Long Journey Starting

Blessed Samhain, or Happy Halloween if you prefer–the time of holiday is upon us today.  As was said on American Horror Story last night, Halloween is the one day when you can always be yourself–though if they are really descended from Salem witches, they should be talking Samhain, but I won’t quibble.

Lets move on to the main story . . .

It was just after six PM.  The soundtrack was Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derick and the Dominoes, followed by the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet.  It was scene one of the prologue.  It was writing time.  I was on it, baby.

Though I said last night I would go distraction free while writing, I lied.  One one hand I was checking out the TV every so often, and on the other hand I was “conversing” with someone in a way that was really more like an argument, and one not leaving me in a good, happy place.  Enough of that:  I got writing to do.

I’ve said before that as I grow as a writer, it takes longer to get the words out in a form I like.  I caught myself making mistakes here and there, probably because of distractions, though I did catch them and get them fixed right up.  I tried something in this scene that I’ve never tried before:  removed the “said” and “asked” parts of a conversation.  Instead of writing something like, ‘”Are you?’ asked Annie,” or “‘Of course I’m ready,’ said Annie,” I went another direction, setting up a descriptive moment before words were spoken:

She threw a hard stare at her father.  “Are you?”


As she passed through the doorway Annie glanced back over her shoulder.  “Of course I’m ready.”

I’m going to do this for the whole novel.  I’m reminding myself not to use any sort of word that indicates a person is speaking, but rather set up the scene and let them speak.  Make it natural.  Make it seem the way it should seem.

Still, it was hard work.  I feel that the better I become as a writer, the harder writing becomes.  It’s because you know all these things that you don’t want to do, while at the same time you want to tell the story.  I know the “rule” about NaNo:  no editing as you write.  I don’t believe your rules–I know how I am when I write, and I want to get things as right as possible when creating my first draft.  So I watch what I’m writing, and fix things when needed.

But when I was trying to describe a lake–man, what a pain in the ass.  No matter how easy you think it’ll be, it isn’t.

I didn’t do everything I wanted to do last night.  I didn’t finish the first scene, but rather I’m probably a couple of hundred words from the end.  Not a problem:  I’ll finish that up tonight, then bring my other main character on stage.

In the end, however, I made my count for the night:  1,864 words.  It’s been a while since I’ve written that much, and tonight I hope to do better.

I’m on my way, kiddies.  NaNo has come early for some of us.


The Unknown Path Begun

Though it may be six-oh-five AM, already I have the opening line of my next novel in my head.  I actually came to me about a half-hour earlier as I lay in bed, growing slowly awake.  I edited it a bit as I ran the line over and over, so that I now is set as how I want it to appear in the story.

The path is waiting, and I’m ready to hike.

I should have started writing a couple of days before, but I didn’t.  There are various reasons I can point towards, but the truth remains I wasn’t ready.  I get in this strange state of mine where I know whatever I’m going to write will suck, or seem ridiculous, or simply isn’t worth the time I’m putting into the story–and then I break through all that crap and start.  I do this with almost every story.  It’s all that negative reinforcement I used to give myself back in the Bad Old Days, when I’d tell everyone I was working on a story, when in reality I was doing nothing but thinking about how great it would be to write.

Today I start.  I know I will because I created a spreadsheet to track my NaNo progress.  Oh, I hear you now:  “You’re not suppose to start until Friday!  Cheater!”  Yeah, yeah, go find a name for your dragon, ‘kay?  ‘Cause I know this, and I compensated.  The spreadsheet shows fifty-four thousand words being written over thirty-two days, and when you work out the averages, that’s 1,688 words a day, with just over fifty thousand of them written in November.  I’ve got it covered, don’t worry.  I do this for a living.

I’ve said a few times already all that remains is the writing, and soon that’ll be behind me.  I know where this story is headed, probably better than any story I’ve ever written in the last two and a half years.  Because it seems as if I’ve spent forever dealing with this and the characters.  The only other stories I’ve fallen into this much are my Transporting stories, and I’ve had over twenty years to think about those characters and what will happen to them.

This story I wanted to start last year, but didn’t because . . . various things.  It’s always various things with me, but it was enough to know I shouldn’t try writing it because it would have ended up a mess.  And it still could:  I’m under no illusions that I’m going to write something so wonderful it’ll burn the very paper upon which the story is set with its magnificence.  I just want this tale told, just like with any other story, and it’s high time I get about telling.

