Felina

Last year at this time the post was named Los Endos, which was, for a very long time, the closing number Genesis used in all their live shows.  This year the title is taken from the series finale of Breaking Bad, and gives you and indication of how I feel about 2013–

Which is to say, it should end up like a bunch of meth-making Nazis being gunned down with a high powered machine gun.

The last year hasn’t been that bad, but that’s sort of like saying getting shot in the knee isn’t as bad as being shot in the stomach.  It still hurt, there was still a lot of pain, but I was able to recover much quicker.  Not to mention I have a position–I won’t say job–that is affording me a bit of income, and I’m not constantly scrambling to pay bills.  Not the best of times, but damn sure not the worst of them, either.

Writing wise, what do I have?  First off, this post is number nine hundred and seventy.  In another month I’ll hit one thousand, and there will be celebrations and dancing and . . . eh, maybe I’ll have a beer and a good dinner to celebrate, and post pictures of the event.  I never thought I’d still be here after all this time, but I am.  I’ve stuck it out.  I’m still penning my thoughts and keep people entertained, I hope.

As for my grand plans for extending my vast writing empire?  Well . . . not quite as good as I’d hoped.  I wanted to publish four stories during the year; I managed one.  One novel.  But that one novel taught me something, which is that if you’re going to publish a novel, you gotta really get everything right before you do.  There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into that process, and going at it half-assed is likely one of the main reasons why self-publishing is still sort of looked upon as something of a bad literary joke.  But I did get my novel out, and I will get her fixed up in 2014.

As for the rest?  I did write.  It may seem that I didn’t write as much in 2013 as I did in 2012, but the tale of the tape is thus:

Suggestive Amusements:  72,000 words
The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring:  54,000 words
Fantasies in Harmonie:  24,000 words
The Foundation Chronicles:  Book One, A is For Advanced:  90,000 words (as of last night, and climbing)

Two very real novels, a short novel, and a novella.  All done while preparing a novel for publication, and working a normal job, and blogging five hundred plus words every day.  Just on the four stories, that’s 240,000 words–or almost a quarter of a million as I like to call it.  Throw in the two hundred thousand or more words I wrote for the blog this year, and we’re looking at something like 450,000 written words for 2013.

Yeah, not a bad take.  I shouldn’t get down on myself.

The plan now is to finished the current story, and I think that’s going to happen end of January, beginning of February.  After that . . .

Well, I have ideas.  I just need to figure out what to do.

Education of a Chemical Kind

Here we are, early morning, and it’s time to write.  I wrote last night–worked my way through writing–and I am sitting close to the ninety thousand mark I thought I’d make before the end of the year.

Last night was research night.  I had a few things the my current instructor, Erywin, needed to know in order to say them to someone in her class who was going to ask her–as eleven year olds often do–a stupid question.  What was I looking for?  Chemical processes.  What was the question?  Here, take a look:

 

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

Erywin turned her back on the front row. “Do you kiddies have any questions for me?” There was one she expected to occur sometime today, and she felt it we best to get it out of the way as quickly as possible—

Franky Smith, the Canadian student now in Ceridwen, won the prize for asking the Question of the Morning. “Can you cook meth?”

Thank you.” Erywin turned around and slowly clapped her hands. “Thank you Vince Gilligan for turning every middle and high school chemistry instructor into a possible narcotics manufacture and drug lord.” She eyed Franky, who was sitting far back in the fourth row. “Yes, I can cook meth. I can do more than cook it, however, because I am a chemist, which means I know how to anticipate variations in the process and make modifications where necessary.”

Franky and several other students were smiling, almost laughing about her response. Erywin supposed they were amused believing that she was telling them what they wanted to hear, rather than actually knowing anything about making drugs. She wasn’t one to walk away quietly whenever anyone questioned her competence . . .

“What would you prefer, Mr . . .” She held out her right hand and her tablet floated off her desk and over to her. “Smith. Do you believe I should use the Nagai Nagayoshi method and employ pseudoephedrine as a precursor and reduce with hydroiodic acid? Shaking and baking may be a preferred method where you live in the arse-end of Deer Bollocks, Canada, but I’m not a small-time operator looking for quick, cheep stimulation, so I need a better process.

“Since I’m not in the habit of frequenting your Wal Marts—or as I call them, ‘Tesco for the Chavkind’—to make off with as much over-the-counter medication to extract pseudoephedrine as I can carry, I’ll go with reductive amination using phenylacetone and methylamine: Akira Ogata developed it in 1919, and why try to improve on something that works so well?

“However, methylamine is difficult to procure: here it’s on the DEA watch list. With enough work, however, kiloliters can be had. P2P, though—oh, sorry: I mean phenylacetone—is extremely difficult to come by as it’s a Schedule II chemical in this country, so I’ll need to synthesize the element through the dehydrocarboxylation of phenylacetic acid and acetic acid.” She stared hard at Franky, who now looked as if he wanted to hide. “Would you like to hear how one shouldn’t use platinum dioxide reduction because PtO2 is a pyrophoric and will blow up if you’re ignorant enough to expose it to open air? Hum?”

The room was completely silent, and a few appeared a bit uncomfortable listening to Professor Sladen easily rattle off chemicals and the various processes. But she was far finished, and this time she addressed the entire class. “What I’m leaving out here is the magic, which could be used at just about any step. For example, I could have used magic when synthesizing P2P from PPA. Magic would change to properties of PtO2 so that won’t ignite and burn your bloody face off. I could use magic to transmute methanol—CH3OH—into methylamine—CH3NH2—so I don’t have to go through the trouble of creating a dehydrocarboxylation reaction with phenylacetic acid, since that’s also on the DEA watch list now.

