Never Say Never Say Never Again

As you may have guessed, I’m riffing on a James Bond movie title.  And why am I doing this?  Because once again I’ve been saying there’s something I’m not going to do, but in the end I turn around and–well, it seems like I’m doing said not doing thing.

Allow me to explain.

NaNo is coming up.  If you write, and you spend any amount of time on the Internet, you know this, because about now is where everyone who writer–well, everyone who isn’t pretty much making a living off their writing, that is–begins talking about what they’re going to do during NaNoWriMo 2014.  It’s what all the cool kids do, doncha know?

You can tell she's a writer simply by the strategically placed bowl of fruit . . .

You can tell she’s a writer preping for NaNo simply by the strategically placed bowl of fruit . . .

Now, I’ve participated in three NaNoWriMos and two Camp NaNos, and I’ve had fun.  More or less.  See, NaNo is a huge lark for some people:  you get down and write, and when it’s over you file away the story and move on to something else.  For some people it’s a struggle, like pushing a huge stone up a hill, only you don’t know what kind of stone, and you’re not sure of the name of the hill, so you’re having to stop and ask questions of others along the way.

And for some, you get to the end of the month with this huge document in front of you, and you think, “You know, maybe I should edit and publish this sucker . . .”

I’ve done this last one once, and I plan on doing it again . . . once I get this monster of a Last NaNoWriMo story out of the way.

Yes, I see you.  Stop that gloating, right now!

Yes, I see you. Stop that gloating right now!

As I’ve said before, I’ve not given NaNo any thought because I’ve always writing anyway.  Of late it seems like I’m taking a night off here and there, but I’m keeping it going.  Slow but steady as they say.

Then, the other night, a friend asks if there’s anyone going to do NaNo this year, because her son wants to do it, and she’s thinking about doing it, and oh, man, it’s like dangling a big carrot in front of me, because when someone says, “Hey, anyone wanna WRITE?” I kinda want to join in the fun.  Also, she was the one who kinda sorta got me to do Camp this year, and even though I lowballed by total (I only did twenty thousand words), it still gave me a goal to shoot towards.

And since I find it hard to say “No” to this person . . .

Yeah, I’m probably going to do NaNo.  But what am I writing?  The same novel I started for last year’s NaNo.

Now hold up there, ’cause don’t start in with the “But you can’t do that!” because it’s already been done:  Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was written over the course to two NaNos, so if she can do it, so can I.  The way I see it, I can set a goal of sixty or sixty-five thousand words–as I did last time–and do what I can to take a good bite out of Act Three of the novel.  I’m hoping to be almost finished with Act Two by the end of November, so using NaNo to write out close to seventy thousand words–if that is even possible–would go a long ways towards finishing the project.

And since I’ve already planed and plotted everything, it’s just down to the writing, isn’t it?

Oh, wicked NaNo and the friends I have who like to dangle literary carrots before my eyes.  I keep trying to walk away–

You keep pulling me back.

Returning to the Intimate

Since I’d written in the morning, there wasn’t anything written yesterday afternoon or evening–which is good, because I spent most of the evening in something of a carb haze, as I’d went out for a late lunch/early dinner sort of thing, loaded up on bread and pasta, and then felt like I was going to fall into a coma the rest of the night.  It was a good thing that Breaking Bad was on, otherwise I’d have probably crashed by eight PM and woke up about 2 AM.

The closest I came to writing last night was readjusting the time line of the story.  There are things that needed to get tightened up, and I sluggishly went through that about the time someone was blowing up a nursing home on my television.

Message

Out with the old, and getting ready for the new.

The last chapter was all about protecting people and trying to stay alive.  And, in the case of one girl, sorta venting your death wishes in her direction, but we can’t be all sunshine and unicorns all the time.  This chapter is gonna be different.  It’s almost all gonna be scene from Annie’s point of view, with the exception of the scene All Clear, which really shows things from Isis’ point of view–though I’m actually rethinking how I want to write it now.  I like the idea of the whole chapter being Annie-centric, and I’ve already decided how to go about writing the scene.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

And it keeps the chapter on Annie’s point of view the whole time.

The interesting thing is that Kerry is actually in four of the five scenes as well, but he says almost nothing throughout the chapter.  Needless to say I didn’t kill him, but since the second scene is Back to Bed #2, astute readers will realize that Bed #2 seems to be the one he gyrates towards, and it only makes sense that we’ll find out what actually happened out in Selena’s Meadow, and just how badly he was hurt.  The last scene, Dreams On the Ward, it probably going to be the most intimate I’ve written, and it will start to answer some of the questions about how Annie knew Kerry before they met in London.  But only will it start:  there will be more head scratching, I’m sure, and it won’t be until sometime in the Third Act I give up all the answers.

