Half Year Illuminations

It’s the end of June, which means, in some places–like where I work–it’s the end of the fiscal year.  That means everything starts anew tomorrow, 1 July, and we get to go another year–or is it six months?  It’s hard to say, particularly when, like me, you gotta keep track of two different calendars if you wanna stay on your toes.

It’s going to be an interesting day for me today.  Probably not long after this post goes up, I’ll have more views on this blog during the first six months of the year than I had all last year.  This isn’t a big blog like some that one of my friends has, where getting a few thousand hits a day is pretty much the norm.  But she’s in a different business, and she pulls in a far different crowd.  I don’t know what I’d do with that sort of power.  I’d probably need an island somewhere to plot my take over of the world.

But I don’t have an island, so I had to settle for going out to Panera and getting a sandwich and soup, and a couple of drinks, and since I had my trusty computer with me, I decided I better start on Chapter Sixteen.  With the place pretty much empty I started typing along, throwing words together, and before you know it, I had a little over eight hundred words completed.

Amazing what you can do at Panera.

Amazing what you can do at Panera.

In the story there is an actual lab at The Witch House, and The Mistress of All Things Dark was giving the students a small lecture . . .

 

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

“The Aware’s perception of sorcery is that it’s all about destruction and death.” Helena Lovecraft slowly paced across the front of Lab #1, her black eyes darting from one student to another. “You’re cursing items that will harm someone later; you’re using spells to blow shit up; and, of course, you’re tossing out death spells at your enemies, or anyone who’s managed to piss you off and you feel they need a good and permanent lesson.

“The one section of sorcery that most people forget, or just flat out tend to ignore, are those mixtures and spells dedicated to the art of submitting another person to your will.” Helena heard the mummer from the students and knew she had their attention. “Domination of another person was one of the original intents of sorcery, and it was one of the reason a good sorceresses were in high demand, particularly among royalty, or those looking to move into those circles. All it took was a difficult spell—or better yet, a complex mixture.”

 

You gotta love a teacher who’s telling eleven and twelve year old kids about “blowing shit up” and tossing out death spells at people who piss you off.  Just imagine Gilderoy Lockhart saying that line in his voice.  Go on; I dare you.  Helena is not one for shying away from admitting that sorcery is bad, it’s something that was used to control and hurt people.

And she’s gonna show you how to use it.

Of course, some times she gets in trouble . . .

 

“Today were are going to brew—” She heard the loud sigh coming from Erywin, who was here to help monitor the lab. She detested any “old school” nomenclature relating to the creation of magical liquids, and could become fairly overwrought at the utterance of the word “potions”. Helena gave her the side eye before continuing. “We are going to formulate a mixture known as the Draught of Submission. Of all the formulas that fall under the domination/submission of will category, this is the easiest to create. That said, this is not an easy potion—” The moment the word left Helena’s mouth, she knew she’d regret the slip up.

Erywin adjusted the tall witch’s hat she’d worn to class. “Are we taking night classes at Hogwarts once again?”

Helena didn’t bother with the side eye this time and turned to face her long time companion. “Hoatu.” She smiled and wiggled her eyebrows, then addressed the students. “You have to forgive me; I was brought up by a couple of old-school sorceresses who constantly used those terms, and my one and only here becomes highly agitated when she hears the ‘P’ word. So I have to watch my terminology least I find myself locked out of our room in the residence.”

“It’s the Twenty-first Century, my dear.” Erywin touched the bill of her hat and smiled back. “One should adjust with the times.”

“Is that why you’re stereotyping yourself?”

“This?” She pointed to the black hat. “I didn’t want the students to become confused; this way you can tell the witch from the sorceress.”

 

So we have swearing, pronouncements of same-sex love, and a hint that bad things are going to happen in class.

Can’t wait to write the rest of this.

Living in Pond Life

First off, a good Ramadan to all my Muslim readers, and I know I have a few because–well, because.  That’s one of the great things about reaching out around the world:  you touch everyone.  Pretty soon I’m gonna have to keep track of things everywhere, and imagine how busy I’ll get then.

The second bit of good news is Chapter Fifteen is finished.  The last scene waited for me, and after taking a long nap in the afternoon I decided I was going to bring it all to a close, because I got more chapters to write and I need time to write them, I got to work.  It was just a little over twelve hundred words, so no big deal, right?

With all these First Drafts I could run a good race at Daytona.

With all these First Drafts I could run a good race at Daytona.

The idea behind the last scene was getting Kerry set up with the music tutor Professor Ellison promised him all the way back in Chapter Ten.  Kerry gets to the practice room a little early mostly because that’s normal for him, and also . . . well, let’s find out, shall we?

