Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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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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Hard Characterizations

There are moments when you’re writing that you wonder if you’re nuts for getting into this business.  You wonder if it’s normal to torture yourself to get out a story.  It’s not unusual to wonder if you’re losing your mind from time to time–or maybe that’s only me.

Last night I was on-line with my beta reader–well, one of them.  And we were talking on and off.  Mostly I was trying to rewrite a scene, and it was slow going, because there are distractions, but there are also things i’m trying to keep in mind as I go along.    And we start talking about the story, but in particular we start speaking of Annie’s part in the story.  Now, I know she know Annie well, because, in many ways, she’s Annie, so when she talks I try to listen.  I don’t always do it very well, but I try.

And what she had to say wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t pretty because she was telling me I missed the mark on some things, and that she was there more or less as a decoration.  In short, I took someone who is suppose to be a main character and more or less shuffled her off to the background of Secondary Character land.

Did it hurt to hear this?  Yeah.  It hurt a lot.  No one likes being told that something they’ve just worked on for three months is really, totally flawed.  Was it true?

Every word of what she said was.  And I knew it.

She said, “Give your story a real read, not some bullshit read,” and I could, but since I’m so well tied into this story, I can see the goddamn words in my head, and they aren’t saying what I want them to say.  I can reread it all, but I know it’s going to back up everything she said last night.  There were other things said that rang true, and burned pretty hard, but that’s the way real truth hits you.  It’s not something you want to deal with, but if you don’t it’s gonna come back and bite you on the ass

"You rotten bastard of a software program!  How dare you show me what a piece of crap my story has become!"

“You rotten bastard of a software program! How dare you show me what a piece of crap my story has become!”

Another bit of advice I was gives was to create a character sheet for Annie, and to, in her worlds, “be painfully honest” about who she is.  But at the same time, I really need to do the same thing with Kerry, because there were thinks about him when I first started imagining him that didn’t come out as expected.

Like . . . he’s clueless.  Just like me.

You reach a point when you’re putting something together where you have to ask:  am I doing this story the right way because I’m so in love with my awesomeness, or am I doing this right because I want to get it right?  For me, I’ll take Door Number 2 every time.  As a once-famous director said about a movie he was filming, “If you can’t get it right, what’s the point?”  Of course at the time he said that he was knee-deep in cocaine, spending money likes there was no tomorrow to do things like tear down sets and rebuild them because the street just didn’t frame right, and was probably crazier than a shithouse rat throughout the whole experience (I know there are a few of you out there who know the person I’m describing).  But the feeling for creative people is a correct one:  do it right or don’t do it at all.

I got some work ahead of me.

Because I want to get it right.


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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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Lateness and Latte

This is probably the latest I’ve slept on a Saturday morning in a long time.  Normally I’m up and out at my local Panera by six-thirty AM, but I’m at least six hundred miles away from the Panera I usually visit, which means I’m writing from my old library back at The Real Home with my music playing and my coffee next to me.  Not only that, but I’m being helped by my guest bloggers, Fran the Phoenix and Cthulhu, so give them a hand.

F'tuga'chuta'g to you all!

F’tuga’chuta’g to you all!

Needless to say, I didn’t get out of bed until about eight AM EDT, and it was a good sleep.  And that probably means I need a better bed back in The Burg, but since I’m little more than a transient there, I doubt that’s gonna happen.

Even after all the driving–which, I should point out, was done on very little sleep, which likely explains why I slept so well–I edited.  I chatted with a few people, but I was editing like crazy, too.  I headed into Flight School, the beginnings in the Hanger and the test in the storm, before rolling over to Professor Wednesday’s Basic Spells Training and a couple of someone’s getting their witches’ hats for completing their first assignment.  (I should add that into the scene because it’s cool, and it is something Wednesday would do.)

But I came across something I’d forgotten, something that happened back in the Briefing Room at the Flight School.  This is going to happen from time to time, because I’ve a hundred and forty thousand words to sift through, and little gems are gonna get missed.  But the moment I began reading this section it came back to me.  It’s the first paragraph–

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

Kerry knows when all else fails, turn to The Doctor for smoothness.  Which might get your slapped, but hey . . .

