Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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Frolicking in the Danger Zone

Let’s do the niceties right now and say this post will speak of real things that happened to me.  It may feel like a rant to a lot of people, and there is a high likelihood I’ll upset more than a few of those folk.  But seeing as how it’s been close to a week since the last time that last happened, I may as well close out the week cranking up the irate a bit.  With that in mind, here’s a kitten to put you into a great frame of mind:

It's a Siamese kitten, though, and we know they're sort of evil, so this kitty is probably ready to take you Straight to Hell.

It’s a Siamese kitten, though, and we know they’re sort of evil, so this kitty is setting up to take you Straight to Hell.

With that out of the way, onward.

I spent a lot of time as a kid scared.  Never mind all the crap going on in my head with gender identity issues and just generally being considered a strange kid because I did things in my shitty little town like read–I was scared.  A lot.  I had a very active imagination, and since I read a lot of different things like science fiction and comic books and the occasional horror story where people were being walled up alive or having bad things happen to them because they were screwing around with a monkey’s paw, I’d start imagining things–you know, stuff.

The sort of things that prevented me from being in a dark room with an even slightly cracked closet door because there might be something in there–something that was going to eat me.  I couldn’t stand to look out a window in the dead of night for fear something was going to jump into my line of sight, something I didn’t want to see, something that was going to do me harm.  And this last still happens to me; occasionally I’ll get the feeling that something is out on the balcony getting ready to jump me, and I don’t dare look ’cause I don’t want to see . . .

That stopped me from reading, right?  No.  I didn’t stop me from watching all those funky 1950′s science fiction and horror flicks on TV, either.  If I knew it was going to cause problems, why did I continue to scare the shit out of myself?  Because I had a jones that needed feeding, and learning and being entertains was worth the price of imagining something could jump out of my closet and get me.

I also ran into my share of personal tragedy.  By the time I’d turn ten I’d watch an uncle lose a long battle with lung cancer, and since it seemed like everyone in our extended family either died of cancer or heart disease–and I heard this stuff being talked about all the time–it was a simple matter to know what was happening.  Oh, and my mother was also a nurse, so there were plenty of books around the house with pictures–just in case I needed to know what a cancerous lung looked like.

I lost two close friends before I was out of high school:  one drown and another was involved in a rather horrific auto accident.  A girl I’d dated for a year at the end of high school died a year after we broke up when her sister’s car spun out and flipped over into a drainage ditch.

There was also the occasional suicide popping up from time to time.  When I was about eight a second cousin of my mother’s decided she was going to take her two daughters for a ride, got them into the family sedan, and never left the garage.  There was no way I didn’t know about this because it was all over the Chicago news, print and television, at the time, and my mother didn’t stop talking about it for days.  As for the other suicides–well, they were attempts, and not successful ones at that, otherwise I wouldn’t be here typing this post.  Though I’ve not tried anything like that since the 1990′s, I did voluntarily check myself into a mental heath facility in 2008 for a “Forty-eight Hour Observation Stay”, which is a polite way of saying, “We’ll make sure you’re not given a chance to permanently hurt yourself.”  Actually, it was an interesting experience–I was roomed with a schizophrenic who kept telling the doctors he was okay because he’d found his cure in the Bible, and they could give him any test they wanted to try and prove him wrong, and I was hit on by a couple of women:  one wanted my opinion on whether I thought she’d make a good lesbian and should she castrate her boyfriend before doing so, and another girl kept trying to convince me to have sex with her, telling me, “You’re not that crazy, so it’ll be good ’cause I can trust you.”

Fun times, let me tell ya.

These are all little bits of my life experiences.  No mention of the time a “friend” beat me up because I wouldn’t dance with someone at a club–yeah, that sort of sucked.  But all of this come to mind when I’m writing.  All of this makes up little things that pull at my psyche when I’m dealing with characters.  I don’t think I have an interesting life, but I certainly have one that’s seen it’s fair share of bullshit.

I’m not the only one who’s been there.  A Clockwork Orange was written in three weeks by a highly intoxicated Anthony Burgess, who admitted that a lot of Alex’s story brought back memories of his wife’s rape, and drinking helped get the words out with a minimal amount of pain.  Harlan Ellison wrote in the preface of All the Birds Come Home to Roost of the terror he felt having to write, at an editor’s request, a short scene where the main character describes what his first wife–who was going insane–did that nearly drove him insane, because brought back all the memories of the things his first wife did that nearly drove him insane before she was committed to a facility for a while.  Stephen King mentioned that The Body may have resulted from from him witnessing a childhood friend being hit by a train, but damned if he can remember that happening even though other’s told him it did.