“And then there are the special properties that come with the manufacturing of any controlled substance. I can make it one hundred percent pure. Yes, there are chemists who say that’s impossible: magic tells me otherwise. I can remove all addictive properties, both physical and psychological, from the end product—while on the other hand I could add any number of properties that could make a user go days without feeling hungry or needing sleep. Or, I could make a user completely susceptible to ordinary suggestions, like ‘buy more meth’, or eat only at a particular restaurant chain . . . or that they should wait forty-eight hours and then kill everyone close to them before killing themselves.”

Erywin floated the tablet back to her desk. “This is why The Foundation keeps a close eye on those who know the things I know. The Foundation knows that a chemist such as myself could do irreparable damage to a Normal population—not just dozens of people, but thousands of them, maybe tens of thousands of them.” She smirked while her eyes pinned several students in their seats. “I know The Foundation watches me.”

She turned her back on the class and motioned towards the white boards. “It’s my hope that The Foundation will watch you as well some day, so . . .” Words and symbols began to appear on the boards. “Lets begin by seeing what you can cook . . .”

 

Trust me:  they aren’t going to cook meth.  It’ll be something far more fun.

I’m not one of those people who believes I’m going to be monitored now by the shadow law enforcement people out there because I did my research into how to make methamphetamine–and all of the above is legitimate information.  (Just for your information:  Nagai Nagayoshi method, named after the person who discovered methamphetamines, was developed in 1893.)  I also needed to look up certain other bits of information pertaining to chemical processing, so I was still digging up information while I was writing along.  It was fun, it was distracting–

It was all in a night’s work.

I have so much to do in the next couple of days, but I will hit my ninety thousand mark.  That means I should make one hundred and twenty by the end of January, and I hope by that point I’ll be finished with this “First Episode” of the First Book.  Then it’s into February and . . . what?  What happens then?

For once I’m not sure.

But I do know writing will likely be involved.

 

Scientifically Magical

It’s a rainy day here in The Burg, much as it was last week at this time.  The year is winding down; there isn’t much left to this 2013.  That’s fine by me:  while it’s not been the worst of years, I need to see some better times in ’14.  We all need a little happiness, and I could use some right about now.

Chapter Eight is underway.  I’m almost nine hundred words into it, and it’s time for chemistry–ah, excuse me:  Formulistic Magic.  That’s what it is called, and don’t call it that P Word, or . . . well, you’ll see.  Because this is Erywin’s class, and she is not a woman to be messed with:

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

It was after performing at the Ostara Talent Celebration, while she was a D Level, that a student from Ceridwen told Erywin Sladen that she seemed most at easy when she was on a stage. Erywin didn’t argue: she loved being up in front of everyone performing. She loved singing. Most of all, she loved showing those students who’d spent so much time pissing on her, trying to bring her down, simply because they felt she was “wrong”, that she didn’t give a solid shit about their opinions, and she was the dog’s bollocks when it came to what she knew.

Those days were well behind her now. Most of the students who’d worked hard to make her life hell went off to do little jobs for The Foundation. Some had gotten married and had children, and some of those children came back to Salem. All of those children ended up in her class—

Most of them made even it through every level of her class with passing proficiencies.

Most.

Not many instructors think of themselves as the dog’s bullocks, which is to say she’s the best at what she does.  That’s how she is:  sometimes a little bit crude and maybe even rude.  And when she says students spent time pissing on her . . . well, you’ll have to wait for her back story.  Yes, I know it.  No, I won’t tell you.  Wait for the book in which it comes out.

What are the kids doing in this class?  Erywin has a bit of an explanation:

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

 “There are two great constants throughout the known universe: physics and chemistry.” Erywin walked slowly across the front of the room as she spoke in her clipped English accent, her long cardigan covering her plum silk blouse and ending just below the hemline of her thigh-length skirt. “Physics defines how the universe works: chemistry defines how it lives.” She turned slowly towards the front row. “Everything that was used to create this world, everything that makes it habitable—everything that defines you as a biological organism, was brought about by chemical reactions.

“Elements are brought together in reactions, and those reactions are the basis of reality. Chemistry is reality. When we use formulas to create existing substances, we are conforming to an existing reality. When we develop new formulas to create substances that have never been seen before, we are building a new reality.

“And when we apply magic to these formulas, we are reworking reality and bending in into whatever form we want.”

Erywin slowly headed down one of the aisles between the work tables. “Formulistic Magic is just that: the creation of formulas, improved by the introduction of magic. Of all the courses you’ll encounter during this level, this has the greatest level of ‘mad science’ that you’ll encounter. Yes, you’re taking Introduction to Astronomy, but any wild science you encounter is passive—this is active. This is applied.” She stopped and gazed upon the faces staring back at her. “Everything here is of your own doing.”

She walked behind the last of the student and began heading back to the front of the room. “You will create products that will give you vitality or tear you down. You will create products that can heal or harm. You will create products that will dissolve most anything that’s ever been made, or bind them together so they are almost impossible to separate.” Erywin stopped and slowly turned, taking in her class. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

One of the biggest difficulties I had last night was trying to get her speech to sound normal.  It sits in your head, nice and neat, and you think it’s going to flow right out of your fingers and onto the page.  You believe there’ll not be any problems.

You’ll find that you’re wrong.

It seemed as if I had to fight the words out once again.  The funny thing is my fingers seem to want to do something else when I’m figuring out what I’m going to say.  I want one thing, they try typing something else.  I think that actually says more about my typing skills, which seem to grow suckier by the day the more I use them rather than the other way around.  There are times when it drives me mental, but I survive.  At least I’m not doing this on paper with a typewriter, ’cause I’d end up broke buying Whiteout.

There’s something else you need to know about Erywin–remember I said never use “the P Word” around her?  Yeah . . . one of the students didn’t get that memo:

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

One of the girls spoke. “What is all this equipment for?”