Kerry knows when all else fails, you turn to The Doctor for the right thing to say to your special someone. Which might get you slapped immediately afterwords, but hey . . .

And because I’m such a stickler for getting it right, I know that line was said during The Doctor’s Wife, which aired on 14 May, 2011, and since this is 5 September, 2011, it’s all good.  Research!  Plus Kerry’s a geek and it all fits with him.

But a nice thing happened last night.  I was conversing with someone who knows Kerry and Annie very well, and they were reading one of the excerpts of their adventures together.  After they read my snippet–which had to do with a special moment in Annie’s life–they told me, “That was beautiful.  It’s all about her.”

Writers do not get a lot of feedback while they are in the middle of the process, and if they do get any it’s usually along the lines of, “Yo, this kinda sucks, you know?”  But when you sweat over a scene in the hopes of having it turn out as something special, when someone who you know is gonna tell you if that scene sucks instead tells you it’s beautiful–that’s when your heart sings out loud.

To say I went to bed with a big smile on my face is something of an understatement.

I have Astronomy class up next, then it’s off to Formulistic Magic and moving some crap in Botany class.  I may even make my way into Thursday at Salem on the Cape at this rate.

This week is certainly going a lot faster this time around.

This week is certainly going a lot faster this time around.

And then . . . it all starts anew.

I can’t wait.


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Rerouting on the Arrivals

Since it was Monday that meant it was time to edit.  Actually, yesterday was a day of the week ending in a “Y”, so that’s usually an indication that I’m either writing or editing.  But last night it was editing:  first my friend’s novel–of which I have fewer than fifty pages remaining–and then into my own.

I’m a bit surprised that I ended going so much of the work last night.  I started at the point in the story called All About Phee, which is a nickname I have for one of my favorite characters, and finished up with a second pass through Kerry’s Evaluation.  I spent maybe four and a half hours on the edit, and doing a quick add-up of the numbers, I read through maybe fifteen thousand words last night.  Maybe.  It helped the Kerry’s Evaluation was a second pass, because it was pretty clean, meaning I just sort of skimmed over and fixed up the parts that stood out–which weren’t that much.

There's really nothing to it:  you just read and type--differently, mind you.

There’s really nothing to it: you just read and type–differently this time, mind you.

Oh, I also made a map.  Yes, I had to do that, because part of the editing from Sunday, as well as last night, concerned the flight over from Amsterdam.  I once did a map of the flight, but wouldn’t you know it, I never saved that route.  Therefore, I needed to make another.  Only when I made this map, I went for a little more detail . . .

When I say I know where I'm going, I mean that.  See?  They even gave me a little plane to use . . .

When I say I know where I’m going, I mean that. See? They even gave me a little plane as a marker.

By the way, Schiphol is one of the best airports in the world to fly into or out of.  I know:  I’ve been there a couple of times.  First time I was there was during the one and only time I flew around the world . . .

Not a lot ended up changing, except in Annie’s Evaluation.  I found two paragraphs that had to be rewritten because they related to her dreams, because about a hundred thousand words down the line Annie tells the school’s Mistress of Divination a different story about how she eventually ended up on her way to the State of Massachusetts and being enveloped within the welcoming arms of some crazy-ass school adviser who seems to enjoy mentally torture students just to watch them squirm.

But, hey:  she got a room in the tower.  Ain’t that enough?

The main reason I fixed it is since I know what happens just over a week from now in the story–yes, believe it or not, this is happening on a Thursday night, and Annie’s talk with Deanna takes place the following Saturday–it’s easier to fix the front end of the process to match up with the back end.  And as back end’s a far better story, I’ll do a little tinkering at the front, thank you.

I love passing through these scenes and getting things fixed up.  It’s not I think this is the greatest story ever told–though maybe it is–but I’m in love with the set-up, the laying it all in place, and seeing how it all started.  The sections I edited last night I wrote back in the first and second week of November of 2013, and the mind grows hazy over the actual events.  I know the meta part here in the story, but the detail is coming back to me, and bringing the continuity into line–even if it’s just little things that need an adjustment, and nothing huge and plot-holely–is a wonderful thing to watch unfold.