Writers put themselves into their stories, like it or not.  When they write about something horrifying or miserable or just downright cruddy happening to one of their characters, they’re usually pulling upon some well of memories.  They may remember these things clearly, or they may not.  They may not be affected by the retelling of the memories, or they may find themselves overwhelmed as they transfer the story from their mind to the page.  This last has happened to me:  there have been more than a few passages written over the last couple of years where I’ve had to stop and collect myself because the place from where I was pulling my inspiration was far too personal.

At the same time a writer shouldn’t be afraid to put all that shit out there for people to see.  A writer shouldn’t hold back; if you have something terrible to show, show it in all its gory glory.  I went through this when I wrote Couples Dance because of one scene in particular, one that I’ve never actually described–until now.  The scene involved three woman and a man in 1920′s Paris getting high on a combination of wine and drugs, and two of the women decided to pull the third woman into a ménage à trois.  In the process of getting their crazy freak on, the two woman who instigated this party begin dismembering the third woman while continuing to sex her up.  The person reading this account doesn’t know if it’s complete bullshit or not–the person who wrote the entry in his journal can be considered the most unreliable of narrators because he was higher than a kite at the time this all went down–but there’s also a nagging suspicion that it might just be the real deal.

I had trouble writing the scene at first because I thought it was a bit over the top.  And it is–face it:  it’s suppose to be.  Later I had trouble because I understood this craziness was coming out of me, and who wants to admit they can pen this sort of insanity and then head down to Burger King to pick up a Whopper with Cheese and a large Sprite like nothing out of the ordinary just went down.  After a few days I got good with the fact that there is a lot of craziness inside me, and in time it’s all gonna come out.

In the course of my life and work I know I’m going to offend people.  I know I’m going to say things that will piss them off.  But what I say or do won’t be racist–I lived through that shit with my family, and try as they might I abandoned their “If it ain’t White, it ain’t Right” ways.  It won’t be misogynist, because I love women and the more I slide into womanhood the more I understand the privileges they don’t share with men.  I’m damn sure not anti-LGBT–hey, some of my best characters are LGBT, and considering I was hangin’ with my trans support group last night, nah:  no hate there, people.

No, if I piss someone off it’s because I don’t give warnings about what’s coming.  I gave one today, and on other occasions I’ve given them as well, telling people if you have easily blown minds you might wanna step off the page and find something else to read.  Most of the time I’ll call things out as I see them, and and if people lose their shit over it–as has happened when I expressed the opinion that if you’re truly convinced that your characters actually write your story, and that they get into arguments over what they want to do, you should acquaint yourself with some high powered meds–then so be it.  I can’t protect every precious snowflake, and I don’t bother trying.

Writers shouldn’t be afraid to throw life out onto the page as raw as it comes.  They shouldn’t hold back.  They shouldn’t censor themselves.  You have to be more real than real; you have to show the nasty without a pretty little gauze curtain between you and the reader.  Be like Rick Grimes and rip out that bad guy’s throat with your teeth, because there are times when you just gotta lay it all out in black and white with red all over.

And should someone come back to you and say, “I’m offended by that!  You didn’t give me a warning it was coming!” then you should introduce them to Mr. Stephen Fry:

 

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what?”

[I saw hate in a graveyard -- Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005]”  (Article found on link, which details things he discovered while tracing his Jewish ancestry.)

 

I should point out that maybe people are offended by his statement.  Yeah, big surprise.  Could be worse–

I could have found an inspirational quote from Tyler Durden.


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Out of the Fire, Into the Dance

Not much writing wise got accomplished last night–and yet, there was.  It was a weird, raining night (not dark and stormy, mind you) and I had to door to my balcony open and my fleece jacket on while I did my nails and thought about writing scenes.  I kept walking from the computer to the balcony, where I would take in the night air–and the noise of the street twelve stories below–while I let my nails dry.  It’s a great way to think and let you mind work on ideas–

I worked on a story.  Only it wasn’t my current work in progress.  I was thinking along the lines of erotica, because I’ve reread some of the stuff I did years back and I’m interesting in publishing it under another name and seeing if this generates any cash.  Be my luck that I’ll end up selling big and I’ll spend the rest of my life writing all sorts of strange stuff for the masses to wank to.

But I believe Gore Vidal started out this way, so there are worse paths to follow.

I also spoke with a friend who read a few of those stories–I’d sent them her way Thursday night–and she told me she’d had a difficult time sleeping because, well, I apparently brought back sexy.  She’s also an illustrator, and she let me know she had a few ideas about a couple of the scenes, and she wanted to work up a few preliminary sketches to show.  I let her know that if I liked them I’d commission a few more for the story, and use them when I publish–which, honestly, I now feel is a bigger possibility that it was a few months before.

Which brings me back to the current work . . . the Great Cassie Novel on Hold.