 

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

There were a half dozen keyboards in the room, as well as a couple of drum machines. One of the keyboards was a dedicated electronic piano, but the other five could probably play just about anything once hooked up to the two racks of MIDI controllers in the corner. You’d run out of hands before you’d run out of sounds.

He spun around as the door opened, and gasped when he saw who it was: Nadine from the Advanced Spells class. “Hey, how you doing?” She waved the door shut and tossed her book bag into a corner. “Surprised?”

“Yeah.” Kerry set his backpack down next to her book bag. “How come you didn’t say anything the other night?”

“’Cause I didn’t find out about this until yesterday.” She smoothed down her skirt and tugged at the sleeves of her thermal undershirt. “I knew I was going to get someone to tutor a couple of weeks ago, but Professor Ellison didn’t tell me until after class on Thursday.” She smirked. “I think he was going to give me to someone else, but after you got dumped into The Pond last week, he decided to put us together.”

Kerry could almost hear the capitalization of Nadine’s terms for advancing out of your first level. “Does everyone call everything above A Levels The Pond?”

“Pretty much.” She wiggled the fingers of her right hand and a brush appeared, floating in mid-air. Nadine grabbed it and combed her hair as she spoke. “I’ve heard Sladen and Kinshna call it the same thing, and they’ve both been here like forever—Sladen in particular.” She made the brush vanish from her hand. “That old witch has been her for like thirty years, as a student and teacher.”

“What’s she like as a coven leader?” Kerry was genuinely interested in knowing more about Mórrígan Coven, which seemed to be about the most mysterious of the covens—though Professor Kishna’s Ceridwen Coven ran a close second.

“Pretty good. She’s a good listener, really empathetic, an if you really, really need something, she’ll get it for you.” Nadine stretched as she giggled. “She’ll also tear up your ass if you try to play her. She puts up with no bullshit.”

Kerry wasn’t surprised to hear an upper level student cursing. He swore once in a while, and he’d heard kids a couple of years old that him swearing as much, or more, than some of the adults on the block. “Yeah, I’ve noticed that about her.”

Nadine nodded, then decided it was time to get to work. “Okay, so Ellison tells me you’re considering performing at Ostara. That’s pretty ballsy, dude.”

“Well, I mean . . .” He had just recently gotten used to being complemented by Annie, and now he was getting complemented by not only a girl, but an older one as well. Though, technically, Annie was older as well. “I have a couple of ideas.”

“Let’s hear them.”

 

But you don’t get to hear them–I don’t even mention them in the scene, so neener, neener.  And there’s that Pond again, the one the older kids swim in and that Annie and Kerry got, as Nadine says, dumped into.  And, pretty much for the first time, we get swearing from the students!  Sure, Kerry swore, but he did it in Welsh Cymraeg, so it sounded like he was gargling.  But Nadine–who is thirteen, by the way, and will turn fourteen before the end of the school year–doesn’t mind letting a few things rip.  You’ll for sure see this happen in the next chapter.

The scene ends on the two students coming to an agreement–well, one that’s kind of driven by Nadine:

 

“You’re already thinking about this as a performance.” Nadine smiled as she flipped her hair back behind both ears. “Yeah, you could program a drum machine for the beat. For the guitar you could do that on a keyboard, and probably lay down the bass on a synth pad.” She looked off to one side of the room, her mouth twisted up while she thought. “You’d need help with all that, though. You couldn’t do it by yourself.”

“Yeah, I know.” He tried not to appear dejected and failed miserably. “I guess I should just worry about playing the piano.”

“Nonsense.” Nadine tapped him on the arm. “Let’s see what we can shake out of this, and what we can put together, okay.” She walked over to the computer station next to the MIDI racks. “I’ll print out the sheet music and we can start with that.”

“You can get sheet music?” Kerry was a bit surprised. He’d discovered the hard way how difficult it was to find proper sheet music for popular songs on the Internet.

“Sure can.” She brought up a browser then went to a page that Kerry had never seen before now. She typed in a user name and password, and ended up in some kind of song data base. “We can access just about every song that’s ever been written and recorded during the last four hundred years—including a few that, I guess, you could call demos that never saw the light of day.” Nadine turned and winked. “Welcome to The Foundation, Kerry. This is what The Pond looks like.”

“Yeah, I see.” He thought about something Nadine had just said. “You said ‘we’ just a minute ago—”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Are you thinking of helping me perform?”

She shrugged. “I was thinking about doing a performance, but . . .” She turned to him. “Would you mind? I could run the drum machine, the synth pad, and the back up keys, and you could do piano and vocals. It’d be your lead; I’d be your backup.”