Not to mention talking about Annie’s dreams allows my adviser to get extra snarky with her and twist that knife in just a little deeper.

Oh, I did mention that.  Never mind.


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Fulfilling the Loops of Continuity

First up, a little bit of personal news.  No, nothing bad:  I’m not off to the sanitarium to “get better”, though I’ve done something like that at one point in my life . . . no, it’s something better.  I’ll will have an interview posted on another blog sometime soon.  Yay me!  I haven’t had an interview in a while, and now is as good a time as any.  There were a lot of questions, and by the time I answered them all I’d written nearly four thousand words, so you know I’ll have a lot to say.  It’s also possible I’ll come off as the most boring git in the world, but that’s a risk you run with an interview.  As soon as it is posted, I’ll reblog it here, and generally link whore myself like crazy.  Please stand by.

Writing up that interview took most of my morning and afternoon, so I didn’t do much in the way of editing yesterday.  That happens:  you can’t be in editing or writing mode all the time, but you do what you can, right?  However, I did have the TV on in the background while I did my interview, and a couple of the movies that I half-paid attention to were Wanted–which I’d not only seen before, but I have the original comics run of the story–and Taken–which I had not seen before, but knew about because this movie started the reign of Liam Neeson bad-assery.

Of the two Wanted is really an odd duck because it so wildly deviates from the original material.  Sure, one could believe James McAvoy is a complete loser who ends up becoming a master assassin, and Angelina Jolie is his mentor, but once you start getting into the original story you start to see a lot of weird things, like how The Fraternity is really a bunch of super-villains who got tired of being on the bottom rung of the ladder all the time and decided to take over.  Then there’s the main characters, Wesley and The Fox.  Throughout the comic they are modeled after two rather well know individuals:  Wesley was modeled after Eminem, and The Fox was modeled after Halle Berry.  The Fox also wears a costume that comes with cat ears, because super-villains, yo.

Sure, you can see the resemblence between the characters and the actors if you squint hard enough . . .

Sure, you can see the resemblance between the characters and the actors if you squint hard enough . . .

But one can live with that, because if you aren’t getting Eminem and Halle Berry to pretty much play themselves in a story that used them for the character templates, then you do what you can.  There was a scene, however, that made me roll my eyes:  it was when Wesley is looking at a piece of the “Loom of Fate” given to him to translate, and as he looks through a magnifying glass he starts drawing ones and zeros so he can lay out the binary code and translate it to English.  And as Wesley draws his numbers, his zeros always get a slash in them . . .

Which if you’re a boy from Chicago–which Wesley’s suppose to be–you wouldn’t put a slash in your zeros.  However, if you’re a boy from Scotland–which James McAvoy is–you would probably draw your oughts with a slash in them.  Which was why I was rolling my eyes, because I was surprised no one caught that.  Then again, how many people watching the movie are going to catch that?  Maybe a dozen?  Only the super geeks among us?  Those of us who read the comic and are wondering if before the credits roll McAvoy is going to show us his rage face while telling the audience this is how he’s going to look while butt raping us?  (Which is how the comic ends, by the way.)

Then there’s Taken.  Never mind trying to figure out the logic of how a guy can run through Paris killing dozens of people, and even go so far as to shoot the wife of a French Security Officer in their house, and yet still apparently fly home commercial after having been shot a few times.  It’s an action movie, and you’re suppose to check your brain at the door before entering the theater.  No, the part that had me rolling my eyes took place on the private flight from Los Angeles to Paris . . .

Now, when Liam’s character’s daughter gets nabbed, you hear her description of her kidnapper:  “Beard; six foot; tattoo on hand–”.  Sure, clear enough.  But on the flight to Paris you hear her say, “Mustache; six foot; tattoo on hand–”  But later the description is back to beard–so who am I looking for?  A guy with a beard, or a guy with a mustache?  Or does it matter, because Liam’s gonna kill them all anyway?  It’s one of those things that sort of drive me mad, though, because since you already have the recording of the kidnapping, why bother with the change?  Or was it because they recorded the sound bite before they had an actor cast, and they didn’t know what they’d look like?