Today or tomorrow I’m going to go into one of the scenes and rewrite part of it.  If I like what I see, I’ll move on to another scene which needs a rewrite after the previous rewrite didn’t feel right.  If I’m satisfied there, then I’ll move on to the new scene that need recreating, and then rewrite the scene that follows.

I know my focus there now, and I have a better feel for the characters.  I say I may start the rewrite today because I still have things to work out in the character map, and there’s a few things I want to do with Kerry as well.

The rewrite is coming, however, because yesterday was a Dance on a Volcano sort of day, and it was necessary to, as the lyrics say, get out of the night and out of the dark, into the fire and into the fight.  One as to make up their mind if they’re going to continue or just cut and run–and I decided there really isn’t any choice for me.  It’s finish the story in a form that isn’t going to embarrass me, and by that I mean I can live with the characters.  It won’t be an easy struggle, but I’m certain I’ll find my way through the death zone of expectations that didn’t pan out.

"Death zone my ass.  You wanna see a death zone?  Watch what I do with the whole London section."

“Death zone my ass. You wanna see a death zone? Watch what I do with the whole London section.”

The novel will get finished.  That’s all there is to that crap.  Just need to stop being worried and get through what needs to be done.

It’s dance on the volcano or die time.  I know where I want to go.


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The Highs and the Highers

Let’s just get this out of the way first thing in the morning:  mind mapping can be a huge amount of fun, but ultimately it can also be an enormous pain in the ass.  You’re trying to organize your thoughts on a page–and I use that term “page” liberally, because inside your computer your page can go on for a very long time.  Don’t believe me?  Look:

No, that's not the remains of a fly I swatted . . .

No, that’s not the remains of a fly I swatted . . .

That’s sixty-six notes I’ve made on a character time line while trying to deconstruct and rebuild this character, with Scapple zoomed out as far as I can take it.  As you can see, I have plenty of room in which to work.

And work I was.

Not as much as this time line would show, but it’s getting there.  I have my head where I want it now, and I’ve narrowed down some of the questions I need to ask.  I’ve also set aside room for Kerry, because in retrospection, he’s wrong, too.  At least in the opening chapters.  Oh, not the prologue:  he’s pretty much spot on there.  The whole London section–it’s wrong.  It’s really wrong.  Kerry has a computer:  who needs to go out?  That’s what Google Streetview is for!

Yeah, need to deconstruct him a little, because if there’s one thing I know about his, it’s that he’s emotional shut away from most everything.  So London . . . rewrite city, baby.  I hope to start getting to that on Sunday.  No really; stop laughing.

I’m actually feeling good about redoing this part.  I figured out a day trip inventory that’s really more to the liking of the kids, and it’s fun to roam all over London on The Maps (that’s what I’ll call it from now on) and see things that I shouldn’t have missed the first time.  But, hey:  first drafts are for your screw ups.  As James Michener once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”  (Paddy Chayefsky apparently said the same thing, so I’ll let them fight it out over who gets the real credit.)

Something else happened last night as well.  I was chatting up a friend, and we got to talking about some of my work.  It so happened–as writers often do–I spoke about some of my old erotica I’d written some ten years back, and how I was thinking of editing it and putting it out in ebook format to get comfortable among the dino porn and gay cuttlefish transformation stories.  (And if you read this blog regularly, you know those both exist.)

Being in something of a good mood I asked my friend if she wanted to see some of it.  She said yes.  I showed her the stories I had in pdf format with the artwork that had been drawn especially each of the tales.

I'd show you the real artwork, but it'd probably piss someone off, so here's something everyone can agree is completely safe.

I’d show you the real artwork, but it’d probably piss someone off if I did, so here’s something everyone can agree is completely safe.

And what I was told was, “This is really good writing, Cassie.”  Which it really was, even if it was totally fetish smut.  But after a long week of being down, feeling tired, and beating your head again the computer, you know what you, as a writer, needs?

To be told you’re good.

Those really are the magic words.  Try them on a writer friend and see what happens.


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Trials and Sombulations

There weren’t any last evening’s activities.  This whole weeks has found me struggling to stay awake after getting home from work, and there was no exception to this rule yesterday.  Work was something of a mind bender, and I even came down with a bit of a headache from all the concentrating needed to figure out why a program wasn’t working.

It’s enough to get you drinking if you wanted to drink . . . and there are plenty of times I want to drink these days.

But I did have the ability to think, however.  I couldn’t really write down what I was thinking, but I thought about thing anyway.  I wanted to go on my character design; I wanted to think about starting to write something I have developed, in my head, for a scene–

I couldn’t.  Not one word.