Kerry winced thinking about vocals. “Yeah, that vocals part . . . I’m not that good a singer.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Nadine turned away from the computer to face him. “We got enchantments that’ll auto tune you better than anything Kanye’s ever had. You’ll do great.” Sheets of paper began silently popping out of a nearby printer. “Just as soon as that’s done, we can start work.” She leaned against the computer counter. “You ready?”

 

Listen to the voice of experience, kid.  She’s in the database takin’ the sheet music, and you ain’t gotta worry about paying royalties ’cause technically you’ll never perform the song.  Makes it sound like The Foundation is the ultimate Pirate’s Bay.  Come along Pond; we need to download something.

Next up:  bad ass sorcery at The Witch House–and I do mean that–a little informal PAV racing, and the Halloween Party–or as the kids at school call it, The Samhain Dance.  It’s time for October to heat up and wind down, and lead into the end of the calendar year stuff.  Pretty soon it’ll be the holidays and the start of 2012 at the school–

Man, that doesn’t seem all that long ago.

Be good to us, October; November isn't going to be that nice.  I know, I've read ahead.

Be good to us, October; November isn’t going to be that nice. I know; I’ve read ahead.

Conversing With the Midnight Witch

Sure, it took me three days to write a fourteen hundred word scene, but it’s done, isn’t it?  Well, you didn’t know that until now.  Yeah, it’s done, finished, completely.  I’m one short scene closer to putting Chapter Fifteen to bed, and I should be able to knock that out today.  Right?

No problem.

Look at all the First Drafts just hanging around doing nothing.

Look at all the First Drafts just hanging around doing nothing.

I’ve struggled with energy levels again, and yesterday was no exception.  It was necessary to get into the coffee in the afternoon, and that did wake me up enough to keep me going until close to eleven PM.  Which is what I needed, ’cause it seemed like every time I turned around I was getting distracted by something shiny.

But I was also back in the groove, and once I get those first few hundred awkward words out of the way, I tend to get something going.  And what was going on was Annie and Kerry walking back to their tower with Professor Wednesday following behind under the pretense she was walking back to the Instructor’s Residents, which is on the other side of the Pentagram walls just beyond Cernunnos Coven.

Of course, there was more to Wednesday’s tagging along that just heading off to bed . . .

 

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

As suspected, they were almost to the covered section of the path leading to Cernunnos Coven when Wednesday spoke. “Tell me: what did you think of tonight’s class?”

Annie stopped and faced the instructor. “It wasn’t what I expected.”

“No.” Kerry shook his head as he pulled his hand away from Annie’s. “I didn’t know what to expect, really.”

“What did you think of us, Prof—um, Wednesday?” Annie was extremely curious to find out what sort of ideas the professors got about them and their growing abilities.

Wednesday placed her hands on her hips and began to slowly shift her weight from leg to leg. “About what I expected. You both came in nervous; you were both a little intimidated by the size of the class and the openness; when it was time to get up and do your spells individually in front of everyone, you were both a little rattled—but, you recovered, pulled off the spell, and even managed to have fun when we went to free lab.” She grinned lopsidedly. “I saw you both with big smiles on your faces while you levitated those two plushes between you.”

Kerry grinned remembering what they did. “Yeah, that was fun.”

Annie nodded and grinned at Kerry. “Yes, it was.”

“There you go—” Wednesday patted both kids on their shoulders. “You lived up to my expectations, and it looked like you were having fun. A lot better than the lab in Basic Spells, huh?”

 

Given that Wends was a little nervous about the new witches on the block, it only made sense she wanted to get and give impressions.  But there was more to the conversation–there always is . . .

 

“I figured you would.” Wednesday sighed while looking around as if she expected someone to pop out of the garden at any moment. “How does it feel to be out of the fishbowl?”

The look on Kerry’s face made it appear he hadn’t escaped from anything. “We’re still A Levels, right?”

“Yes, you are.”

“What do you mean, then?”

Wednesday stopped looking around and remained focus on Annie and Kerry while she spoke. “Well, lets point out the obvious: you’re still A Levels; you’ll continued to have an assigned table for dining and meetings; you won’t have upper levels bothering you during the day.

“But that said—you’re different. Like it or not Vicky started you in that direction, and what you did in Ramona’s class last Friday solidified that opinion among your level mates—”

Annie nodded once. “I know we upset a few of the students—”

Wednesday cut off Annie with a sharp laugh. “Upset? Do either of you have any idea what you did last week?”

 

So how upset were those students, Wednesday?  I’m sure you’re gonna tell us–aren’t you?  Of course you are.

 

Kerry shrugged. “I guess—” He turned to Annie.

Annie turned to him, then back to Wednesday. “We thought we may have scared a few students.”

