History on a Math Shell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, some are very literal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You tell 'em, Jessie.

You tell ‘em, Jessie.

All to get a few thousand words into a story.

Yeah, I’m like that.

The Return of the Fictional Faces

This is the part of the blog post where I usually say, “Last night I started writing–“, but that’s not going to happen this morning, because there was no writing last night due to injury.  And by “injury,” I mean while I was walking home from work I, while waiting for a crossing light to change, somehow tripped over my own feet and stumbled right into the intersection.  I did a very good Shuffle Off to Buffalo imitation for about ten feet (or three meters for everyone else outside the US) before going right over and tumbling.  The fortunate part involved no cars happening by at the exact moment I performed this pratfall, though one car did enter the turning lane where this happened about five second after I hit the ground.

I was very lucky indeed.

The downside to this adventure was getting both elbows scrapped up badly, getting a dime-sized hunk of skin torn out of my right thigh due to having a set of keys in my pocket, and bruising the hell out of my ribs to the point where taking a deep breath hurts a lot.  My head hurts a little this morning, making me wonder if slamming down onto hard pavement has given me a slight concussion, because if their is anything the 2001 Daytona 500 taught us, it’s that you don’t have to hit the wall to cause brain damage, you just gotta come to a real sudden stop.

This means I didn’t write much at all last night while I went “Ooh” and “Ouch” every time I moved.  I did make notes for a scene I’m going to rewrite, but that was about the extent of my work.

See?  Notes.  I wasn't lying.

See? Notes. I wasn’t lying.

Since I like to be Chatty Cathy on the weekends, I needed something to talk about.  And then it hit me about 4:30 this morning–yeah, my sleep cycle sucks–remember that time I talked about who I imagined my characters looking like when I put them together?  That was for a story involving people who were at my School of Salem eleven years before–what about the characters now?

Ha!  I got you covered.  Lets go through what I’ve written so far and meet the folks.

 

The Kids and their Families.

First, we have Annie’s family, as they are the first we meet.  Annie is an easy one, because the person who first created her did so for a role play, and she knew how she wanted Annie to look.  Annie looks like Jodelle Ferland, better known as Bree the Soon to be Dead Undead in Twilight: Eclipse.

As for Victor and Pavlina, her mother and father, we have Stanislav Ianevski, the original Bulgarian Bon-Bon, and Eve Myles.

Now over to Wales where we meet Kerry’s family.  Since I was in Cardiff I went on a real Torchwood kick, and came up with the following:

Davyn Malibey — Gareth David-Lloyd

Louise Malibey — Indira Varma

As for Kerry . . . I’ve never based his look off anyone.  He’s kind of short, though no shorter than Annie. with an angular face, green eyes, red hair, lots of freckles around his nose, light complexion inherited from his Irish mother.  Since he doesn’t get out much, he has little muscle tone, and his chest is pretty shallow.  When we first meet him he’s wearing rectangular titanium frame glasses, but by the time he reaches his C Levels he ditches the glasses because one, he’s good with transformation magic, and two, unlike the Harry Potter universe–where transformation magic seems to be used only for changing rats into cups–if you’re good at transformation magic, you can fix your freakin’ eyes.

There are two Foundation people who come to visit Kerry.  I kept with my Torchwood roots and have as Burn Gorman as Mr. Mayhew and Yasmin Bannerman as Ms. Rutherford.  In fact, it’s Yasmin’s appearance in the Torchwood episode, They Keep Killing Suzie, that I pretty much used for Ms. Rutherford’s appearance in my story.

"Escort this new witch to Amsterdam?  Beats getting hit on by this omnisexual bloke."

“Escort these new witches to Amsterdam? Beats getting hit on by this omnisexual bloke.”

The Kids on the Train.

We have Collin and Alica.  They are Jamie Bell, from the movie Billy Elliot, and Kelly Macdonald, best known as the voice of Merida from Brave, and as Ewan McGregor’s “I didn’t tell you I’m fifteen before we had sex?” girlfriend from Trainspotting.

The Plane, The Plane.

Deanna, Erwin, and Helena we’ve already met.  That leaves Headmistress Mathilde Laventure and instructor Adric Lewiston.  They are Audrey Tautou and Matthew Waterhouse.  I mean, Adric?  Come on.  You know I went there.

Cernunnos Coven.