“Those are the tools of this trade.” Erywin moved closer to the center work table in first row. “Mortars and pestles, test tubes, burners, flasks, beakers, condensers, adapters . . . you’ll be shown how it works and how to use it all.” She smiled. “By the end of this course you’ll have developed a complete understanding of how to mix any formula, and how your equipment will assist you to create your product.”

The girl didn’t seem that convinced, but she said nothing. Another girl, however, had questions. “So when we’re making these potions—”

No.” Erywin slapped the work table surface: the sound was loud and sharp, making some students jump. “This is not a potions class. We don’t make potions here. We are not mixing bloody eye of newt or unicorn hairs, and you’ll not find powered dragon bone in anything we’ll create. While there are some old-school witches who still call what they do ‘potion making’, I’m not one of them.” A disgusted look crossed her face. “Potion making is bullshit fantasy—” She extended her arms, her hands held palm up. “Look around: do you see any fucking cauldrons? No.  What we are doing here is scientific magic.”

Did I mention Erywin sometimes swears in class?  Yeah, she does that.  Think less kindly Professor McGonagall and more acerbic Patsy Stone–in fact, I envisioned Erywin as looking a bit like Joanna Lumley in her late thirties, early forties.   She has a bit of an edge to her, but believe me, she’s a nice person.

I’d never lie about that.

Almost never.

Soufflé Girl Under the Stars

It’s taken me a bit to get going this morning, but going I am.  It’s a beautiful morning in The Burg, and I wish I’d brought my mobile with me so I could have snapped a quick picture before entering the Panera.  That’s for another time, then, because I know there will be many more lovely sunrises to come, and I’ll enjoy them all.

At the moment I’m finishing my soufflé, having my coffee, and listening to Genesis performing a show from 1977.  It’s a tomato and feta cheese soufflé, one of my favorites, which sort of makes me Soufflé Girl, though I have none of the murderous Dalek inclinations my namesake had.  But I’m a bit impossible, so it’s very likely that she’s my kin somewhere in time and space.  Everyone needs a kin, you know?  That way they are never alone.

There were so many things going on last night.  While I’m normally consumed by distractions, during Writing Time I was working on finishing Chapter Seven, I was chatting with someone new online last night, and the Breaking Bad marathon was playing on the TV a couple of meters away.  I wrote about seven hundred and fifty words, managed to have a great conversation, and caught the Season Two episodes Seven-Thirty-Seven and Down, completing my viewing of the four episodes that foreshadow the major event taking place at the very end of that season.  (The other two episodes were Over and ABQ.)

What was written?  Take a gander for yourself, and remember it’s all first draft, so you’re seeing it as I wrote it:

 

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

Back inside the dome Harpreet let them to cabinets in the back. She opened a door and revealed dozens of large parchments suspended on hangers. “These are the school’s star charts.” She selected one and removed the hanger from its support, then carried to a large work table. “The school’s first astronomer was Astria Blomqvist—

“Try to imagine the time. It was the end of the Seventieth Century. The heliocentric model had been in place for about one hundred and fifty years. Astria was a pagan, a witch, and a lover of the skies. When she came here and helped found the school and her coven, and she decided to make it her mission to transfer her love of the sky to the girls living here.

“She not only taught spells and cooking and botany, but she also brought students to the Astria Portal twice a week to talk about the stars, about the planets, about what we knew then. She worked hard to extend that knowledge—hence these . . .”

She waved her hand over the chart on the work table. “Astria worked on these for decades. She started on these in the 1690’s, and it took her twenty years to finish. She drew the sky when she was here, and during the summer she’d travel to other parts of the world—the equator, the southern hemisphere—to see and draw the sky there.

“And when the next school year started, she’d bring her charts to class and have the students use them, to see the starts as she saw them. And when she died . . .” She turned to the cabinet behind her. “She left them to the school, for future generations to use.”

Harpreet turned to Annie and Kerry. “I am of Cernunnos, just as you are. It is the coven founded by Astria Blomqvist, so we feel her whenever we enter the tower. This charts . . .” She lightly ran her fingers over the one on the table. “This is your legacy.”

 

So Tuesday is over, and it’s time for Wednesday–no, not the instructor, the actual day–and that means Formulistic Magic, and that means it’s Erywin’s time to shine.  Though “shine” probably isn’t the proper word for what she does–“Keep everyone on their toes with the impending possibility of something insane happening” is probably a far better description.  Her’s will be a fairly meaty chapter, and you’re going to see that dropping an F Bomb in front of the children isn’t that big of a deal for her.

Yeah, she’d my kind of woman.

Under the Milky Way

Yes, The Church will likely get upset with me if they know I just ripped off the title of one of their songs, but I’m willing to take that chance.  Besides, it’s a great song with some fantastic ebow playing:  one should give it a listen, eh?

I didn’t write a lot last night:  close to seven hundred words.  But it was enough.  My word count for the story, as it sits right now, is 86,666.  Ooooooh, my story is going to burn in Hell, I suppose.  Ah, well:  it’ll be entertaining to some.  But this makes it the second longest thing I’ve ever written, and I’m still going.

In fact, here is all the wordy blather in it’s unedited, first draft glory, so if you find some errors, don’t be too shocked.

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

The red lights flashed twice as the platform locked into place. Harpreet stepped away from the students and walked towards the opening in the dome. “We have arrived.” She stepped onto the tower’s outer ledge. “Come, please—” She motioned for the children to join her. “Look upon the night sky with me.”

Several of the students mumbled amongst themselves as they stepped outside onto the broad, circular ledge. Some looked up into the sky; others took a moment to look around at the campus to the south and to the world beyond the school walls to the north and east. It was easy to see the few homes north of the wall, Rockport to the east and southeast, and the small state park situated in the northeast corner of Cape Ann. Since arriving the only parts of the Normal world—as they were coming to call it—were spied either from the clock tower—which few had climbed—or from the top of the outer wall, which many students—Annie and Kerry among them—had walked.