When those moments come around you begin to wonder “Is this from being tired, or am I ready to pitch this crap into the nearest bin?”  Those thoughts do run through my head a little these days, because that precious ego that I never really had was bruised, and I take a long time healing.  Not always a real long time, but it’s enough to push me into one of those quiet moments where I really want to walk away from things for a while.  Though the last time I did that, it was like ten years before I came back, and I don’t think I have another ten years left in me.

It all comes down to a matter of adaptation.  I need to make this character work, and I’m deconstructing her so I can put her back together.  There are some things I don’t like, or that bother me, about her personality, but that’s part of the character.  You have to work it out and own it, baby.

But in the haze that entered my mind about eight PM last night, I starting having my doubts if I could make it work.  If I could have this happen right.  Those doubty doubts:  I hate them.  You get them if you’re a writer, and when they come they play hell with you.

But then there’s the flip to that doubt.  If I got up and walked away from it all, if I said, “I’ve had enough of this bullshit, I need a break, I think I’ll take the next year off and think about never coming back to my writing,” that wouldn’t set well with a few people.  I can think of at least one person in particular who would react badly to that news, and all hell would break loose . . .

"You're upset because I've stopped writing!"  No, I'm not . . . just look at the flowers, Cassie.  Look at the flowers."

“You’re upset because I’ve stopped writing!  You are!” No, no I’m not . . . just . . . look at the flowers, Cassie. Look at the flowers.”

Okay, maybe not that bad, but there would be a lot of hurt feelings come out of it all.

I know what’s bringing on the tiredness I feel at night; I simply need to work through that.  Once that’s out of the way I can get my mind back on other things–

Like reconstructing the deconstructed.


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My Own Private Scouring

Sometimes you gotta get real and know when you gotta make changes.  There are times when you know something is wrong and you gotta make it right.

This is one of those times.

For most of the weekend my mind has been whirling about with what I need to do for Act One of my work in progress to make it better.  Right now it’s wrong, because one of the main characters is wrong.  There’s no focus on her; it’s all following and smiles, and it’s not the way she should be portrayed.  I’m not in a panic–no, not this time–but I have been thinking and working and even mapping.

Right now I have a Scrapple map set up with forty-five notes on the character, and I’ve got a ways to go.  It’s a going over that I didn’t get into the first time, and the nice thing about Scrapple is where you come up with something you throw down the notes and link it where you want to link it.  My mind maps usually look pretty neat, but that’s because I’m like that when I’m putting my things together.  The neatness gives me focus, and the focus helps me understand.

Besides, I’m good with maps.  Everyone knows that.

There are other things that need doing, however–and one of the nice things about Scrivener is, as a project planer, once you decide on where you want your story to go, you send it off in that direction.  So with that already in mind . . .

Sorry, little scenes, but you just don't go with the flow anymore.  It was nice knowing you.

Sorry, little scenes, but you just don’t go with the flow anymore. It was nice knowing you.

Yes, you throw up that big ‘ol “Delete” sign and pull those suckers out of there.  It’s not that big of a deal:  they were only about twenty-five hundred words, so it’s not like I’m killing off huge chunks.  But it’s the rewrites . . . yeah, I need that.  Why?  Because the first rewrite leads into the first new “To Do”, and the last To Do leads into the the final two rewrites.

That’s where focus changes.  That’s where I can show things a little differently, and bring another character out into the open.  Not just more, but show something else that I was trying to hide from the reader, but realized over the weekend that the something I was trying to hide was already sort of outted right away.  So why hide it?

Besides, the real goods don’t come until the kids get to the U.S. and they’re greeted at Logan International by a bunch of LaRouchies–as I was during my only visit to this airport–warning them of the dangers of the New World Order and how it’s going to force The Mark of the Beast upon them, and that darkness is pretty much gonna fall upon the land if we don’t go back on the gold standard.  Which, come to think of it, would make for a pretty good scene, since The Foundation is seen by some in my world as the New World Order, and having a few LaRouchies square off against a bunch of NWO witches, sorceresses, and spirit summoners might be fun–for a few seconds.

Onward and upward, I say.  The day awaits.


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DNF

I’m something of a motor racing fan.  I used to try and keep up with Formula 1 and NASCAR back in the 1960′s and 70′s, and used to religiously watch racing on television before I realized there were other things I could do with the four or five hours I spent camping out watching people drive around an circles.  These days I generally check the stats on-line and leave it at that.

I used to love my GTR2 game, back when I had my Logictec G25 while with in-line shifter; I downloaded all the tracks and spent a lot of time tearing up the course.  I even finished the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, in the rain, driving 550 laps over the course of a week (you could save the game, which helped), and even did one fuel run in the dark with no headlights.  Never could complete the 24 Hours of Le Mans, though:  I was always blowing an engine right around the twelve hour mark, which tended to suck hard–though not as hard as the time I was running the 24 Hours of Hockenheim and lost the transmission of my Porsche at the twenty-two hour mark.