“Not just a few, Annie: about a third of your level.” Wednesday shook her head. “Your zombie kill spree was how I got involved in this, because Ramona wanted to know if I was teaching you guys Air Hammer on the side. And I saw the video of what you did—it was pretty freakin’ incredible: you cut through those homunculi in under a minute. But do you know what the most lasting image of that little feat was?”

“Us standing together?” Having not seen any video of Annie and he taking on the homunculi, Kerry was unsure where Wednesday was going.

“You left out the part where you were hugging and smiling while covered in gore. You should see it; I could get you a screen capture.”

Both kids chuckled, and Annie bounced on her toes. “I’d love to see that.”

“I can do that. I’ll get you a hard copy and send the digital to Kerry.” Wednesday’s chuckle was as vibrant as her smile. “Ramona said four students came to her after class expressing concerns about you two. By Saturday lunch time she’d spoken to six more.” She shook her head. “You didn’t just maybe frighten them: you scared the hell out of them.

“Yesterday I knew someone was going to ask about you, and just as we were starting lab someone did. I told them I’d moved you over to my Advanced Spells class, and that you wouldn’t be back.” She stifled a quick yawn. “A few were puzzled, a few seemed pissed, a few didn’t care—but about a third of the class seemed relived.” She nodded off in the direction of Founder’s Gate and the south Pentagram wall. “And Vicky took you off of Covingtons and put you both on Espinozas after a week . . .” She shook her head. “Nah, you guys aren’t really seen as A Levels by your own class. And you have upper level kids who know about you now—that’s rare.” She reached over, touched their shoulders, and gave them a gentle squeeze. “You guys are the pretty much the first breakouts in thirty years. Welcome to the rest of the pond.”

 

Kill a few zombie homunculus, get yourself covered in what passes for blood and brains, and before you know it you’re scaring the shit out of your fellow classmates.  The upside is you find yourself swimming about in the pond with the rest of the cool fishes, which could be a little intimidating . . .

 

Annie reached over and didn’t just take Kerry’s hand: she wrapped herself around his left arm and hugged her head against his shoulder. “I think I’ll like the pond, Wednesday.”

Kerry nodded as he leaned his head against Annie’s. “Me, too. Um . . . You only want us calling you by your first name—”

“In class and where there’s no one else around.” She patted Kerry on the shoulder. “The rest of the time you gotta do the ‘Professor Douglas’ stuff or Mathilde will get upset.”

“We wouldn’t want that.” Annie sighed quietly with Kerry pressed against her.

“No, you wouldn’t.” Wednesday stretched out her arms. “It’s getting on towards midnight. You better get to bed; you have Jessica first thing in the morning, and you don’t want to nod off during her lab.”

Kerry could only image what Professor Kishna would do if someone fell asleep in her class. “Sounds like a good idea.”

“It is.” She finger waved to them. “See you later.” She teleported away, leaving them alone in the garden.

 

It only makes sense that Annie doesn’t mind being pushed out of the fishbowl:  she’s a pond sort of girl.  Actually she’s a lake house sort of girl, but only a few people at Salem actually know that.  No point in letting the other kids know you had your own little home-away-from-home when you were nine, right?

And with Wednesday gone home to sleep–you gotta love being able to teleport just about anywhere you want to inside the school grounds–that gives the kids a moment of serendipity:

 

Annie could have stood right where she was all night were it not for Transformation Class in the morning. This was the first time in a long time that she felt completely alone with Kerry, without fear of anyone watching or interrupting. If only it could be like this all the time . . . She wondered if he were deep in thought, or if he were enjoying the moment as was she. “You thinking about something?”

“Not really.” He stretched against her, sighing. “It just hit me that we’re . . .”

“Yes?”

“Well—special.” He turned and snuggled tight, hugging her body with his other arm. “I’ve never been special before.”

“You have always been special, Kerry.” She looked into his blazing green eyes. “You’re a special person as a witch, you’re a special student . . . and you are exceptionally special to me.” She kissed his cheek. “Always.”

Kerry stepped back enough that Annie slid off his shoulder. He smiled broadly, still holding her right hand. “I like that.”

“Just like?” She swung their arms back and forth.

“Well . . .” Kerry looked down, his eyes shielded. “Okay, maybe more than that.”

Annie stopped swinging their arms and paused, lost for a second in the moment. “Yes, you do.” She tugged him towards the tower. “Let’s go home.”

The mantra for the young and alone when it’s time to call it a day:  “Let’s go home.”  I actually like that I’ve had Annie say this, now for a second time, because it gives the kids a feeling of residency rather than making them seem like borders at a private school.  Like it or not, Salem is their home; the place they work, eat, sleep–and live.  The tower is their home base, their place to crash and meet and, with their little lab in the sub-levels, make magic to their heart’s desire.

It’s just about everything a couple of eleven and twelve year old witches could ever want.

I hope they don’t mind when the bad comes knocking.