From a mile away The Pentagram and the Great Hall didn’t look as large, yet still looked impressive. Up here he saw, for the first time, just how large the core of the school was, and how far apart everything was. From the ground, next to everything, everything seemed enormous, but up here, one was able to get a true sense of scale.

“Kerry.” Annie tapped him on the arm. “Look how clear the sky is tonight.”

Kerry finally looked up and took in the sky. When living in California it was impossible to see the sky, even on a clear night, without some light pollution; it Cardiff one never saw the stars unless the entire city was blacked out.

Here the sky was a deep black, as if they were looking straight into outer space without any light spoiling the view, and the stars were blazing bright, as he’d imagined they would appear if you were standing in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle of the ocean. But it shouldn’t bee this way. Salem was twenty kilometers away, and Boston another ten kilometers beyond there. The sky should have been washed out to the south and east, and the sky to the north should have suffered from the lights of communities situated along the north coast to New Hampshire. It wasn’t: it was as black and clear as the sky to the east and south.

He turned to Annie. “There’s no light pollution.”

She didn’t need to ask what he meant, as living in Europe she was aware of how difficult it was to see the stars at night depending upon where you lived. Even at home in the Bulgarian mountains the lights of Pamporovo lent a slight, bright fog to the otherwise dark skies. “I see that. It’s so . . .”

“Dark.”

“And bright.”

The Japanese boy, Koyanagi Jiro, noticed the same thing. “How is the sky so dark? There isn’t any light from the cities.”

Harpreet nodded towards the sky, a playful smile growing upon her face. “We filter out the ambient light surrounding us using a combination of magic and technology. What that leaves is a view of the sky as it was when the school was built and our first astronomer taught her first classes.” She headed back toward the dome opening. “Come inside: there is something I want to show you.”

 

Astronomy class has begun.  I’ll get over eight-seven thousand words tonight, and maybe even eighty-eight if I’m not too distracted by the Breaking Bad marathon.  I’ll reach ninety thousand easy before the end of the year.

Things are actually pretty good.

 

The Forgotten Light

Strange morning today, this Boxing Day that we don’t celebrate in the U.S..  There’s snow coming down, but it’s not going to stick.  It’s also very light, so it’ll be more of an annoyance than anything else.  I’ll pretty much be one of the only people in the IT department today, and it’ll be another light day at work.  All in all, it’s one of those days where I should be home working on something else besides work.

Can’t have everything, I suppose.

I didn’t write as much as I thought.  I got to talking to people on line yesterday, which helped keep me from slipping off into the darkness.  Even still, I managed over eight hundred words, which got my total up over eighty-five thousand, which means that sometime tonight I’ll reach the pinnacle of second biggest novel.  Which may or may not mean anything, but still gives me something to shoot for.

Still, it was a tough write.  Things I wanted to say weren’t there.  I was suppose to say something, but what I wanted to say seemed to be locked up inside my head and fighting to come out.  So it was writing in little spurts all the time, here and there, word by word until I had what I wanted.

And even then . . .

I finally got to bed about eleven, and as I was crawling under the sheets I started thinking about the scenes I’d just created, and no sooner was my head against the pillow that I thought, “I forgot the red lights.”

Allow me to explain:

The scene I was working on had to do with my kids getting to their night class at the observatory.  I’ve already posted part of that, but if you pay close attention I’ve never mentioned the lighting.  This is something important, because when you’re working at night like this, the lighting should be red, to help preserve your night vision.  Since it was dark outside when they arrived, there should have been a mention, probably in the first paragraph when they entered the observatory tower, I should have mentioned the red lights being on.  In fact, they should have seen that before they entered the tower:  there should have been a red light hanging outside, illuminated to indicate that the lights inside were red as well.

Tonight, then, I need to go back and rewrite something at the beginning before I continue on with the rest of the scene.  Not a big deal:  in fact, I’ll probably think about what I’m going to write throughout the day, and pen that sucker up before I get on to writing the good stuff.

I should have remembered it, because all the time I was thinking of this scene I had red light in mind.  Blame it on distractions.  Blame it on whatever I like.  At least I caught it before it got away from me.

This is how I go at times, forgetting little details and then remembering them at the craziest times.

Who knows what I’ll forget today.

 

The Light at the Bottom of the Observatory Well

Here we are, holiday time, the year almost over, and here I am thinking about what to eat as I prepare for the Doctor Who Christmas special, which I know will probably rip my hearts to shreds.  Yesterday there was talk among a few people about the South Yorkshire “Man of Steel” sculpture getting a £1 million pledge for it’s construction along the M1, and it was proposed that we should instead build a thirty meter sculpture of Brian Blessed dressed as Prince Vultan screaming out lines from Flash Gordon as only Brian could, then imagining people on the motorway freaking out as they hear things like, “Gordon’s alive?” and “Flying blind on a rocket cycle?”, as well as, “Ah, well . . . who wants to live forever?” which is exactly what you want to hear as you’re roaring down the expressway.

Far better expenditure of £1 million if you ask me.

The novel progressed last night.  It headed over the eight-five thousand word mark, which means it’s close to becoming my second longest novel.  Her Demonic Majesty ended up with a final count of eighty-five thousand three hundred fifty words, and as of right now I’m one thousand, one hundred and three words away from beating that count.  I could do it today, because as I’m on my own, what else am I gonna do?

Last night Annie and Kerry made Observatorytheir way to their next class, which happens to be Astronomy at the Observatory.  Where else would it be held?  One of the things I also did last night was label my map so I won’t get confused, and as you can see I have my Observatory marked.  What was it like there?  Here was what I wrote last night for that section of the novel, again without edits:

 

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

It was completely dark by the time Annie and Kerry reached the Observatory. The sixty-five meter tower was the second tallest structure on the Salem campus behind the eighty meter clock tower, though the structure was far newer: this was the fourth school observatory, completed in 1985, and remodeled three times since.