We know Isis and Coraline.  That leaves our kid’s new coven leader.  Professor Holoč Semplen is David Nykl, better known as Dr. Radek Zelenka from Stargate:  Atlantis.

Instructors at School.

We know Wednesday, Jessica, Ramona, and Mathias.

Madeline Palmescoff — Mary-Louise Parker.

Victoria Salomon — Vanessa Angel, who I remember as the Tok’ra Anise from Stargate:  SG-1.

Harpreet Bashagwani — here I have to hang my head in shame, because I’d based her upon the picture of a woman from Hyderabad I’d found on a dating site.  Sure, I could have went with a Bollyword actress, but I didn’t.  So–shame, shame.   I know.

What About Our Librarian?

Trevor Parkman is based upon Anthony Head because it should be obvious, no?

And What About Those Other Meddlesome Kids?

Emmalynne Neilson — There’s only been a few glimpse of her so far, but Kerry and she get a big adventure in Act Two, one that doesn’t leave Annie all that pleased.  She’s modeled after Kirsten Dunst.

Lisa Glissandi — Pain in the Ass Mean Girl is modeled after Taylor Swift, only with a lot less talent due to not having a dumped boyfriend to write songs about.  Give her time, though:  there’s still six years to go.

Anna Laskar — Spooky German Girl was a mystery for a bit until I made the following connection–

Mix this:

"No, really, I'm not dangerous--trust me."

“No, really, I’m not dangerous–trust me.”

With her more grown up psycho bitch hairdo:

"I kept verevolve in basement for years; is normal, no, sestra?"

“I keep verevolve in basement for years; is normal, sestra, no?”

And you have Tatiana Maslany in the part.  Anna probably was a young Helena, full of spooky looks and constantly ampped up on sugar.  Check her for severed tails before letting  her into the Samhain Dance.

There you have it:  pretty much all the bases covered as far as characters go.  That leaves just one thing:

Writing.

Yeah, I should get to that today.

Shadow Collections

There comes into every writing life where you need to take a break and work on something that isn’t your story.  The break I was working on last night was my nails, and . . . they didn’t turn out the way I wanted.  Boo, hiss, the hell with it.  I stripped them down and brought up the story.

You know, sometimes your instincts are always the best for figuring out what you need to do at any given time.  Sometimes you should just write, even when you don’t feel like it.  Maybe you’ll end up making something crazy and wonderful, or wonderfully crazy, and before you know it, you’re the next big thing.  Or still struggling.  Who know?

Since it was a little late to be writing, I played with the story.  Not in the way you may think:  no, this was writer’s playing–

One of the things I’ve always wanted to try in Scrivener is to set up collections.  To understand Scrivener Collections, you need to understand the Binder.  It’s that thing on the left side of the program when you have it displayed.  Here:

Hey, over here!

Hey, over here!

If you need a better way of imagining the Binder, go to your local store, buy a three-ring binder, return home, find your story, put it in your binder.  There you go:  Scrivener Binder in physical form.  You have all your parts and chapters laid out so you know where everything is located, and you can lay things out in whatever order you like.  Each folder represents whatever you want it to represent:  headings, page markers, whatever it is you put into a binder to keep things neat and orderly.

Then what is a Collection?  Let’s say you have sections of your story that you want to return to from time-to-time, but you don’t want to go looking through your binder for that part.  Maybe it’s some historical information you dug up a while back and you need to review now and then.  Maybe it’s a new scene you’re working on and you don’t know where it should go inside your story.  Maybe it’s an old novel you wrote prior to the mess you’re working on now, and you want to be able to pull it up and check something without it being right there in your face.

If so, you set up a colored tab for that section–in Scrivener that becomes your collection.

Color tabs, just like I said.

Color tabs, just like I said.

And when you want to look at that section of your story, click on the tab and start looking.

You can even get fancy and look at it two different ways if you're of a mind--or even without one, like me.

You can even get fancy and look at it two different ways if you’re of a mind–or even without one, like me.

Working on your story here in the collection is just like working on it inside the main binder, because you’re still in the binder, only you don’t see the rest of it because you’ve pulled this part off by its lonesome.  If you need some additonal research, you can add that to the collection as well–

Or maybe you can give it a home of its own; it might like that.

Or maybe you can give it a home of its own; it might like that.

Collections aren’t forever:  you can keep them as long as you like, then remove them when you’re finished.  It won’t remove the original information–or the changes you made to it–since you were really working in the binder, only . . . not.  Software is funny that way.