Funny how I work that way.

In a way I’m glad the Attack chapter it over.  It’s been just a little over a month since I started, and it was a bit of a slog.  I’ve been through some personal issues during this time, and there’s nothing worse than dealing with your life while trying to create other lives.  Though this is the stock in trade for writers:  you put aside your own emotional and mental baggage for a while so you can develop emotional and mental baggage for your characters.  It’s totally tit for tat, and if you have to suffer through that stuff, it’s only fair you make your characters share.

It makes them so much more believable when they’re crying over nothing, don’t you think?

Aid Time, Angry Annie Aftermath

I’ve been rocking out on David Bowie this morning, writing to Station to Station, and now blogging to Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.  Both brilliant works, and standing up to what passes for music today.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in this time that I love the work so much, but the truth is I wasn’t a huge Bowie fan as a teen, and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve been able to revisit his catalog and revel in his brilliance.

Why am I bringing up Bowie?  No reason.  Just into the music this morning as I grow closer to the end of Chapter Twenty-Two.  The penultimate scene is finished, and all that remains is the last scene, Intervention, then I can move on to the end of this long and dangerous day for my kids.  As for now, Annie’s part in this chapter is over, but Chapter Twenty-Three is almost all her observations of ongoing events inside the Great Hall as night falls.

Until then, she has to resolve these issues she is having–like whether or not to rip Emma’s lungs out and squeeze them . . .

 

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

Annie never let her emotions rule her; she never allowed them to driver her impulses. She’d told Kerry that she never cried, and it was also true that she was never angry in the ways that people understood anger. She wouldn’t scream or shout, but rather turn cold and keep her fury contained.

But now . . .

She’d never been in the position of having someone she loved put in a position of danger that could lead to injury or death. Kerry was out there, on the school grounds, perhaps with an Abomination after him—or maybe it had caught him and he was lying in the forest dead and . . .

Either way, alive or dead, whatever was happening to Kerry was due to this girl . . .

Annie pull Emma’s jacket tight around her throat. Her eyes never left those of the frightened and now-drugged girl, and Annie resisted the urge to shake and scream at her for being such a silly, stupid, ignorant girl, but she kept the words she wanted to yell at the top of her voice within her thoughts. How could you do this to Kerry? How could you not listen to him? How could you leave a safe place and lead him to his death

A hand tightened around the back of Annie’s neck and she was ripped away from Emma. She was pulled away from the triage area and towards the West Transept; a few seconds later Coraline spun her around and shook her roughly. “The hell is wrong with you?”

Annie quickly gathered her wits about her and realized what was happening. “I—”

“I said you could use that shit against the Deconstructors if they got in here.” She pointed back at the triage area a few meters away. “I didn’t mean you could use it on our patients.”

Annie’s vision followed Coraline’s outstretched arm. Emma was still in her examination chair; Nurse Gretchen hovered over the girl, swabbing away the rivets of blood emanating from Emma’s nose and tear ducts . . .

“Get her up to the ward: Bed Fourteen.” As soon as she received an acknowledgment from Gretchen, Coraline returned her attention to Annie. “You better have a damn good reason for what just happened, or I’m gonna lock you up in my office for the rest of this situation, Annie.” She folded her hands in front of her, trying not to come off as too domineering. “Well?”

 

The question came up yesterday, “Is Annie the only one who knows death spells?” and the answer to that is, out of all the A Levels, yes, she’s the only one who knows death spells–in particular, she knows one, Exsanguination, which is a D Level spell if one must know.  Both of Annie’s parents were pretty good with Sorcery, and while they didn’t go that route, they have books about the house, and little Annie found those books and read through them.  Ergo, that’s how she learn a death spell.

And what is Exsanguination?  Here is the definition:  “The action or process of draining or losing blood.”  In laymen’s terms it means you bleed a lot, and if you bleed enough, you’ll bleed to death.  Those rivets of blood coming from Emma’s nose and eyes?  Yep.  Annie was laying a little death spell on her, and if she’d actually put her mind to it, Emma would have had blood spurting from her nose faster than a teenage Japanese boy in a hentai animation.

That’s what she was being tasked to use on the “bad guys” if they got into the Great Hall.  Annie was gonna bleed them out–and not slowly.  Someone who knows what they’re doing, like Professor Lovecraft, could make a person bleed from every pore and opening in their body, which means you could put a person down in a mater of seconds.  Yes, it’s a messy way to go–but in my world it’s them or you, right?