The Visions of the Road Ahead

You know it’s going to be a long day when I’m drinking coffee in the afternoon.

Working on a program and being up about four-thirty AM that morning put a thump on my head, and by one in the afternoon I was getting a cuppa, because I knew I was going to crash and burn if I didn’t.  I made it through the afternoon, and I did so with a plan . . .

When I got home I waited for traffic to die down a little–I usually finish my walk from work by four-thirty PM, so it’s still rush hour out there–then I went out for a little shopping.  I picked up a few things I needed, then headed over back across the river to the West Bank–as I’ve heard people at work call it–and hit my favorite Panera.  I picked up a flatbread, some soup, and a smoothie.  Oh, and I fired up my computer and pulled up something writing related, because if you aren’t writing you’re thinking about something writing related, yeah?

I got out my Idea File.

I said yesterday that I needed to start getting serious not just on writing, but on publishing.  If you’re not publishing, you’re writing for yourself, and while that’s cool, I don’t have a problem with others doing that, it’s not what I’m doing.  As a friend of mine posted on her wall the other day, “Some people dream of success, others make it happen.”  Shit, dudes, that’s more true than you can imagine.  If I wanna get those stories out there, they ain’t gonna publish themselves, are they?  Just like my characters aren’t writing the story when I’m sleeping, otherwise my current novel would be finished . . .

But going through the Idea File was more than just deciding what to publish–I had to do something else . . .

The File in all its messy glory.

The File in all its messy glory.

I added a few statuses to the file.  First, I have “Won’t Do”, and that’s pretty self-explanatory.  There are some stories that, while the ideas are, or I should say were, great, I’m probably never going to write that particular tale.  As I read somewhere the other day, being a writer sometimes means having to let go of the past, because you’re beyond that.  On the Out was an idea I actually worked up through the 1990’s as a trilogy, and I really liked it–I even wrote about fifteen thousand words for it.  But it’s dead.  I’m never going there.  I take that back:  I won’t say never, but I don’t think the story would be that good if I wrote the sucker.

And the other two–simply couldn’t do them.  Lorelei’s Lessons actually goes back to the summer of 2011, and I also wrote a few thousand words of that.  But I didn’t feel what I was producing touched me, and I’ve never went back to it.  Which is probably for the best.

So, what did I plan?  Here it is:

Don't look so shocked there's actually something there!

Don’t look so shocked there’s actually something there!

Sometime after I get Act Two almost finished I’m going to start editing Kolor Ijo, which was my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, and the followup to my story Kuntilanak.  Yes–a sequel!  It’s a good novel, a good story with good characters, taking place in Indonesia, a place few people really know.  My plan is to get it done with editing and a cover and have it ready by the end of the year.  Maybe like by the first of December, so all those people looking to blow money on gifts will send a few bucks my way.

Fantasies in Harmonie will come out in March the following year, and it’ll be under a different name ’cause it’s dirty.  As in like there’s a lot of crazy sexy stuff going on.  I gotta come up with a good, sexy, mistressy sort of author name for this stuff, because I do have a few strange erotica tales floating about.  Just ask the people who’ve read them . . .

And last, Suggestive Amusements.  I wrote that damn thing the summer of 2012, before writing Kolor Ijo, when I was doing time in Indianapolis and I truly thought I was going to lose my mind.  I like the story, I like the characters, and I want it out.  It’s as good a story as anything I’ve written, and a change of pace from the other two on the list.

There’s one other status I put up in my file:  “Next”.  As in, “What should I write after this monster I have now is done?”  I’m going for Northern Lights.  This means I can start thinking about the characters and locations and other important stuff like, you know, plot.  That’s my plan, because I would love to write a horror story about three women roaming around Alaska.  I mean, what could go wrong?

One thing I didn’t put here:  I could always publish the various acts of The Foundation Chronicles–A for Advanced, as I’m going along.  That could always come out when you least expect it . . .

There’s my plan, and I’m doing my damnedest to stick to it.  Time to tell the world–

Cassie’s got some stories to sell.

The Long Evening of Silent Dreams

Yesterday was pretty much one of the best I’ve had in a long time.  Had a good day on the blog, with probably my biggest days ever.  Managed to get through work and was pretty productive in the process.  Had a fairly light dinner which did wake me up in the middle of the night with gas.

I wrote almost nothing, however.

It was really a combination of emotions and my body telling me I needed a break.  The last couple of days, between my novel and blog posts, I’ve written about forty-five hundred words, and when you add that into the normal mix of, you know, working, it adds up to a lot going on, mentally speaking.  I don’t get much of a physical workout typing, but it does put the strain on the brain.

And then I looked at my over all word counts–

First I looked at Act Two and was like, okay . . .