A few times I’ve had people tell me that I spend too much time trying to get everything “right” in my stories, that I spend too much time trying to figure out a sequence of events within my novels rather than just sitting down and writing.  Like I mentioned a few days ago there are times when it would be easy to write, but then you find that a scene you’re preparing won’t work because of something like the sun setting too late at the location where the scene is set, and that means your characters are going to look up in amazement at the beautiful aurora greeting them to a land of death and cold misery.  “Who’s going to know that?” you say?  Me, for one.  And some geek out there who bothers to check time of sunset for that day in that part of the world, after which they mumble, “Man, this chick is a loser!  Don’t they know it’s not dark enough for an aurora?”  And don’t say they aren’t out there:  they are.

Because I’m here, so I know they exist.

This is why I have all sorts of notes.  This is why I spend so much time trying to figure out little things like when do people go off and do whatever it is they’re suppose to do in the story.  It’s like what I was working on late last night:  a couple of things I added to Annie and Kerry’s E Level time:  I’ve got them doing things for The Guardians relating to spirits, because they’re getting older, they’re getting good finding and contracting and even doing things to spirits, and so why not have them perform a little extra-curricular activity with a branch of The Foundation that doesn’t mind using a couple of hapless teenager witches when the need arises.

Help the Guardians, See the World, Make it Back in Time for Necromancy 102.

Help the Guardians, See the World, Make it Back in Time for Necromancy 102.

Therefore I have them off helping with a spirit search in Chicago–yeah, but it’s not like they’re talking around the middle of The Loop with unregulated nuclear particle accelerators on their backs–and then off to Pripyat, Ukraine–which, if you know your geography and history, is a real fun time–which eventually leads to that section at 21 March–a point in time where I’ve created another time line so I know what’s happening there.

You can bet that means it’s not gonna be a good time.

It’s important to get things right.  If you do it up front, then you don’t have to worry about them when you write:  you just write.  It’s one of the things I pointed out in my interview yesterday–if you know the order of things before you write, if you have all your notes in place before the story begins, the actual telling of the tale becomes far easier.  You’re not going to be perfect; you’re not always going to catch everything.  In fact, as you go along you may see something that works better.  But at least you have the foundation laid–no pun here, trust me–before the story is built.

Then again, maybe you want the Earth rotating in the wrong direction . .


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The Loneliness of the Long Distant Series

There are time, I think it’s safe to say, when I wonder if I’m mad as hell.  Not Howard Beale “Mad as hell”, but mad as in Mad Hatter sorta mad.  And why is that, you are probably asking yourself–if, indeed, you are bothering to ask yourself that question after reading the previous sentence.  It’s because I am a little crazy.  It’s because I’ve got a world inside my head, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get it all out.

And if I should, how much of my life is gonna get spent doing so?

It started like this:  I was speaking with someone yesterday about our respective works in progress.  They mentioned that on their current work–which is really a long series broken into three parts–they’ve written one hundred and twenty thousand words in two and a half years.  That’s a good amount, particularly, as they said, they don’t get the opportunity to write every day.

I then mentioned that with my current novel I’ve written just short of one hundred and forty thousand words in four months, and when looking at the rest of the novel, I believe I have about one hundred and twenty-five thousand words to do for Act Two, and maybe one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty thousand words for Act Three.  I also mentioned that I was getting into A Song of Ice and Fire series territory in terms of how many characters I’ve had with a point of view and/or a speaking part.  All in all, when you read that, it does come off a just a little batty to say, “Within the next year I expect to finish a novel that’s going to run about three hundred and seventy-five thousand words.  ‘Tis but a meager tale.”

And for the record, here are the characters in Act One who have shown up with major and minor points of view, or have had a substantial speaking part:  Annie, Annie’s Mom, Annie’s Dad, Mr. Mayhew, Kerry’s Dad, Kerry’s Mom, Kerry, Ms. Rutherford, Collin, Alicia, Mathilde, Deanna, Erwyin, Helena, Adric, Isis, The School Adviser, Nurse Coraline, Jessica, Holoc, Maddy, Lisa, Vicky, Wednesday, Harpreet, Emma, Ramona, Mathias, Gretchen the Night Nurse, and Trevor the Librarian.  That’s thirty characters, and right off the top of my head I can think of about six other characters who are going to show up in the next two acts and have something say.