They entered the building at ground level and were immediately surprised by what they found. Annie’s parents never told her about the new tower, and Kerry hadn’t read up on the building, so both expected to enter and find a long flight of stairs awaiting. Instead they found a large, round metal platform with a huge Cassegrain-style telescope located in the middle of the tower, a few instrument stations set up around the outer edge of the platform, and several cabinets around the area behind the telescope and a few work tables on each side. A few students were already here, though estimating the size of the crowd, Kerry knew not everyone was yet here.

As they walked cross a small gangway needed to reach the platform Kerry looked up. The tower was hollow, but he saw at maybe ten, maybe a dozen vertical rails rising up into the shadows above. He noticed the railing around the edge of the huge base and it clicked to him why the telescope was here, and how they were going to get into position for viewing today.

A woman with a dark brown complexion stepped away from a panel at the base of the telescope as Annie and Kerry stepped onto the platform. “Ah, children. So very good to see you.” Her accent was sounded somewhat Asian Indian to Kerry, who had come to know a few Indians while living in San Fransisco and Cardiff. “I am Professor Bashagwani, but you may call me Harpreet if you so wish.” She brushed back some of the long back hair that had gotten into her face. “Your names, please?”

“Annie Kirilova.”

“Kerry Malibey.”

Hapreet waved her right hand in the air and a holographic display appeared before her. She scrolled through a list of names until she found theirs. “Ah, yes: my two Cernunnos students.” She closed the fingers of her right hand and the display vanished. “I’m so glad to meet you. Come join your classmates while we wait for the rest of the students.” She turned her back on them and returned to her station.

The walked closer to the students, but Annie saw they were still all in their little groups from their own areas. We haven’t become a class yet; we’re still just people from different areas. She wondered how long it would take before they all saw each other as a group and not a collection of people from around the world.

 

There you are.  Class is about to start, and I someone is going to come up and talk to my kids.  Get ready, Annie:  you’re going to feel a tug on your heart.

Why would she?  Because before they arrived at the Astria PortalObservatory, they stopped at Astria Portal, situated in the old North Wall, and introduced Kerry to an “old family tradition”–said tradition being, as they say in Cardiff, snogging.  Sure, they’re only eleven, but if you don’t think some eleven year olds know a little about snogging these days, you’re not paying attention.

Tonight there will be star gazing and some hot beverage.

And probably a bit of crying.  But that’s another story.

 

Quiet Twilight, Unquite Night

Yesterday wasn’t my best day ever.  It happens.  Sometimes you simply aren’t on your game and everything feels like it’s falling apart, and about all you can do is hang on and ride everything out.  Sort of like whale riding, only without the whale.

But You still get through.  I took a nap–something I never do these days–then chatted with a few people.  I didn’t get to writing until about eight-thirty, which is late for me, and only wrote for about an hour.  The feeling wasn’t there, but I could sense what I wanted to write, so I took my time an worked it down to the paper.

As a treat, here is everything I wrote last night, all six hundred and fifty-five words without an edit.  Enjoy.

 

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

Dinner was an early affair for Annie and Kerry. After Basic Spell Casting came Basic Science, running from thirteen to fifteen, taught by Polly Grünbach, a young woman from Lithuania with a long braid of black hair cascading down her back. When the class was over they had the afternoon off, so they returned to the tower to relax and nap before eating.

They napped because there was an evening class: Astronomy, starting at twenty-one thirty and running until half-past midnight. The classes were held at the Observatory, which sat in the middle of the far-northern area of the campus, far away from all the other building. As it was placed so far from The Pentagram, it made for the longest hike to any classroom: a kilometer and a half straight line, which translated to almost seventeen hundred meters overland or through the tunnel system. That meant walking a mile there and back, and not getting into bed until nearly one in the morning—something neither Annie or Kerry were thrilled to do, but saw no other way out of the predicament.

It was early, however: class wouldn’t start for another ninety minutes. Kerry could have used the time resting, but Annie wanted to go out and explore. They’d covered most of the southern part of the campus, and also walked along the walls, but they’d not ventured north of the Witch House yet. The buildings here weren’t clustered together: there was plenty of wooded land between each classroom, and one was expected to cover six or seven hundred meters to get from one location to another.

They walked the main tunnel from the Arts and History Building towards Memory’s End. Kerry found a surface entrance—more of a sunken tower encasing a spiral staircase—that brought them out a few dozen meters from Memroy’s End. From there they began following the path to the Witch House, then after ten meters turned left onto a not-well defined path that wasn’t in any way marked.

Kerry asked Annie why she wanted to go this way, but her only reply was that she wanted to “see something.” He could have checked the map on his tablet—he found he could get excellent wifi everywhere, even in the tunnels—but every time he hauled out his computer while they were walking, Annie would give him . . . It wasn’t a dirty look but more like a slight irritation, as if she couldn’t believe he was going to hop on-line to look up something while they were out together. He’d quickly learned over the weekend there were times he could bring out the computer, and times he should leave it in his backpack.

This was one of the later times.

It was getting dusky, and the sky over head and to the east was a deep purple. It was just a little after nineteen, and actual sunset would happen in about ten minutes. Kerry had read yesterday that the pathways were illuminated in “unobtrusive fashion,” which he took to mean the lighting was probably just enough to keep someone from wandering off a path and getting lost in the woods. Neither of them had been out past the Pentagram after dark, so wandering to the Observatory along a dark path was going to be an unusual experience.

Annie said nothing for most of the walk: she held Kerry’s hand and sauntered along the path, absorbed in the gathering gloom. She’d been in a good mood after Basic Spells, feeling better about having performed magic, and having seen Lisa get her comeuppance. She’d also expressed pleasure that Kerry had managed the same, which he still found amazing. He told her after Science that he’d felt something tickling the back of his neck, just the way Professor Douglas described it might feel. When that happened he just though of the power going into his image and—pow. Magic.