It’s been a while since I’ve plopped down close to two thousand words a day, so back into Discipline Mode I go.  Cut out the games, cut out the distractions, cut out–as my one true friend Trusty Editortm calls it–the insane, time-wasting crap that envelops us whenever we sneak online.  That’ means I’ll be an unseen presence prowling here and then–which, if I’m honest, is how I spend most of my time online these days.

It’s time to write.  I’m ready.

That’s what matters right now.

Leaving the Known Paths

Though I’d been up since three AM because of fire alarms going off–due, I was told by the office people, because someone was cooking at that time of the morning–I wasn’t as tired as I expected.  There were things I should have worked on last night, but I screwed around in Blender while The Graduate played in the background.

This was prime writing time, and I missed it.

Well, I didn’t miss it:  I ignored it.  I could have been doing something worth while towards getting the next story started, and I potted it.  Save for a quick short story the first week of September, there hasn’t been anything new written since the end of July.

Yes, I know:  moving in August and then again in September, that takes a lot out of your available time and energy.  Still, last week I was ready to go, and this week as well, and though I want to write, I haven’t felt the need to make a story.

There has been a strange funk that’s laid over me for a while now.  Where I once had great need to write things, these days I feel like the person I once was:  the one who said they were a writer, but who only wrote stories in their head and never truly developed anything.  I know, in part, what’s driving this:  fear.  Not fear that one day I’ll be successful; oh, hell yeah, bring that on.  If I could make high five figures every year writing I’d be happy.

No, it’s the other fear.  The one where you spend a huge amount of time and energy putting something together, but when it’s over only you and a few other ever see the results.  Yes, I write because I want to see the story as a living, breathing thing.  But I would love to do this all the time, and do well enough that I could make a living penning entertainment for others.

It’s not an easy path; it’s a damn hard one, if you’ve ever done this for real.  The known paths are the easy ones, because they’ve been walked by everyone, so they’re nice and smooth and you don’t have any worry of getting lost because the path is so well trod.

This novel that’s next, it’s scary.  It’s something I’ve never tried before.  It’s a bit out of my comfort range because it’s huge, and I’m going places with it I’ve never gone before.  I just went over a list of characters in my head, and there’s twenty-seven characters with speaking parts in the novel–and I’ve probably missed a couple.  Sure, some of those characters won’t have more than a scene or two, but they are there . . . twenty-nine:  I missed a couple of students.  See how that works?

I’m off a lot of paths I’ve walked with this one, but I imagine that’s the way most writers are when they are starting something big and new.  By now one would think I’m used to this, but no:  I always feel a little apprehension when I start a story, because there’s always this notion that I’m going to end up writing something silly . . .

But I won’t know if it really is silly until I start, right?

Walking with Witchy Poo

Today already feels like a bit of a grind.  The fire alarm went off in my complex at three AM, and I’ve been trying to wake up from a perpetual doze since everything quieted down an hour later.  It’s never a good thing to start the week with your head in a fog after a few hours of sleep.  I’ll manage, but I’ll be a wreck tonight.

Eventual it was time to crawl out of bed, get ready, and walk across town to my job.  Yes, walk.  I live about three-quarters of a mile from my office, so rather than drive in, I walk it.  It’s good exercise, and a great time to be alone with your thoughts.  And since there aren’t a lot of people out and about at six-thirty in The Burg, you can work out scenes aloud if you are of a mind–

Which I usually am.

A favorite question to ask is, “Where do you get your ideas?”  I think it was Robert Silverberg who said he had a service in Schenectady, New York, who mailed him new ideas every Tuesday, but I could be wrong.  That’s a good comeback, though, because ideas generally just come to people.  Something hits you, and there you have it:  idea.

While walking across The Burg I was thinking out a scene between one of my main characters and the school’s flying, levitation, and teleportation instructor.  In the mater of a few blocks I established that one, the current batch of A Level students don’t seem all that interested in flying PAVs; two, that a couple of A Levels appeared the day before asking if they could fly; and three, managed to establish that the instructor is Jewish.  The last I already knew, but the other two came to me . . . Oh, and also established that the instructor likes metric, because screw that goofy Imperial system.