The good news is:  Act One is really the “Let’s Get Everyone Out Here Now” act that does all the introductions, and the majority of these characters will continue on with the story through Acts Two and Three.  The bad news is:  there’s a lot more to the story that just Acts Two and Three.  A lot more beyond what I laid out for Act Three back in October.

I look at this and wonder, "What the hell am I doing?"

I look at this now and wonder, “What the hell was I doing here?”  Not that I don’t know, mind you . . .

I was laying out time lines for my B Level story–as I mentioned in yesterday’s post–and more or less finished up how the story will go, including a scene that was frightening and tear jerking at the same time.  Then I looked at all the other stuff I’ve laid out, really a huge amount of information, and wondered, “Am I really gonna finish this tale?  Each ones of these stories will run well over a hundred thousand words, maybe closer to two.  Will I really have the years left to finish it all?”

It’s an incredible task.  Yes, I can write a quarter of a million words in a year if I try hard enough, and even edit it in three months time.  I’m setting myself upon a long game where I could find myself spending five or six more years to tell a story that few, if any, people will ever read.  This is where the madness comes in, because the question that keeps dancing about in my mind is why?  Why do this?

It’s a strange thing, but once someone told me they had a dream where they were speaking with me while holding the book of this story in their hands.  They told me this wasn’t the only time they’d had this dream, and that they were certain I’d not only write this story, but I’d tell it all.  That if I kept at it, the story of these two kids and their trials and tribulations would become known.

Is that actually the truth?  As Deanna would say, you have to be careful with visions, because by speaking them you almost certainly change the future in some way.  But I’ve already spent two years with this story and these characters bouncing about in my head–

What does it matter if I spend another ten years of my life on it?

As Florence once sang–and, I should point out, the same song will be sung during a show at the school at some point in the future–”What the hell, I’m gonna let it happen to me.”

‘Cause if I didn’t, what else would I do?


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B Level Anxieties

Editing:  it’s a way of life.  Well, not really, but if you want to hone your skill as a writer, you need to know this trick; you need to know how to cut and correct–and even add–where necessary.  Now, when it comes to cutting my own work–hey, I’m still learning.

This is not an easy thing to learn.

But edit I did, and I’m just about half-way through my friend’s novel as of this morning.  Tonight I’ll pass that line and then it’s downhill all the way.  As I see it, I’ll finish up before I make the trek back to Northwest Indiana next Friday, and that’ll leave me free to do my biz there and relax.

Did I say relax?  I meant I’ll probably maybe possibly start writing again.

I know I said I wouldn’t start on Act Two until I returned to The Burg, that I wouldn’t put word to electronic paper before 31 March, but it’s simply too hard to stay away from my story.  I’m doing all this outlining and thinking and character building, and after a while the whole, “I’m just sitting and enjoying my down time” thing isn’t working for me.  It is nice, but like last night, I found myself getting a little bored once the editing is out of the way and Me Time has arrived.

That’s because there isn’t a lot of time for me anymore.  It’s all about my characters.

And that brought me back to time lining.  Yes, I love doing this because I love seeing how things are laid out along a path upon which one can start putting a story together.  You know the quote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”?  A story is the same way:  you have an idea about where you want to go, but you have to start that journey by getting one foot in front of the other and easing on down the road.

Time lines are the same for me.  I know pretty much where I’m going–I just have to lay out the map and see where to walk.  And ever since I was a kid I was good at reading maps.

Which brings me to Annie and Kerry’s B Levels.  It’s an interesting time in their lives–but mostly it’s an interesting time in Kerry’s life.  He starts out bored as hell because he’s home, his parents aren’t showing an interest in his schooling–not that he can really talk about it all that much, because there is something of a gag order on Normal kids to otnay alktay aboutway earninglay agicmay.  His parents still think of Kerry as this kinda strange kid that popped out of Mom’s vagina one day, and since then they’ve become stuck with him, not really knowing why he is so quiet and introverted, while he wonders why it always feels like his parents are shunning him simply for being alive.