First I looked at Act Two and was like, okay . . .

But then . . .

I looked at the whole manuscript, and was like, "Holy shit."

I looked at the whole manuscript, and was like, “Holy shit.”

Eight months now I’ve been hard at work, with a month and a half of that to do edits and rewrites.  This has really become my second job, writing this novel, and I haven’t spent this much time on a single work since–well, since my first novel which ended up taking twenty years to finish.  I do promise I’ll finish this one in a lot shorter period of time.

But now I have to start thinking like a real writer; I need to start getting things published.  I haven’t put out any new work since last May, and the thinking is starting to go like, “Maybe what I need to do is pick out a couple of things that I can get out to readers so they can look them over, offer suggestions for edits, and then find someone to do covers.  Because the shit in my “Stories to Edit” folder aren’t doing anything but collecting electronic dust there.

So my thinking is, after Act Two is in the bag I’ll pull out a couple of things and start getting them ready.  I can think of two novels that could go up, and maybe even one rather dirty little story as well–under another name, of course.  But there’s more to writing than just writing–it’s just fan fiction that doesn’t see the light of day if I don’t get it out there.  Yeah?

I’ve also got to consider if, by the end of the year, if I want to start putting this novel out by acts.  Say, Act One out by the first of the year; then Act Two in March, and then Act Three . . . well, by next summer I should have finished Act Three.  And it would be a great way to get interest in the story releasing it that way.  I hope.

Last night was also a good night for crying.  That was another reason I couldn’t write anything:  lots of emotional distress.  Really, getting flippy is not a good way to spend the evening.  You look at something, you smile, then a minute later you’re gasping for air you’re so crying so hard.  And ten minutes later you’re back to laughing, or at least smiling over a random thought.

Tonight I’ll be back into the new scene, which I really do want to finish.  And the one after that should be short and sweet.  I need to get to my Witch House by this weekend–

Which reminds me:  I have to think of something else to write as well.

Does it never end?

Once Upon a Time in China

Story-wise, it was a barn burner.  What do I mean?  I mean with all the chatting I was doing, either on certain Facebook walls or in PMs from people I know, I still managed to write one thousand, three hundred, and fifty-five words to finish up the current scene.  That means there are only two scenes left in Chapter Fifteen, and one will be very short, so the hell that is gonna be The Witch House A Level Beginning Sorcery class is coming sooner than you think.

Sorcery:  it's always closer than you think.

Sorcery: it’s always closer than you think.

Believe it or not, Act Two has reached a word count of thirty-nine thousand, nine hundred and three, if my memory servers me correctly.  When you add the up almost one hundred and fifty thousand words in Act One–well, you see where this is going.  Sometime tonight I’ll pass forty thousand words on this current act, and that will probably put me over one hundred and ninety thousand words for the novel by this evening or tomorrow.  And if I keep on keepin’, somewhere in the middle of July I’ll bump past two hundred thousand words for only the second time in my writing history.

Yep, it’s a big one.

But I’m not talking about writing today.  Why not?  Because one of the conversation I had last night concerned something about my past as related to a few hookers I know.  Get your mind out of the gutter:  not those kind of hookers.  These are women I know who crochet, and while I don’t hook myself–I have no talent there, believe it now–I am fortunate enough to know the owner of a Facebook group who sorta, kinda, pretty much lets me hang out and act as comic relief.  (One of the reasons I have a big white HodgePodge Crochet button on my page, because I always return favors for my closest friends.)

What happened was someone was saying they ordered something off Amazon that was listed as “hand made”, but when they got the shipping conformation–surprise!  It was shipping from Shenzhen.  I mentioned that I knew Shenzhen rather well, since there was a time when I used to work right down the road from there, and one thing led to another–usually with comments like, “You should write a column for us!”–and it got me thinking about my time in China . . .

Or as I like to call it, "The Land Where I Was the Minority."

Or as I like to call it, “The Land Where I Was the Minority.”

There were many times, from 1998 to 2005, that I used to fly into Hong Kong (the area to the bottom of the map above) spend the night, then while all jet lagged to hell and gone (traveling from my home to Chicago to Hong Kong used to take almost twenty-six hours on the nose, from the time I walked out of my house, to the time I walked into the Sheraton on Nathan Road in Kowloon), I’d hop a ferry and head up the river to the area on the above map labeled “Shekou Residential District.”

And I’d stay here, at the Nanhai Hotel, my home away from home, and where I’d usually have a morning conversation with the dragon in the fountain, because why not?

Hotel to the right, Ferry Port to the left, and the prostitutes used to be found at the top.

Hotel to the center top, Ferry Port to the bottom left, and the prostitutes used to be found at the top area out of frame.