Good times, let me tell ya.

Not shown:  the time I barrol rolled my Masarati through Eau Rouge/Raidillon.  Who said virtual near-death experieneces can't be fun?

Not shown: the time I barrel-rolled my Lamborghini here through Eau Rouge/Raidillon. Who said virtual near-death experiences can’t be fun?

The expression used in racing to indicate a driver didn’t take the checker flag is “DNF”, otherwise known as Did Not Finish.  Crash out a hundred meters from the finish line on the last lap, and your standing will say DNF.  You didn’t make it, you didn’t end the race the right way, you may have managed some kind of standing, but you are DNF, love.  It’s a rare sort of driver who can crash out as they cross the finish line, have a car that’s not going to run ever again, and still win a race–just as Jeff Burton.

At the movement my current project is in a bit of a flux.  I’m wildly off the mark of what I wanted to do with one of the characters, and I’m back to the drawing board to try and get things amended.  The characterization is part way there, but I’m missing things, and my Points of View are all over the place.  And I realized last night that one bit of information that I gave to my beta reader–that I didn’t want to show too much about The Foundation before all the Normal kids arrived–well, child, I blew that shit right out of the water in the very first chapter, because if the reader is paying attention they’ll know something’s afoot, and it’s not normal.  If I’ve done this in plain sight, then what am I hiding?

Me being me there have been moments when I’ve thought about throwing up my hands and saying, “It was a good run, girl, but you gotta move on.”  Sure, a lot of writers get that way:  they hit a kind of wall, they feel everything is turning to shit, and they wanna bail.

I’m note a lot of writers.

I keep falling back to what Neil Gaiman has said, which in paraphrasing is, “Write.  Write every day.  Finish what you write.”  Sure, I could toss this story in the bin and mark it up to trying to write more than I was ready to write.  Egos do that sometime.  But I can’t, because I have something here.  It’s almost in place, but it needs changes.  And those changes will make it better–that is a fact.

I just gotta work through this.

I know I can.


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Clone Me Maybe

It was warm in the bed this morning and I really didn’t want to crawl out, but I had to because work and this–my blog.  Well, really, more the the blog, because all work is good for is paying the bills.  It’s not like I get any kind of stimulation from it other than the exercise walking to and from the local.

If you were here yesterday you’ll know I had a bit of a meltdown Wednesday night.  If you’re here today, you’ll know things are much better.  These things happen, and this one happened in part to a combination of situations that brought up a bunch of bugaboos in my head.  Yes, that is a technical term, so you can trust me.  Your mind can kill you, and mine has done of good job of trying that for–oh, maybe fifty years now?

The walk to work was refreshing.  The morning was bright and quiet, I didn’t feel bad, I was taking in the fresh air, and I had the song Borderline running in my head.  Why?  Because I’d picked it up after reading something on one of the blogs I follow, and that’s how I role with the earworm.

But this tune got me thinking, and by the time I rolled into work I had a question that needed answering.  So I shot it off to my beta reader and Trusty Editor(tm):  what is the soundtrack of Annie’s life?  What music defines her?  This I had to know, because I was getting my inner Tatiana on–

Allow me to explain.

Though I didn’t pick it up on the first run, I am a big fan of the show Orphan Black.  (And you should be, too, but that’s a different story.)  It’s the story about a lovely lady who discovers she’s really a bunch of lovely ladies, one of a batch of clones born in 1984.  She leans this when one of her clones takes The Big Dive right in front of her, and Sarah, the clone the story revolves around, ends up taking over that woman’s life.  And in the process he discovers she’s also a soccer mom living in the same city, and an American student, and a German rocker, and a crazy Ukrainian bitch who wants to kill everyone, and . . . well, it just goes on and on.

One of the things the main actress, Tatiana Maslany, does to get into the character of the women she’s playing was to create playlists of songs for each character.  So when she’s getting made up for Sarah, she listens to The Clash, Dizzee Rascal, and the Streets; when she’s Helena’s it’s Antony and the Johnsons and Tom Waits; Cosima is Grimes and electro/Diplo music, and Alison is show tunes, Les Miz and West Side Story.  She puts on the music and gets into the grove, and that’s what allows her to play three different people all sitting around wondering what they’re going to do with their lives.

If the three people sitting around getting hammered on wine are all you, do you get wasted that much faster?

If the three people sitting around getting hammered on wine are all you, do you get wasted that much faster?

When I had the chance I role played out a scene between Annie and Kerry, one that I’d written back in November and was told was lacking something–namely, Annie didn’t feel right.  Since I used to role play a lot–and most of that almost meant I was the game mistress–I’m good at doing different characters because I had to be.  So that came into play, and by the time I arrived back at the apartment, I had a good idea about the interaction.