There are other students who know how to do this sort of thing.  Do they used them against other students?  No.  Why?  For one, most students at the level where death spells are taught are also taught how to block them.  But also because if someone starts slinging that sort of magic, they’d vanish.  It’s that simple.  Kill a student while you’re a student and that’s it, you no longer exist.  Remember how Isis thought The Foundation might have to do something with Kerry and Emma’s parents if something happened to them?  They’d have basically made them vanish from existence, and anyone who’d come in contact with them would forget them–forever.  Same thing happens to wacky students going around trying to kill people:  they vanish.  Usually into Cloudland.  But that’s another story . . .

There was another question as well:  is that the only death spell?  Nope.  There’s no Avada Karvada in this world:  there are many ways to kick someone off this physical plain in a permanent fashion.  I know this because I have a list:

Spell List:  a work in progress you never leave home without.

Spell List: a work in progress you never leave home without.

Anything listed as “Sorcery (Morte)” is a spell designed to kill.  Yes, it can be used for other things:  Lovecraft used Electrify on Kerry the first day of Sorcery class because she wanted to see if she could get Annie to react, and her skill with the spell is such that she can shock you a little, or she could flat-out fry a person where they sat and they’d be dead before they knew they were dying.

Really, though:  any kind of magic could be used to off someone if you’re inventive enough.  During The Scouring–the other time The Deconstructors came and tried to destroy the school–Wednesday, while a student, killed a Deconstructor by creating a little tornado around his body and flaying him to death with dust and stone particles.  As she’s been known to say, Visualization, Energy, and Willpower:  if you can imagine it, you can make it happen.  If you can see how to do it, and you can channel that magical mojo into your Craft, all you need is the will to make it happen.

Annie’s had it drilled into her that using a death spell just to use it against someone is bad.  She had a slip-up, and . . . yeah, she explained to Coraline that she lose control for a moment because of what happened with Emma and Kerry, and it was her bad, don’t worry, it won’t happen again.  And Coraline, knowing how magic can go sideways when you’re upset, understands . . .

 

“Okay.” Coraline put a finger across Annie’s lips. “Don’t say that. Don’t think the worst.” She began slowly running her hands over Annie’s shoulders, trying to comfort her. “I’ll make this one up as a loss of control—” She leaned closer and eyed Annie hard. “But it’s not going to happen again—is it?”

“No.” Annie shook her head. “It won’t. I’m sorry, Nurse Coraline.”

“Yeah, well . . .” She looked back at the now-empty examination chair. “Emma’s the one you should apologize to, not me.” Coraline tapped Annie’s shoulders. “Let’s get back to work; I have a feeling more are coming.”

They’d taken no more than three steps when Coraline touched Annie’s arm and stopped her. “Hey. Kerry’s a smart boy.” She gave the worried girl a smile that she hoped would put her at ease, though she knew it likely wouldn’t. “If there’s anyone who can get away from an Abomination, it’s him.”

 

See?  All is forgiven–more or less.

As for that last statement, Coraline–

I may have something to say about that . . .

Though intervention usually means help is on the way . . .

Though intervention usually means help is on the way . . .

Living Beyond the Walls

I’ll tell you, I had every intention of getting into writing last night.  Computer was ready, I was ready, there was nothing on television, I was ready for music and typing out words.

But life never lets you do what you want to do, right?

As I’m leaving work I check my phone and find I missed a call.  I check it, and it’s from the place where I was getting my new glasses from, and they tell me they’re it.  So I get home, get ready–just to even go out a have to get ready a little–and head out.  Fortunately traffic isn’t bad, but I still have to make a run to somewhere on the north side of the city.  And I notice that traffic going into the city is bad because of a wreck.  Not something good, particularly when things are backed up for miles.

I get my glasses–yeah, they look great . . .

Oh, and new earrings, too.  Wonderful.

Oh, and new earrings, too. Wonderful.

. . . and after picking them up I decides I need to pick up a few things at Target, and then get something to eat.  I wasn’t planing on staying out long, but I didn’t want to try and fight my way back through the traffic, so I took my time with my dinner.

By the time I rolled back to the apartment to snap the above picture, it was about eight PM.

Then I had to roll out and do something on Facebook, because I’m hosting a book club this month, and I had to set up which three books people can choose from.  Since I’d made my selections months ago it was just a matter of doing the ol’ cut and paste and getting things in place before setting up a poll, but it still took time to get that and the notifications together.  And as soon as I finished getting that set up–

The questions came.