Every writer has moments when they think they suck.  George R. R. Martin has said he’ll look at what he’s written and thing, “How the hell did you ever become a writer?  This is crap!”  He probably thinks that after he kills off a dozen characters in a tragic orgy held in a dragon’s nest, but that’s another story.

I’ve become used to having ups and downs when I write.  There are many times when I think I should just give up and call it a day, because nothing is happening with what I’m doing.  Then I read what I’ve posted above and think, “Yeah . . . it’s not that bad,” and I keep going.  There are even moments when I think I’ve written some great stuff.

Oh, and my dreams last night–screwed up.  One of them had me on a train with a woman I know, going off to rescue someone.  I think her kids.  I’m not sure.  All I know is there were a lot of nervous people around, and I was like, “Yeah, sweat it out, I got this covered.”

Now to be that cool in real life.

The Winter of Discontent

Yesterday something popped up on my blog–not my blog, actually, but more a message from WordPress.  It was, “Congratulations!  You registered with us five years ago today.”

I had to think about that, because I was damned if I could remember just when I’d signed up and established my presence here.  I remember when I started blogging–those first, abortive attempts in April of 2011 that I didn’t take very seriously, like damn near everything else in my life back that.  But I hadn’t remembered when I signed up for this space, I had to think . . .

Yeah, that would be right before Christmas 2008, not long after being laid off from a job I’d held for thirteen years.  A job that had been going downhill fast at the point, but because the economy was free falling faster than Gypsy Danger from fifty thousand feet, there weren’t a lot of options when it came to better employment.  So when the end came I took my severance with a smile and more or less told them I was happy to be leaving their shit stain of a job behind.

Sure, I wouldn’t work again for a little over three years, but you have to take the bad with the good.

Why did I sign up?  I don’t remember the exact reasons.  I believed, most likely, that I had something to say, and that I was going to try this fangled thing the kids called “blogging”, ’cause I can write and people are gonna want to hear what I have to say.  Yeah, December 2008.  I had me a blogging area.  I wouldn’t start writing until about . . . let me see . . . yeah, about two and a half years later.

That was probably a good thing, because everything coming out of my mouth back then was filled with remorse.  I was still in therapy, and would remain so through 2009–that was when my insurance ran out and I couldn’t afford to not only see my counselor any more, but I couldn’t afford the medication I was taking.  I will tell you right now, in case anyone is wondering:  mental health coverage is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes the only thing preventing you from jumping off a building is a twenty dollar co-pay on your meds, and if you have that in your life, you should consider yourself lucky.

Why all the gloomy talk?  For one, I had another strange dream–yeah, that’s been happening for some reasons.  I can’t quite put my finger on what happened, but think of it as Glee with time travel.  Like I said, strange.  I have no idea what it meant, but it was there.  The one thing I do remember is that I was told, quite a lot actually, that I needed to get better.  And I spent a large part of the dream alone.

I’ve also thought, for a few weeks now, that my depression has come back.  I’d distracted a lot these days.  I look for things to break up the monotony, and it’s not always there.  When I’m writing, at times it feels like I yank the words out onto the page, that I have trouble typing them, like I don’t want to see them, even though I do.

When I’m not at work I spend all my time alone.  It’s one of the reasons I try to eat out on the weekends, because I do get a bit of peace from being out among the people–even if the majority of them look like scary-ass crackers, like the people I saw yesterday.  You pay your money and you take the ride, right?

Five years registered, half of that writing.

Where am I going to be in five years?

Maybe a time traveling Glee knows.

 

The Magic Box

I came out of a bad dream this morning.  I was back at my last job, which started about a year ago at this time, I could hear the person I reported to at that position talking to another programmer about how a certain process wasn’t mapped out, and “they”–as in the company “they”–needed to get on this right away, because time is money, you know?  My dream self knew this was bullshit,  because I’d mapped said process out and I had the note to prove it.  So I spent a considerable amount of time tracking this fool down to show him that I had already done the work, and the program with whom he’d conferred was telling him lies if he said there wasn’t anything down on paper.

The comeback from this conversation is that while I’d done this, true, it wasn’t what he wanted, which didn’t seem surprising, because this asshole was the sort of person who’d tell you what he wanted, then change what he wanted based upon–I don’t know, maybe the wind had changed direction.  When I woke up I was pissed, because this dream summed up my time at that last position:  people would tell me what they wanted, they’d wait for me to do it, then tell me that wasn’t what they wanted, this was what they wanted and why couldn’t I see that?

The only good thing to come out of that dream was when I went through my notes I discovered a ton of outlines I’d made for stories.  I felt rather proud about that part.  The rest, though, I could have taken a flame thrower to and laughed the entire time.

Working there was like being in a box, and no one likes being inside a box, except maybe a cat:  they love boxes.  Creative people want out of boxes:  they want to move, to grow, to expand their horizons.  They become unhappy if they are kept confined and unable to express themselves.  And most of all, they want a certain modicum of success.  What is the point of doing all this if there isn’t some kind of payoff in the end?  If nothing else, give us a “Well done” pat on the back when it’s all over.

You know who else is kind of in a box?  The kids in my story!  See how I did that?  Smooth, huh?

It’s magical lab time, and all the students in my spells class have a sealed box before them with an object inside.  I’ll let Miss Wednesday explain:

 

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

Once everyone was inside and seated Wednesday began speaking. “What we are going to do today is a simply exercise that will allow you to work your will. You’ll see that each of you has a small box with a object inside. The boxes are locked onto the table surface so they can’t move, and they can’t be opened. The tables have also been calibrated so they are level. The object inside cannot roll on its own, so there is no fear that it’ll move on its own.