Then the email came, and I had three tunes, and the first one, I was told, was probably the best one to describe Annie meeting Kerry for the first time in person.  (I’ll leave that “in person” dangling here . . .)  So I started rewriting, taking my time, getting things the way I thought they should . . .

And when my editor came on and read the part I’d finished, she was like, “You got it!”  She loved the new action, and the new Annie.

I’ve been tired and under a lot of strain the last few months, and it’s shown in my writing.  A lot of adverbs need to go bye-bye, so they gotta go.  But I need to relearn things, to be more descriptive, to roll back into the role playing, get it out there me.

My characters are different, but they aren’t their own real people.  They are me, and I have to live them.

Otherwise they’ll never have a life of their own.


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The Dark Witch’s Thoughts

This is a number:  one thousand fifty-three.  That’s how many words went into the new scene last night.  It took a while to get there, but I made it.

The first night wasn’t a much as I liked, though given that I was doing two, maybe three things at the time, I have to admit that typing in a little over six hundred words isn’t a bad accomplishment.  Last night was more of me starting to hit my stride, looking for and finding the groove I needed, and heading off down that path.  It was slow, it was halting, but it was also fun to start getting back into the minds of my kids.

Last night it was mostly Annie’s thoughts.  Watching spells not being done, feeling a bit bored about hers, and thinking about the week before.  Of course her thoughts are mostly about the person sitting to her right, but hey:  young love, right?  Though she probably wouldn’t eat a horse heart for him, but you never know . . .

Let me entertain you with a little excerpt, because I haven’t done that in a while–maybe a week.  I’m getting rusty.  And now that I’m writing, lets show it off.

 

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

In the last couple of minute, though, Annie watched Kerry growing frustrated with not being able to do the spell, or worse yet, having no control once he started the spindle turning. She saw that most of the time it was wobbling all over the place, which would prevent him from exerting any fine control should Kerry manage to turn his spindle three times.

She reached over and touched his arm. “You might want to stop and rest.”

Kerry seemed far from ready to rest, but Annie’s touch and calm tone were enough to make him slump in his seat. “Yeah. I’m pushing this too hard, and I’m getting all messed up.”

Annie thought of what Kerry was going through in lab as more than “messed up.” “I think you’re trying to hard—” You would know all about that, wouldn’t you? She pushed the errant through from her head. “Sit for a few minutes, clear your mind . . .” She slide her right hand along his arm until she found his hand. “Talk to me.”

There was much Kerry wanted to talk about, but most of it revolved around what she’d just done. “You managed this pretty fast.”

Annie shook her head. “I’d done something like this once before, so I just took that knowledge and applied it here.”

“I’ll bet you could do more.” He nodded in the direction of Annie’s spindle. “You could probably levitate it.”

Annie had never tried levitating something before, but she could understand why Kerry would think she could perform the spell. He knows I’m a witch, that I come from a family of witches, and therefore I’m already magically inclined. He doesn’t understand I’m not that good with simple spells. She decided to be coy with her response, to see if her suspicions were correct. “Why do you think that?”

“’Cause . . .” He looked at her, a broad smile across his face. “I think you can.”

“You have faith I can do this.” Annie patted his hand. “That is not the same as having skill.”

“You have the skill—” Kerry flipped his hand around and pressed his palm into hers. “You’re my Dark Witch; of course you have the skill.”

You’re my Dark Witch. Kerry had taken to calling her that after their stint in Sorcery, and her confession on Sunday that, indeed, she had her own books on the subject, and most of the spells she’d attempted were from that branch of magic.

But where Annie saw a serious discipline that required a tremendous amount of willpower, Kerry saw what she was doing as almost—fun. He’s a Normal, and sorcery and black magic are always very powerful in their fantasy worlds. He doesn’t understand the work one must put into learning this art—or what it can do to a person.

She thought about to last week, and what Professor Lovecraft did to Kerry in front of the rest of the A Level. From his point of view he was shocked bad enough to require a night in the hospital: he never saw this from her point of views, which was seeing someone who knew how everyone else in the class saw the act, while also expecting a possible attack from one of those students. And when Professor Lovecraft returned from dropping Kerry off, she launched right into a short lecture without ever explaining her actions.

Her willpower has to be extraordinary to be able to semi-torture a student in class and never mention the act again—except to me later—or even act as if it were anything other than what she does every day. Until Kerry performs sorcery on someone else, he won’t know what it takes to do that. She wanted to talk to him about this, but didn’t know if now was the time—

And then Kerry starts getting all excited about something, and . . . that’s the end of the scene.  More to commence tonight.