There was something else I did as well:  I added a chapter.  What?  Are you insane, Cassie?  Well, yeah, a little, but that’s beside the point.  I’d come up with another set of scenes a few weeks back, and I wanted to incorporate them into the story.  The scene comes at the end of Part Eight, which I call Holidays There and Back, and this happens a few weeks after a somewhat traumatic point in the lives of Annie and Kerry.  Chapter Twenty-Five, Continuations, is meant to show that life not only goes on in this strange world, but sometimes you start learning unusual things and pass that knowledge on to people close to you.

Shadows?  Like the ones trying to take over the galaxy?  Guess again.

Shadows? Like the ones trying to take over the galaxy? Wrong story.

Three interesting scenes, with the last being a tender, maybe a somewhat creepy moment, but more tender in the long run, because it ends with dancing before a fireplace.  And maybe a couple of shadow ribbons.

Yeah, those are gonna be nasty.

Questions Asked and Yet Answered

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, I’m awake and alive (the two can be, at times, mutually exclusive), and I made it through another Saturday which wasn’t one of the best, but it was better than I expected.  There wasn’t as much writing as expected–I feel just short of six hundred words before I was busy doing some research during the afternoon, and there were distractions like Where Eagles Dare being on TCM (bit of trivia:  it has the highest body count of any Clint Eastwood movie–total 100 people–and it was the last movie where he didn’t receive top billing) and then Orphan Black Season Two starting an hour and a half later, seestras.  But the quantity isn’t important:  it’s the quality.  And it ended with one of the more important things I’ve written for the story:

 

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

Annie patted the envelope with her right hand. “Ms. Rutherford left prepaid debit cards with £200 on them for us to use. No need to worry about money for the day.”

“Oh.” Kerry’s eyes took on a far away look as he seemed to consider Annie’s words.

Seeing the indecision on Kerry’s face, Annie knew the time had come to push the forty-four percent odds in her favor. She reached out and touched his hand; Kerry’s head swiveled around to face her immediately. “Would you like to do something? Would you like to go somewhere with me, Kerry?”

 

Yeah, those last two questions are going to come back a few more times in this scene, and later–well, I know what sort of importance they play much later in the story, and the effects are going to be fairly tramatic.  You wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it will.  It’s gonna tear someone’s heart out.

Don’t worry:  they’ll get better.

Yesterday’s post seemed to generate a few of my more interesting comments, which were along the lines of, “Wait, there’s werewolf erotica?  Since when?”  Since people were writing, that’s when.  Off the top of my head I can’t remember the actual title, but back in the days when Rome was pretty much kicking everyone’s ass, one of the more popular books around had the main character turn into an ass and head off some sexual adventures.  It has been pointed out by no greater an authority on the mater than Cracked.com (I was biting my inner lip when I wrote that) that strange fetishes have been around a long time–sometimes centuries, sometimes a lot longer than we’d like to admit there’s recorded history.

I like to make fun of the various sorts of erotica out there on the Internet, until I remember that (1) these people are writing, and (2) some of them are selling a lot.  What that says about people in general I’ll leave to you, because if you read some of my stranger erotica, you’d likely lump me in with the dino porn women.

If you are curious about the the sort of things out there, never fear!  I’m gonna show you, because I’m that sort of gal.  Click on any of these links at risk of your own sanity, and lets remember that every link takes you to that wonderful purveyor of reading material, Amazon.com, and not some shady, back-asswards website where the Internet has crawled off to die.

Without further ado:

"How is that even . . . no, no, no!  Why did I look?  Why?"

“How is that even . . . no, no! Why did I look? Why?”

Maybe you’d like some Kraken erotica?

There are also some excitable werewolves, and a leprechaun you might not want to meet.

Maybe you’re not the Mother of Dragons, but you could be the lover or one–or two.

I don’t remember reading about this Minotaur when I was into Greek Mythology–

Speaking of Dino Porn–yeah, it’s here.

Gay Cuttlefish Shapeshifter Erotica–that’s not something I made up:  I’ve taken that right off the Amazon page for the story.  You’re welcome.

Even unicorns won’t escape my gaze!

Last but not least, if you’re interested in how someone works to write stuff like this, they talk about it in long piece from io9:  How to Write a Sex Scene Between a Unicorn and a Rainbow.

Hummm . . . I think my work here is done.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 . .

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?

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.