“What you have to do is simple: you will use magic to move it from one end of the box to the other. You will visualize the object moving, you will pull out energy to power you spell, and you will combine the two with your will to complete the task.” Wednesday giggled. “Yeah, I know: I make it sound easy. So let me break it down for you.

“The visualization part is easy. I can bet that every one of you can imagine the thing inside your box moving from one side to the other. You can imagine that over and over. Simple, yeah?

“Pulling the energy in from mysticspace—that’s a little trickier. We know you can do it, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Some of you have done something that made The Foundation believe you have it in you to be a will worker. The thing is, you likely have no idea what it is you did, so you’re completely unaware of how to do it again.

“Mysticspace . . .” Wednesday spread here arms wide and slowly turn. “It’s all around us. It’s everywhere. You don’t know it, but you’re accessing it right now, because it partially powers your aura. But that’s something even Normals do, so it’s not really magic; real magic would be controlling your aura.

“To pull in that energy—you can feel yourself doing it.” She paused for a moment, thinking about when she performed her first spells. “It’s like you’re reaching into a dark space where you can’t see what you’re looking for, but you can feel everything. Getting a grip on mysticspace makes your fingertips tingle and the hair on the back of your neck stand up for a bit. You’ll actually know you have it, because it’ll feel solid, it’ll feel like a tangible object.

“Then come the combining of your visions with the energy you’ve tapped—that is the tricky part. You’re basically trying to bring together the right amount of power with the correct visualization—which is sort of like trying to make a cake for the first time without knowing how much of each ingredient you should us. Sometimes you’ll use too little energy and nothing happens, other times you’ll use too much and blow everything to hell.” Wednesday allowed the mummer to die down before going on. “And then there’s time times when you just don’t quite have a good image in your mind . . .

“And then there’s the cases where you’re just not able to use your willpower to bend ol’ reality the way you’d like. Some people have the ability to visualize and tap into the power, but they lack the will necessary to slap reality around—instead, it’s the one doing the slapping. When you get Blowback, you’ll know: it hurts. Trust me—” She nodded with extreme seriousness. “I know.”

Wednesday waved her right hand in the air and all three video monitors came on. “I’m tracking each student, and the boxes are monitors to see how well you do. Right now you’re all in the red because your object hasn’t moved. The boxes are thirty centimeters long—that’s about a foot for you Americans still not hip to metric—” Lisa huffed as this was something that didn’t bother her in the least, while Emmalynne appeared embarrassed. “—and the monitoring is divided into thirds, or ten centimeters each.

“If you find it impossible to move your object out of the first third of the box, the monitor under your name up here remains red. If you move it more than ten centimeters but fewer then twenty, then your monitor turns yellow. And should you get it into the final third of the box, you get a green. And should you smack the object against the far end—” Wednesday pointed at one of the monitors and a random name began to flash. “Then we see your name in lights and you can sit out the rest of the class in the library while enjoying punch and cake—”

Kerry’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Yes, Kerry—” Wednesday winked at him. “The cake is not a lie.” She clapped her hands together. “Okay, lets everyone get relaxed and in the proper frame of mind. Limber up, settle down, and start getting your mojo workin’.” She looked about the room with a smile on her face. “You can start any time from . . . Now.”

Yes, I made a bad Portal joke.  GLaDOS can come after me if she wants.

Almost fifteen hundred words were added to the story, and I’ve up the target goal to ninety thousand words.  When I hit that, it’ll be the largest novel I’ve written since the first I started all those years ago.  I see this scene finishing in another thousand words, and maybe the next will end up about that much as well.  Then a little astronomy and then to the next day, and Formulistic Magic, and a meeting with one half of the most cantankerous couple on the campus.  Really, though, she’s a pussy cat.

Sure, she’s killed a few people, but her partner’s killed a lot more.

Portals to the Lab

It’s a good first day of the winter solstice, though I’ve found my favorite recording of Genesis live from 1976 is missing from YouTube, probably taken down by the Copyright Villains for some reason.  I have found the recording for sale on CD, and I might just have to snag that sucker so I can have something to listen to the next time I’m blasting through a tunnel.  Damn these people for screwing with my enjoyment.  Damn them.

Last night was another light writing night.  I didn’t sleep well the night before, and the day was long and boring.  But I did write, and I finished the scene.  Quite clearly, I showed what happens when you piss off a little witch who exceptionally good at what she does:

 

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

That was when someone commented about how if she’s was so good that she didn’t need a wand, why was she teaching? She located the source—a blond boy whose accent placed him somewhere in Eastern Europe—who had put the question to a brown haired lad on his right. Before she could respond to this inquiry, the other boy—Gavino D’Addario, formerly of Italy and now a member of her old coven, Bloeddewedd—replied sarcastically with the most standard of rejoinders. “You know, those who can do; those who can’t teach.”

Wednesday’s expression never changed, making it difficult to tell if the comment upset her. Seconds later D’Addario’s desk was hanging suspended half way between the floor and ceiling. After a moment of confusion he tried to leap from his chair, but was unable to do so as he was held in place by an invisible force.

Never moving or making gestures, Wednesday looked upon D’Addario’s plight with some amusement. “Lets see if I can make this more interesting . . .” An opening appeared in the floor directly under the boy’s desk: at the same time one appeared directly above him. Whatever kept him suspended released him, and he began falling. He entered the opening below and reappeared, still falling, from the one in the ceiling. He gathered speed as he reentered the opening in the floor and shot out of the one in the ceiling. Again and again he flew by, picking up speed.

Though it seemed longer, D’Addario came to an abrupt halt after a few seconds. Only then did Wednesday approach his desk. “That was a thirty meter fall: it’s amazing how fast you get going when you’re in free-fall. Are you okay?”