Then he gets a visit.  You can see it, all the way over on the left:

I'm sure he might have liked a visit from someone bringing him money or hugs, but you take what you get, right?

I’m sure he might have liked a visit from someone bringing him money or hugs, but you take what you get, right?

His favorite lesbian couple from Salem come calling, which isn’t that hard for them to do because (a) they actually live in England, so it’s not that far to travel, and (b) Helena can teleport, so who cares if they’re coming from Bath or the middle of the Australian Outback?  Will it and ye shall Jaunt.

So they come, they talk, they hear his tales of woe, and they tell him to keep a stiff upper lip because it’s the UK and they’ve already had tea for lunch.  Then some days later his parents finally talk about his school, and want to know about his friends–and the parents see an unusual pattern in his friend zones.

And that night is when he starts having dreams . . . dreams about a girl that he thinks he knows, but isn’t sure because he just can’t place where he’s seen her.  And those dreams keep comings–in fact, they happen a couple of times when Annie’s right next to him, um, sleeping.  Yeah, that does happen, but get your mind out of the gutter because it’s not like that.

After editing tonight I’m going to play with this some more because there are things I want to add here, and it means I won’t have to do all this crazy plotting when it comes time to write this story.  Oh, and while doing this I ended up with a great scenes where three of the instructors and the head nurse all sort of figure out what’s going on–though mostly it’s Erywin who does the figuring, because her lesbian spidey senses start tingling madly–

You never ignore lesbian spidey senses.  Never.


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Off to a Wrong Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I looked at the reality . . .

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

That the sun hasn’t fully set.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, it’s a thing of beauty.


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The Road to Camp Reka

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

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

And you can think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, it’s a great life, isn’t it?


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Forms Without Shape or Substance

The above title has to do with a dream I had last night, where it seemed that nothing possessed a true form or was in any way substantive.  You couldn’t lay something flat, because “flat” was a relative term:  it might look flat, but it wasn’t.  Some totally non-Euclidean shit going on, trust me, and it could very well be that my old buddy Cthulhu was paying me a visit last night, but if that were the case I’d likely be insane right now.

Or am I already?

I was in a good mood last night.  I was editing along well, maybe getting thirty pages out of the way while listening to some good music.  I even snapped a picture of myself and passed it along to a few friends, which should give you an indication of how I felt at the time, because I’m seen online as often as the Loch Ness Monster these days.

Once the editing was out of the way my mind began to wander.  I was back on the story that I’m not now working on, but in reality I was thinking ahead of the story I’m not now working on.  I was thinking of the future history, of what lay ahead for Annie and Kerry.  Since I can’t leave things alone, I started to plan, and to plot, and to work . . .

First I got out an old map I’d created a long time ago.  How long?  Maybe two and a half years at this point in time and space.  When I look at this I know what it means . . .

It meas someone took their girlfriend on a tour of Europe.  Chicks dig tours of Europe.

It means someone and their girlfriend went on a tour of Europe. Chicks dig tours of Europe.

I had an old time line of this laying about somewhere, but since I have Aeon, I decided to lay out some point in time leading up to this trip, and for a few things that happened along the way for this trip.  In my kid’s history this is an important moment for them, because it’s freedom, and not the kind that gets you drawn and quartered, probably because you were walking around a battlefield with a Plasticine dog in your arms.  (True movie buffs will know what I’m saying here.)  Needless to say I ended up with a lot of plot points on a time line, and everything seemed to fall in place a lot better–including a moment I realized yesterday that proved, beyond a doubt, that no one was ever going to keep these kids apart after a certain point in time.

Then I started thinking on another subject with my kids, and that meant I needed to head over to one of the various websites I keep bookmarked because I never know when I’m gonna need it.  What was I doing?  I was blowing up stuff in Russia.  No, really.

That's not a bomb; that's a . . . different kind of bomb, baby!

That’s not a bomb; that’s a . . . different kind of bomb, baby!

Of course what I was blowing up in Russia is my business and mine alone, and I really can’t say for sure if things really do get blown up.  It’s all part of a “What If?” that I’m working out for a future story that will likely get written one day when I’m old and gray–well, I’m already gray, so old-er.

