out of a nearby printer. “Just as soon as that’s done, we can start work.” She leaned against the computer counter. “You ready?”

 

Listen to the voice of experience, kid.  She’s in the database takin’ the sheet music, and you ain’t gotta worry about paying royalties ’cause technically you’ll never perform the song.  Makes it sound like The Foundation is the ultimate Pirate’s Bay.  Come along Pond; we need to download something.

Next up:  bad ass sorcery at The Witch House–and I do mean that–a little informal PAV racing, and the Halloween Party–or as the kids at school call it, The Samhain Dance.  It’s time for October to heat up and wind down, and lead into the end of the calendar year stuff.  Pretty soon it’ll be the holidays and the start of 2012 at the school–

Man, that doesn’t seem all that long ago.

Be good to us, October; November isn't going to be that nice.  I know, I've read ahead.

Be good to us, October; November isn’t going to be that nice. I know; I’ve read ahead.

Quibbles in the Bits

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

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

But . . . I gotta quibble.

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

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

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

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

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

So allow me to explain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll bet property values here are low.

I’ll bet property values here are low.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you at the squeal.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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!

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.

 

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?

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 . . .

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.