The openings above and below him disappeared and his desk settled to the floor in the same position as it had been moments before. “Yes, I’m . . .” He shook his head, dizzy from his sudden sojourn.

Wednesday stepped behind him and placed her fingertips on the back of his head. Moments later she removed her hands and moved to the front of his desk so he could see her. “Now are you better?”

He nodded. “Yes. Thank you, Professor.”

“You’re welcome.” She moved closer to the body and leaned against his desk. “Tomorrow you have Formalistic Magic and Biology and Life Science; that means you’ll meet Erywin and Holoč. Thursday you’ll have Transformation and Sorcery; that means you’ll meet Jessica and Helena.” For the first time since the lecture began her face turned dark and humorless. “And should you say to them what you just said in front of me, then I hope whatever gods you worship are watching over you, ‘cause you’ll need their protection.” Wednesday pushed herself off his desk. “Not that it’ll do you any good . . .”

She looked around the class. Some of the students seemed puzzled; some seemed uncertain. A few even appeared frightened by the demonstration they’d witnessed. Wednesday knew now was the time to set everyone straight before someone with a far more volatile temperament decided to make an example of a student. “Do not believe that I, or any other instructor, is here because we’re unable to make our mark in the real world. We’re here because we’re the best at what we do—the best in our individual fields. We teach with the fervent hope that you’ll not only take our lessons to heart, but that you may end up even better than us.”

She turned slowly, her eyes darting from student to student. “Never make the assumption that any of us are incapable of working on the outside—or, worse yet, that we’re incompetent.” She shook her head. “That would be a grave mistake.”

The smiled returned to her face as quickly as it had vanished. “Okay, enough of the seriousness.” She began walking towards the open door at the back of the room. “Lets hit the lab, kiddies. Time to make some magic.”

 

Yeah, Wednesday, she’s a pisser.  Of course, if that kid knew anything of her history as a student–which I have happened to write–then  he’d know Wends was Chelling before Chell was running around looking for cake.  There’s no need for detention when you can put a misbehaving students into perpetual free-fall for an hour and never need worry if they’re going to go splat against the ground.  Now think about pissing off the Mistresses of Transformation and Sorcery and you’ll probably imagine a well-behaved student population–

Or not.  After all, they are kids.

The lab scene I have figured out, then it’s a trek to the far north of the campus and some late night viewing, the unveiling of star charts, and the first appearance of Salem’s famous hot chocolate:  it’s so good it’s almost magical.

I only need to get them there.

Wandless Moments

Here it is, a little after six AM, and already I feel tired.  Getting up around four-thirty does that to you.  Don’t ask why I got up that early–my body decided it was time to awake, and so I did.  Considering how tired I was last night, I had hoped to sleep until the alarm went off, but no.  I’m here, up and writing.

Because I was tired last night I had little motivation.  Because I had little motivation, I didn’t write much:  maybe half of what I’ve written the last few night.  Also, my mind was on something else as well, but really:  motivation was a huge factor in not getting things done last night.

However, I did write this:

 

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

A student raised her hand, appearing concerned. “Excuse me, Professor?”

Wednesday checked her tablet to find the name of this particular student. The software they used picked up encoded information from the star on their jacket and sent that to each instructor’s tablet while in class. She saw this was Elisha Tasköprülüzâde, the girl from Turkey “Yes, Elisha?”

Elisha didn’t know how the teacher knew who she was, but that wasn’t important at the moment. “I know this may sound a little strange, but don’t we . . .” She felt a bit embarrassed, but she needed to know. “Why aren’t we using wands?”

Ah, here it comes . . . “Do you think we should use wands?”

“I don’t know.” Elisha was like most everyone here: she knew nothing of magic, and growing up where she did learning about things like magic wasn’t always easy. But everything she’d seen told her one particular thing— “All the stories I’ve seen say witches should have wands. Don’t we get wands?”

Lisa’s friend Anna spoke up for the first time that anyone could remember. “You used a wand, did you not, Professor?” Her eyes were now alive and quizzical, not flat and dead as they had been since arriving last Thursday. “You do have a wand, no?”

“Why, yes, I do. Now where did I put it?” Wednesday crossed her arms and tapped her right foot. “Oh, right. Here—” She snapped her fingers and a wand appeared in her right hand. “This is my wand. You liked it?” She held it up for the whole class to see. “I bought it online three years ago—don’t remember the name of the site, but they had a lot of wands for sale.”

She turned around and set her wand upon her desk. “Wands are foci: they are employed to assist a witch with channeling energy from mysticspace so they can power a spell or enchantment. You’ll see witches use them, but they’ll have trained at other teaching facilities, not here at Salem.” Wednesday almost snorted. “And none of them will have graduated from my class.

“I’ve never used a wand. While they have their place in the magical world, they have no place in this world. I won’t show you how they work, I won’t show you how to do magic with one. As long as you are in this class—or any of my classes—you’ll never hold one, save maybe for a picture, or when you go into Salem on a weekend day pass and you want to fool around with the sightseers. Beyond that, however—” The wand levitated about a quarter of a meter above Wednesday’s desk: she snapped her fingers and it vanished. “No wands. Ever.”

 

Oh, Wends, you dream crushing little bitch.  You just know some kid was sitting in that class imagining that one day they were going to face off against someone, point their wand at them, and scream, “Expelliarmus!”  And here you’re telling them, like a larger version of Edna Mode, “No wands!”  Naturally some kid smarts off about this, and . . . well, tonight he gets shown what you can do without a wand.  Yeah, it’ll be great.

In writing about six hundred and fifty words, I managed to get the word count over eighty thousand.  Only two of my works have ever made it this far, and this story will move beyond number two on the list.  Maybe that will happen this weekend:  we’ll see, as I have a lot of things I need to take care of this next week, and I may actually miss a day of writing.

But one of those things won’t be getting a wand.

‘Cause Wednesday won’t let me.