And just like a writer, as I was preparing the above excerpt, I began reading it and . . . I had to change some things.  Just a few.  And add some words–only twenty.

"No, no: it's far too early to have Annie start casting magic missile. She doesn't even play D&D yet."

“No, no: it’s far too early to have Annie start casting magic missile. She doesn’t even play D&D yet.”

That mean the number is now one thousand seventy-three words.

All in a good night and day’s work.


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The Editing Light

First off, no April Fool’s jokes here.  Not today, not ever.  I’ve been on Facebook about five minutes and I’ve already seen about a half dozen–I mean, who saw that shit coming?  But I don’t need a single day to prank you:  I can do that any day of the year.

Not that I would . . .

Act Two started last night.  It wasn’t an auspicious start:  six hundred and thirty-six words were written into the new scene, and at the moment I’m tracking six hundred and sixty-four words total.  Which means if I hadn’t edited one sentence to remove a couple of words, I’d be Number of the Beasting right now, and really, I’d get a screen capture of that just to show off.  Because people think it’s satanic, and who doesn’t like a good satanic joke on 1 April?

What’s I’m not saying yet–because I haven’t gotten that far in the post–is that I wasn’t only writing new stuff, but I was editing old as well.  At the same time.  In the same screen.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out:

Come on--who doesn't write like this?  We all do, right?  Hello?  *tap tap*  Is this thing on?

Come on–who doesn’t write like this? We all do, right? Hello? *tap tap* Is this thing on?

So here I am, new on the left, old on the right, and one of my beta readers in a chat room on the Internet, going over some of the scenes.  When she’s not talking about Act One, I’m tapping away on Act Two, slowly and surely, because I was a bit tired yesterday and I got a new tee shirt and I had to try it on and get pictures, but mostly I haven’t written anything new in a few weeks and you need to work that skill up again.

I know that right after Wednesday’s last comment I’m going to cut to Annie thinking about something magical, and then it’s over to Kerry, and then back to Annie, and then to some loud mouth student who’s gonna accuse Annie of cheatin’, but there’ll be a Japanese student in there yelling “Kuso” because they just can’t get this magic thing workin’ right . . .

When my beta reader–or should I just call her Trusty Editor(tm)?–came back to the chat room, Act One was on.  She found mistakes.  She found things that seemed out of place.  She gave me a couple of suggestions that helped the scene.  She found a stupid adverb that Elmore Leonard would have kicked my ass over.  She found a hilarious passage that made a background character look like they might be part octopus.  And she found something that sort of pissed me off–

Wait, what?

Let me explain.  There was a passage in one of the scenes that she pointed out sort of didn’t seem right because of the way things were set up.  I kept saying it doesn’t matter, it’s not the focus of the scene, be a good little Elsa and let it go.  Actually, I was being a little more bitchy than that, because I’d already been up about seventeen hours and my head was foggy, but what the hell.  There was back and forth there for maybe forty-five minutes, and then we moved on.

By the time I signed off, I said I’d fix it.  By the time I crawled out of bed to write this post, I realized that if you’re gonna tell a tale, then tell the damn thing.  All a very simple line does is change the dynamic of the story–and in retrospection under the light, it can make one of the characters come across a little more mysterious.

See, like Kerry, I can be a bit clueless, and I need a good Annie to kinda whack me now and then to get the ego in check.  If you’re a writer you have an ego–don’t lie!  I see yours hiding behind the television.  But as Harlan Ellison once said, a great editor will show you how to make improvements by asking one simply question, and if you listen to them magic will happen.  At the time I wasn’t listening, because I need things to sink in.

But now I see.  Just a couple of words in the right place, and I can change the whole dynamic of the scene.

She also told me that she loved the fact that I was a woman of my convictions and that I wasn’t afraid to tell he to go to hell to get what I wanted.  I finally told her that good women don’t tear each other down, they empower each other to do better.

And after three years I’m still learning how to be a better writer.

That’s not a joke.

That’s the facts.


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Once Again, With Madness

Here we come around to this particular date, 31 March, 2014, and this is a date I have marked down and have mentioned many times on the blog.  It’s the date that Act Two begins, and that begins starts sometime tonight.

I’m ready and . . . I’m not.

There’s a lot ahead of me, and I lot still remaining.  I’ve already set the word count to one hundred thousand words, but I’m almost certain I’ll go over that–not by much, but over is over.  I have a huge sequence to write, and it’s not intimidating, but one of the last things that happens in this sequence I was going over last night, and I realized something that might happen between Annie and Kerry, and . . . oh, it’s a hard thing to imagine.  Maybe even harder to write, because I’ll be crying a lot while writing.

Parts Four through Eight are waiting; Chapters Thirteen through Twenty-Seven are set with the directions.  All I have to do is write the words.