Because they always do when there’s a new book.  Because people want to know things, they have interests in what you’re presenting.  I should have known, but sometimes I can be . . . clueless.  It’s not an easy feeling.

Oh, and I didn’t mention the PMs from people wanting to get together in a couple of weeks.  Did I mention that?  No.  I have now.

This is life, and it’s something I haven’t experienced in a bit.  It’s where unexpected things jump out at you and you do what is necessary to handle them.  My plan had been to come home, start dinner, get the book club stuff set up, eat, then write.  Silly me:  what did I know?

It’s a nice change up to be able to do something unexpected–and I had been waiting for my glasses for a few days, so there was a bit of excitement there.  I just didn’t expect it all to happen like . . . this.

Writing tonight, I promise.  I’ve got Isis trying to explain a school break-in where there shouldn’t be one, and gargoyles hiding in the wall.  I’ll get back into my fantasy . . .

And hope that life doesn’t throw a curve at me tonight.

Here I Am, Speaking Wise Stuff

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

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

I'm even having coffee.  Come join me.

I’m even having coffee. Come join me.

Through the Door of Imagination

Coming to the end of my scene last night–and I should mention, the end of Chapter Sixteen as well–I wrote this final paragraph:

 

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

Erywin sat staring at the empty chair across from her, fingers tapping against both arm rests. “There’s something we, the instructors, say—” She slowly turned her head so she was looking at both children. “—that pertains to both teaching and counseling, Annie. ‘We can show you the door; we can even hold it open for you. But you have to be willing to step through to see what’s on the other side’.” Erywin rose, straightening her pajamas. “She insisted there isn’t anything on the other side, and that’s as far as I can take her.” She respectfully bowed her head. “Have a good evening, children.”

 

I use the symbolism of a door a lot in this novel.  Passing through one door to another and finding something incredible waiting.  This was the end of Kerry’s Evaluation and Assessment:

 

He nodded slowly. “Okay, Doc.” He looked for the exit. “How do I get out of here?”

The doctor nodded at something behind him. “Go out the patio doors.”

Kerry turned and started walked towards them. After three steps he stopped and turned. “There really isn’t a patio out there.”

“There is if you want one.” She gave him a knowing look. “You’re going to find out that around here vision and willpower—and knowing how to apply them correctly—go a long ways towards making things you want happen.” Again she nodded toward the doors. “Go on, Kerry. Enjoy what’s waiting on the other side.”

 

Kerry did, and slipped right down into the rabbit hole.  Annie did much the same for hers:  she walked through one door, found she had to walk through another to meet with her adviser–and ended up telling a multi-millenniums old creature that she could stuff it, she was there at school for her reasons and her reasons only, and to hell with everything else.  What did she get for her troubles?  Shown to another door which should have lead to a nice, comfy bed–which in a way it did, where she said something to a certain doctor/nurse, and that led to questions and answers and reveals and . . . well, the start of something great.

Annie did the same thing to Kerry in London.  When she suggested he come with her on a walking tour of London, she didn’t say, “Pack your shit, Welsh Boy, we’re going out.”  No, she asked, “Would you like to do something? Would you like to go somewhere with me, Kerry?”  She showed him the door, but in the end, he had to decide to walk through and investigate the wonders she was about to show him.

Writing a story, a novelette, a novella, a novel–when you start they’re all like standing before door, wondering what you should do.  The door is the idea, but what is on the other side–that’s your imagination.  What you’re going to find on the other side . . .

Hey, you gotta open it first.

Hey, you gotta open it first.

What you’ll find is a room full of jumble.  Plots, characters, scenes–they are everywhere.  It’s the way things are.  Stories are a messy thing, there’s stuff all over the place.  But if you work that idea enough, if you think about your characters and where you want them to go, what you want them to do, what sort of adventures they’ll have–in time, you’ll tidy up that room, get things in order, and eventually produce something.

Or as Dwayne Johnson might put it:

 

When you walk up to opportunity’s door, don’t knock.  Kick that bitch in, smile, and introduce yourself.

 

And then start moving things about and getting that story in shape.

I’m always thinking about my stories.  If not the one I’m on, then the next.  Though this time is different:  I’m eight months into writing, 201,101 words into the story, and I might have another six, seven, eight months of writing ahead of me.  I’m going to make a push to knock off twenty thousand more words by the end of July and get extremely close to the end of Act Two–and then I’m gonna start editing another novel, because publishing, that’s why.