My company used to send me over to sling code for our factor just over the mountain in Chiwan.  The reason I was there was because the site had their own computer, but no one to program.  Since I didn’t have a problem traveling to the other side of the world, there I went, rocketing around the world–which, actually, I once did when I missed my flight to Tokyo, and I had to fly Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Hong Kong to Tokyo and back to Minneapolis before returning to Chicago.

At the plant I spent most of the time locked in the computer room, which was actually an old storage room not much bigger than my current location.  Most everyone in the office spoke English, so there was never a problem with communications.  Getting out of the office, however . . . there were parts of Shekou where people had no idea what you were saying.  I also ran into that in parts of Hong Kong as well, but I never let that bother me, because when you’re out and about exploring, you just go.  Or as some wrote to me yesterday, take the road less traveled and see where it leads.

I saw a lot of these roads.  Once on a walking trip I visited Tiger Balm Gardens–which is an insane terracotta garden meant to visualize the various Chinese hells–and Happy Valley, the large horse racing track, all the while walking westward across Victoria Island.  I’ve been up the Tram to Victoria Peak in good weather and bad, and sat meditating on one of the highest points with a great view of the city.  I visited the location of Kowloon Walled City, and once ventured on a rickety bus to the Po Lam Monastery, home of the gigantic bronze Buddha that you may have seen.

There he is in the bottom center of the picture.  Hey, remember me?

There he is in the bottom center of the picture. Hey, remember me?

There was a noodle house in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong that I used to visit all the time, where for $90 HKD you could get a huge bowl of noodles with a little pork and eggs, and green tea.  The exchange rate then was $7.50 HKD for one US Dollar, so for one of the most expensive cities in the world, it was cheap eating.  (The other end of that spectrum was dining at a steak house one night with a friend and running up a bill of $250 USD on two steaks with normal trimmings and a couple of beers.  They were, however, damn good steaks.)

In Shekou there was a mountain overlooking the area that had, what looked like to me when I wandered out of the hotel, a white building on it.  One day I went looking for that building and found stairs leading up the mountain.  I eventually found the building–it was a covered rest stop–and discovered there was a path going up one side of the mountain, across the top, and coming down on the other side.  I was the first one from my company to find this, and every time I was working in China I made a point to walk this path at least two or three times.

And on one trip I counted the stairs used to get up and, at the northwest end of the mountain, get down to ground level.  How many were there, you ask?  2,846.  And at the end of that particular walk I came across a street vendor selling grilled sweet potatoes.  He didn’t speak English, but it didn’t matter:  I pointed to a potato, handed him 10 RMB (exchange rate of 8 RMB to 1 Dollar), and he gave me 3 RMB change.  I slowly walked back to the hotel nibbling on that potato, letting the sugars and carbs replenish my energy.  It was one of the best moments of my life.

One thing to point out to some of my friends who were asking about this last night:  Hong Kong is not a big city.  It’s crowded and compacted, and most of the city on Victoria Island isn’t even on the island.  Allow me to explain:

Here is an area I know very well, because I’d walk this way from the Star Ferry building to the Peak Tram station.  The Bank on China building is on the right, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) building is on the left.  The HSBC building is famous because it’s not only a lot of glass from one wall to the other, but most of the floors are glass, and standing under it you can actually look up into the offices.  Reason for this is not only because having a clear view of the harbor is good feng shui, but a feng shui master informed the company that the dragon living in the hill behind the building needed to see the harbor, too.

And are you gonna argue with a dragon?

And are you gonna argue with a dragon?

In the picture above do you see the thick line of trees just below the HSBC building?  That’s the actual edge of the island.  Where those bank buildings stand, that was ocean maybe a hundred years ago.  So when we expand our view . . .

We're still keeping that dragon happy . . .

We’re still keeping that dragon happy . . .

Nearly all those building above that dark green tree line are built on land fill.  And that’s not a wide stretch of land:  maybe a half mile (800 meters) from the harbor to the edge of Victoria Peak.  On the north side of the harbor Kowloon found land by knocking down the eight mountains there–and yet, there are still parts of that area that are all land fill.  Until you visit Hong Kong, you can’t imagine how close together everything is.

I’ve talked enough about this.  I haven’t been back to China in almost ten years, and while I still have those memories, like Roy Batty’s tears in the rain, they’ll fade away one day.  It was a great time in my life, and I can say I pretty much enjoyed myself–when I wasn’t suffering from loneliness and depression, but that’s another story.

And one day I’ll have to tell you about the Wan Chai reader who told me about my past life in the city . . .

The Baby Snakes

Can’t say this morning hasn’t been productive, because it sort of has.  I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes or so doing a read-through of one of my parts, and as much as I hate to say it, reading the scene out loud had me catching parts of the story that didn’t seem right.  So I made a few changes here and there and . . . hey, if you’re not writing, you’re doing something that’s about writing, right?