The journey of a hundred thousand words begin with "It's not fair!"

The journey of a hundred thousand words begin with “It’s not fair!”

Yesterday saw me tweak a few things here and there, mostly with Annie, working not to make her come off like a complete hard-ass in a few place–and, if I should say so, I think I did the trick.  And since one of the things that a beta reader told me was there could be a lot of confusion with how I set up measurements and scales, I created a notation page for the start of the novel which explains a few things to the reader:

 

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

Throughout the story various scales are used to denote how time is told, how things are measured, and how buildings are laid out.

Floor Plans

The Foundation uses terms used in much of Europe and South America for building floors. Ground floor is found where the entrances are; first floor is the floor above that, second above that, and so on. The thirteenth floor is used within The Foundation; it is not considered an unlucky number. This will also be explained by characters from time-to-time.

Measurements

The metric system is used throughout the book by The Foundation. There are times when the Imperial system is referenced, but metric is the standard way of keeping track of distance, speed, and weight.

Time

The Foundation and nearly all countries other than the United States use twenty-four hour universal time; this results in times in the story being listed at “09:00” or “17:30” for denoting when events occur. Some speakers will speak in universal time, while other will interchange between twenty-four and twelve hour times when speaking.

As a character in the novel says, “This tends to confuse the U.S. kids when they first arrive,” and it will likely seem confusing to the reader at first. Remember, it’s also the first day in a new world for you as well.

 

It’s not much, but it’s an aid.  And it should help you along.  And, no:  I’m not doing conversions for you.  That’s what the Internet was for.  And please don’t say, “I don’t wanna do conversions when I’m reading,” ’cause I did them forty years ago when I was reading stories, and there was no Internet, so you found a book and memorized your conversations, and that was that.  You kids these days . . .

I’m ready, about as much as one can be to throw themselves back into a daunting task.

Wish me luck.


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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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Decendancy

My celebration dinner was good, except there was no wine.  I’ll remedy that tonight when I stop off at the wine and spirits shop on the way home–there’s one right across the street from one of the government offices, what does that tell you?–and continue the celebration here.

Except . . . I hope I’m not as bored as I was last night.  You go a long stretch writing and then suddenly–Boom!  There’s nothing to do.  You quickly find yourself wondering if there is anything you can do that isn’t writing related–and in my case, usually not.

"I shouldn't think about writing, and I'm not gonna write.  What should I do?  Get my nails done?  They're done.  Wait, I could write about my characters

“I shouldn’t think about writing, and I’m not gonna write. What should I do? Get my nails done? They’re done. Wait, I could write about my characters getting their nails done–no, no writing!”

Talk about a pain in the ass.  When most of your activities consist of the things you want to take time away from doing, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of option for things to do.

Then again, there’s my dreams to keep my busy, and they must have been making up for lost time, because it was strange.

Part of my crazy dreams were dealing with abandonment.  I remember coming home and everyone was gone–only this was like me coming home from high school and discovering I’d been left behind.  So then I went out in search of a lost TARDIS–no, really–and found a couple, but not the one I was looking for.  And then I ran into my fourth grade teacher–

My experience in fourth grade was not a pleasant one.  Back then they’d tell you I was “having problems”, but mostly I was a troubled child.  Nine going on ten, not able to make friends, and confused to all hell and gone about what I was.  I was ten when I saw my first psychologist, because even by then my parents realized I was a complete mess.  I only saw her for a few months, but that’s another story . . .

My fourth grade teacher was something of a mess, too.  She liked to yell at people.  She liked to make fun of me in the class whenever I’d do something “wrong”, like start speaking for no reason, or go off on subjects that no one else knew, because I was pretty smart.  Forth grade was when the bullying really started on me, and I remember her sending me to the school nurse a few times because I wouldn’t stop crying and she didn’t know what to do with me.  Then again, she also smacked the hell out of me on the playground one day because she said I was acting “goofy” and I needed to stop.

I see her in my dream last night, and she asks if I know her.  I told her I did, and that I had her in fourth grade.  And she tells me, yes, she is the person I remember, but no, she never had me in fourth grade.  In fact, she was happy she never had me in fourth grade, because from what she’d heard I was a complete pain in the ass.

And no matter how much I protest that I was in her class, she continues saying no.  Eventually she dismisses me and walks off with a wave of her hand.

I’ve had this dream a few times before, and for some reason it bothers me.  Can’t tell you why, but it does.  It’s not that I need some affirmation from her, because I don’t:  that period of my life is way long and gone.

I guess it’s the dismissive way in which I’m told, “I’m glad I didn’t have you.”

I better edit something tonight, because there’s no telling what might show up in my dreams later.

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