I think all the time about my stories, my characters, where I want them.  It’s a non-stop thing.  Once I’m through that door I have to stay and get things done.  That’s why you get a little crazy writing, because you want out of that room, but you can’t leave until you finish.

But not everyone is like me, wanting to write grand, sweeping novels.  Some people are really good with short stories.  The process is the same, the time frame is a lot different.  And keep in mind, there’s writing, and there’s editing.  Writing starts the story; editing builds upon that foundation, allows you to correct what isn’t right.  No story is perfect on the first draft:  I know this all to well.  Keep polishing.  Make it pretty.  In time, you’ll get it there.

Your stories are waiting on the other side of a door.  I’ve shown you that door–

It’s up to you to go on through.

Unpitching the Tent

In all the excitement that was yesterday–you know, with work and eating and trying to write–I completely forgot it that it was the start of Camp NaNo for a lot of people.  If you don’t know Camp NaNo, it’s a far more relaxed version of November’s NaNoWriMo, where you can come, relax, set your own goals, and really have a much easier time of writing than one may find during the insanity of writing fifty thousand words in thirty days.  And it’s also held twice a year, which means you can stretch out that story you always wanted to write over a couple of months.

"And when you're finished, it's up to you if you wanna toss that manuscript on this lovely, warming fire . . ."

“And when you’re finished, it’s up to you if you wanna toss that manuscript on this lovely, warming fire . . .”

My first–and so far only Camp–was a year ago, during the July 2013 event.  I ended up in a cabin with two friend I know from Facebook, and a couple of other people who kinda talked about writing but never really did much, and we . . . well, we set out upon our writing adventure.  (I should explain that in order to give one the feeling that they’re out on a camping retreat, you’re placed in a virtual cabin with other people, and the idea is you sit around in your pajamas and eat snacks and drink hot chocolate, and tell everyone about the great story you’re going to write.  Then you go to sleep and do it again the next day.)

If I give this too much thought, I can pin down where I am today with The Foundation Chronicles to this point a year ago, for it was with Camp NaNo that I started on my quest to Salem.  No, I didn’t start on my current novel:  I actually wrote the prequel to it, The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, which ended up becoming the point where I brought to the stage some of the characters that inhabit my current novel–and even more importantly, I brought everyone in the school, the Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning, and made it a real place.

Don't let the witches fool you, it's really a nice place to send your kid.

Don’t let the witches fool you, it’s really a nice place to send your kid.

That prequel, which was suppose to be a twenty-five thousand word novella, turned into fifty-three thousand word novel by the time the month was over, and that eventually led to where I am now:  continuing to work on a massive novel that just just last night saw me trip over forty-five thousand words for Act Two.  And it’s become something of a real love/hate relationship, because there I time I so want this story over.  I know how it ends, but . . . getting there is taking so much time.

"Just as soon as we get back from my ten mile canoe trip, I'll get my five hundred words in for the day."

“As soon as we get back from my ten mile canoe trip, I’ll get my five hundred words in for the day.”

I’ve run into this with some of my novels in the past.  You start out zooming, full of energy.  Then you slow down a little.  Then you find out that it’s getting hard to start those chapters.  Then you start to feel like there’s no end in sight, and then, when everything is darkest, you realize you’re almost finished, and you don’t really want it to end.

Well, actually, you do.  You can’t wait to slap on “The End” and move on to the next adventure.

Thinking about it last night, this is the first time I’ve stayed involved in a project that’s lasted a year.  It’s really more than a year, though, because I spent most of last June prepping The Scouring, and the work I did there led to the current novel as well.  And I probably spent a good year working on the idea, working out the characters and the location and the story.

And I’m dealing with the understanding that I could find myself dealing with the end of this novel a year from now.

"So you started this during a camping event, and you decides to celebrate finishing the novel by . . . camping?" "Yeah, I'm strange that way."

“So you started this during a camping event, and you decides to celebrate finishing the novel by . . . camping?”
“Yeah, I’m strange that way.”

I will end Act Two and then find the time to start getting another story published before climbing into Act Three.  I also have to consider the possibility of publishing Act One as a stand alone to get interest started in Act Two, which may or may not be a good idea, but it’s a start to something.

Have fun at the camp, guys.  I won’t be joining you because there’s all the stuff I have going on around me–you know, things–and I’ve got a lot of other reasons to keep my tent in my closet this year–

A little over one hundred and ninety-five thousand of them when you think about it . . .

A little over one hundred and ninety-five thousand of them when you think about it . . .

Have fun fighting off the bugs!