But then it was time to talk about different Class 1 PAVs, and I needed names.  Easy enough:  just like cars, name them after people who developed them.  So you have Covington Trainers, and Espinoza 6000s, and the Higoshi Rally–

Lastly, about the time I was standing in front of the Capitol, came the Wilhelmina A’s through D’s.

Who was Wilhelmina?  A student from the 1960’s whose mother was a practicing Wican before her little girl–who was also a witch–went off to school to become a real real witch.  Then she discovered science, figured out how to work both together, and went on to greater glory.  But while she loved flying she hated the training brooms, so during her E Levels she built the prototype of the Wilhelmina A in Practical Science and Magic class.  Because she could.

No one at school called her Wilhelmina, however:  it was too much of a mouth full.  Because of her background–and because kids be kids–her nickname was Witchy Poo.  Which is what everyone calls her brooms.  Which is why my instructors says, “This is a good broom:  it’s a Witchy Poo B.”

Just like that, I had my scene in ten minutes time.

And added just a little more realism to my world.

Time Be Time Again

Here we are, the end of the month in sight and a lot of people appearing in a heightened state of anxiety over what they’re going to do come 1 November.  Fortunately I’m not in that camp.  I was a bit in 2011, when I finished up the research and detail work on my first NaNo novel, but now, two years later, I’m just here for the writing.

Well, that and fooling about with things.  After laying out my little track Friday night, I looked at it after setting up yesterday’s post and thought, “Hey, I know I can follow paths in Blender, so I wonder if I can do that with this track I created?”  Yes and no.  Yes, you can do that in Blender:  it’s actually a very simple operation.  No in that I didn’t set it up correctly at the beginning.  In order to follow a path I needed to create the track as a path, and I’d used a circle instead.  That meant if I wanted to create a short animation of flying around the school, I’d need to redo my track–

Hey, what else was I going to do yesterday?

So it was “Overlay the circle” time, and I spent the better part of ninety minutes doing just that.  Then it was attach the camera to the track, then launch the animation–Whoa!  It was like being in hyperspace, ’cause I did the course in about three seconds.  That meant it was time to play with slowing things down, and adjusting the camera position . . . took another hour or so, but in the end I had something that, from my seat at the laptop, looked pretty cool.

Then I looked at a spot on the track and thought, “Hey, isn’t there suppose to be a dip there?”  Played with the z-axis and not only put in a drop, but made it a double dip.  Then I looked at the point where the track crossed the main road and thought, “Yeah, they’d fly over that at height, not at ground level,” and raised that and turned that section of the course into a climbing turn.  There were a couple of other spots where I needed to do the same, and when it was all done, there I was in, flying along in three dimensions.

Fun little exercise, let me tell you.

Where is the video, you say?  Well, I started rendering it last night, but the moment the render function kicked in a noticed a few things–like, my outer walls are a stark, almost glowing white, and just won’t do.  Things look one way when you’re setting it all up, and completely different when start rendering things, and that means I have to work on materials and colors before I can animate anything, otherwise it’ll be more of an eyesore than it already appears.

The decision I have at the moment is when to start writing.  Sure, I could wait until Friday, but it’s more about getting the novel written and not the word count.  I know I can do fifty in a month; but can I finish this story by the end of the year?

Only one way to find out . . .

Racin’ on the Rock

With all the things that I’ve meant to do for my upcoming novel, there has been one that I’d performed:  I’d not laid out the race course found within the confines of the school–

Race course?  Allow me to explain.

One of “sports” my school allows is racing.  This isn’t something done on dirt bikes or off-road dune buggies, or even late model stock cars.  No, at SIGEL, racing–at least for the A Levels–is done on Class 1 PAVs with an unrestricted top end of one hundred thirty miles per hour and an operational ceiling of about five thousand meters.  They’re based upon a design that was used for hundreds of years before The Foundation came along, which is why even with the superspace transmitters and pop-up HUDs, they looks a lot like a witch’s broom.  Of course there are other types of PAVs, or Personal Aerial Vehicles.  A Class 2 looks a bit like a levitating jet ski, and a Class 3 is a lot like an Akira bike that is even street legal.  And there are other classes that go higher and faster, but that’s neither here nor there . . .