With all this behind me, all this mind tripping said and done, it was time to get some more time lines figured out.  So on to Aeon and the building of a future that someone besides me will see one day.

See all those lines?  They mean something to me.  Maybe one day they'll mean something to you.

See all those lines? They mean something to me. Maybe one day they’ll mean something to you.

While For a Few Dollars More played in the background I figured out points in time and set them up against characters.  I set up and defined events that I’ve thought about for a long time, but I’ve never actually set down like this.  There is more to do–the bomb thing above actually takes place during their E Levels, and I haven’t worked out all the time yet–and I’ll probably get to that tonight after I put more editing under the bridge.

Even when I’m not working on my stories I’m working on my stories.  Even here, it’s more about stories yet to come than the story that’s coming.  This is why breaks from your work are good–

It’s lets you build upon your world without being distracted from the events in front of you.

 


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Deconstructing Mindscapes

The Road Down Editing Lane went well last night.  Another chapter down and another to go tonight.  It’s relaxing to go over someone else’s work and think about how you can help make it better–but also, it allows you to see into the mind of another writer who is like you in some ways, but always different.  It’s a break from your own stuff–

Did I say a break from my stuff?  Surely I jest!

Yesterday was a slow morning at work, so I had time to think about–well, stories.  As I’ve said before, I’m always thinking about stories.  Even if I’m not working on anything, I’m thinking about my stories and my characters.  As I had time for thinking, I put it to good use.

There are future events in The Foundation Chronicles that happen in later school years.  One of the years I was thinking about is Annie and Kerry’s C Levels, which come in 2013/2014.  Hey, that’s right now, isn’t it?  Funny how that works out.  I’ve mentioned in another post that this year deals with a lot of loneliness.  You have both kids in the middle of almost all advanced classes, while taking a few new courses, and that’s keeping them apart and slightly stressed.  You have Kerry’s parents, who having discovered the truth about their darling little lad, are not happy to learn he’s another red headed bastard witch.  No, really:  they’re unhappy to the point where Kerry’s case worker pretty much threatens the parents with pulling Kerry out of the home if she feels he’s in any danger, or if she feels he’s being abused.  With this in mind the parents aren’t talking to him over Skype, and when they finally call, it’s to tell him they’re going to Australia for Yule holiday and he’ll have to stay at the school.

Then he has another near death experience, which makes him go all introvert.  A few weeks after that Annie–who’s under her own stress from being pushed to be a good little sorceress–flips out and attacks a student.  Kerry shows up to try and keep her from turning the student into black goo–which she can totally do–and they both have something close to a full breakdown–

But before that, they get to be lab rats.

The Foundation has some–let us say “interest” in my two kids.  And why not?  They’re some kick-ass witches.  So one weekend in February they get taken away for some examinations.  First they get a bit of a psychological test before they’re examined while they sleep.  The next day they’re awakened early–they’re on the West Coast–and sent to Georgia, home to hillbillies, zombies, and Foundation testing facilities:  in particular, a ten kilometer test course right in the middle of Deliverance country that Annie and Kerry have to negotiate before they can go home.

Don’t worry, it’s going to be an easy hike.  Sure it will.

Naturally I wanted to see this course, and naturally I have a tool:  I use the Daft Logic Advanced Google Maps Distance Calculator for creating routes.  I used this for creating the route of The Polar Express that Emma and Kerry fly, and I used it for creating a few other routes as well.  But, here, I switches Google Maps over to Map with Terrain, and began plotting out where my trail headed, up and down mountains and through the valleys.

"Over the river and through the woods, attacked by fireballs . . ."

“Over the river and through the woods, dodging fireballs . . .”

A Normal person wouldn’t make it through this hike, because there’s all sorts of nasty stuff along the way that can only be fought with magic and gifts–mutant powers, if you prefer.  But if you’re Annie and Kerry you’ll make it through–maybe.  No one said this was going to be simple . . .

This is what happens when I have a few hours to think and some characters in need of a story:  I give them one.

If only the rest of my life were like this.

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