They’re used to learning basic flying, but they’re also used for racing.  And if you’re going to race, you need a place to mix is up.  There’s a rather nice, enclosed bullpen known as The Diamond, which can be configured for all kinds of three dimensional oval events:  after all, if you can move freely along the z-axis, why restrict yourself to the x and y ones?

But there’s also an outdoor course that one can race along, and that was what I’ve been missing for some time.  Sure, I kept telling myself, “I need to do that course,” but I’d never get around to the building.  Mostly because I didn’t know how I should make it.  Draw it?  Map it?  Model it?

In the end it was a simple decision:  all you need is an unbroken line that goes around in a circle.  Nothing fancy, just a course line.  Because, in my head, I know what’s there.

Blender is was, then, because it’s easy to take a circle and stretch Course Layoutit out and made it go where you want it to go.  It takes time to get it things worked out just as you might like, but in the end, if you know what you want, you’ll get it right–just like I did in the picture at right.

The line the runs along the wall is the course.  Not sure of the total length, but given that the campus is a mile across at the widest point, and about two and and a half miles between the north to south walls, I’d say I have something along the lines of a flying Spa-Francorchamps.  And while there are “safety features” along the course that will keep kids from slamming into trees and the wall at high speed, that doesn’t mean one can’t get hurt enough to find themselves on the way to the hospital.  Hey, you gotta fly it like you stole it, right?

You can see the route.  The start-finish is down by The Diamond–at the five o’clock position–with the course going counter-clockwise.  Heading up the long, sweeping start and a couple of easy turns before hitting The Main Twist, then a straight run to the Sunrise Glides, through the Lake Gate and into the Esses, a left at the Polar Turn, then another left onto the Cove Straight before hitting the fast, sweeping left hand turn, Sunset Boulevard, leading into the hairpin Base Drop.  Through the woods to the right-then-left hand Goose Tail, then onto the Gloucester Sweep.  A slight straight before hitting the Diamond Chicane, then you reach the start-finish–and do it again.

Congratulations.  You just finished a lap on my new course.

I hope it sounds as good when my characters are crashing and burning.


In the Stark White Moonlight

Well, then:  that was an interesting bit of work.

Last night I was looking for something to do, something that would let me polish up my so I wouldn’t have to do any more work on the back end when Writing Time came.  What was there to do, you ask?  How about looking at the sky?

It was something I came up with at work yesterday while I was looking for something to do there.  I have a few scenes in the story that take place close to sunrise, after sunrise, around sunset, and in the middle of the night.  Sure, you’ll say, “It was getting dark,” or “It was dark,” and yeah, I know those parts, but I wanted to see.  Therefore, in order to see, I had to go look . . .

I’ve mentioned before that Sky View Cafe is a bit like a time machine:  you can see what the sky was like anywhere in the word at a particular time.  (We won’t get into how the sky only sees the past anyway, that’s another story–)  If you know your locations and you know your dates and times, you can set up your view and imagine what happened under that particular firmament.  I knew my locations and my dates and time, so plug and play, right?

Yes and no.  When there’s no good way to get an image save for a print screen that is then cropped and saved, you have a bit of time on you hands waiting.  That’s what I had:  get the view, image it, crop the image, set it up in a text card in Scrivener, save it, link it to the scene in question.  I only had a couple of dozen to do, so it was make it work time, and after a couple of hours I was finished.

Why?  I hear you asking, I know you are.  Or maybe those are the voices in my head, I’m not sure right now . . . Part of it was just to do something last night, but in trying to put certain scenes in my head, it’s not just dialog and how the characters look–I need to see everything.  Location, lightly, weather:  it’s all part of the scene.  I like having that vibe that I know what’s going on, because if I do, there’s a great chance I’ll pass that vibe along to a reader.

That’s the trick:  making the reader feel what you feel.  Passing your images to them.  Taking everything I’ve created and making another person feel that creation.  If I can immerse myself into the world that I’m building, there’s a good chance I’ll pull someone in to join me.  They had better hope they can swim, however, ’cause the water could be deep.

I found a few other interesting things as well.  I’d mis-numbered some of my novel parts–can’t have that–and I had one scene that sort of made me wonder about it, ’cause I wasn’t sure why it was there.  After a few moments of reflection–which means I figured it out this morning walking to work–I knew what it was, and what it meant.  Problem Solved.

One problem eliminated.  Maybe a hundred to go?  We’ll see.