"I'm always amazed . . . that I actually wrote this crap."

“I’m always amazed . . . that I actually wrote this crap.”

But there was writing last night.  A lot of writing:  one thousand, one hundred and forty-nine words by the time I called it beddy-bye.  A nice run not spoiled by loading up with carbs and being tired throughout the day, which is something I’m going to try today as well, because I want to crank out another thousand if I can tonight

So what do witches do once their advanced class is over and they need to chill?  Wednesday knows . . .

 

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

“Same here.” Pang stared at the table in the middle as if expecting something to appear at any moment. He looked up at Wednesday. “It usually doesn’t take this long—”

Eight plates with grilled cheese sandwiches popped into existence, with eight slight steaming mugs of apple cider next of them. Wednesday giggled. “You were saying?”

Nadine grabbed a half of her sandwich off her plate immediately. “They had to make two more servings, dude.” She nodded across the table. “Ain’t you paying attention?”

Kerry hesitated before reach for the plate in front of him. He felt Annie stiffen for a moment, making him wonder if she didn’t like being singled out for attention. He tried to lighten the mood. “Grilled cheese?”

“Perfect for an after class snack.” Wednesday reached for her cider. “There’s a chemical released when making grilled cheese that has been shown to reduce stress, and hot cider helps make you drowsy. An hour from now you’ll crawl into bed and drift right off to sleep.” She took a short but loud sip. “Given you’re likely still a bit hyped up over class, you’ll both need this.”

Annie cleared her throat. “You’re probably right, Pro—I mean, Wednesday.” She looked around as she chuckled. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Pang was almost finished devouring half his sandwich. “I just started this level and I’m still catching myself calling her ‘Professor’.”

Hasumati spoke for the first time since leaving class. “This is my third year and it took me a year and a half to get out of that habit.”

Kerry turned to Annie, who was looking also looking at him. “We’ll do our best not to slip up.”

 

Yes, don’t call the Little Witch “Professor” too many times, or she might turn you into a newt.  Actually, that’s Jessica who does that–and has.  Check her terrarium the next time you’re in class . . .

It’s one of the nice perks of being “advanced” that you get to sorta break the rules.  It’s late at night and everyone’s suppose to be in bed, save for a few people up to the Observatory getting in some ‘scope time.  But those people are probably advanced kids as well, and they’re in what’s considered class time anyway.  No, this is, “Hey, lets go have a quick bite and bullshit for a while before heading off to bed, ’cause we can!” time, and it’s something that the Kids in the Fishbowl haven’t seen.  Until now.

Though when they do see it, they find out they have a couple of cool nicknames.  Yeah, who doesn’t want those . . .

 

Pang reached for his cider. “You guys sure did great tonight.”

Annie shook her head, her eyes focusing on the table. “I didn’t think were were that great.”

“Are you kidding? You both levitated on your fourth try.” Pang leaned back, carefully crossing his legs. “The first two classes I couldn’t do anything: every spell I tried was a fizzle.”

“I was the same way.” Rivânia pulled hair from the corner of her mouth. “The first month I was in class I managed only one spell.”

“Yeah, but you guys don’t know who you’re dealing with here . . .” Nadine smiled as she leaned forward, her elbows against her knees and the mug of cider between her hands. “These are The Baby Snakes, guys—” She pointed at Annie, then Kerry, both whom appeared confused. “Athena and Starbuck. I was telling you about them, Riv.”

Rivânia paused for just a moment to let the information sink in, then . . . “Oh. These are the two? The ones checked out on Espinozas?”

“Yeah: them and Emma in my coven. The other girl off the Trainers is on a Witchy Poo.” She smiled across the table at the now-blushing A Levels. “I forgot to mention—I’m one of Vicky’s minions. You probably never noticed me ‘cause I keep my hair tucked up under my helmet.”

Kerry knew the question to ask. “What’s your call sign?”

Nadine beamed. “I’m Scarlet Witch.”

“But of course you are.” Kerry tore into half his sandwich in three bites. “You race?”

“Yeah; I’m a Blackbird.” Nadine pointed to Rivânia. “Riv’s a Hunter.” She examined Kerry and Annie. “You both going out for racing next year?”

Annie was quick to answer. “I probably won’t, no.” She glanced at Kerry, who didn’t register any emotion. “I wouldn’t make a good racer.”

“I didn’t say anything, Sweetie.” He reached over and rubbed her hand. “It’s cool.”

“Wait . . .” Serafena stated into her mug, her eyes unfocused. “Sweetie?  Oh . . . You’re the Lovey Dovey Couple.”

Annie and Kerry winced. They’d heard the expression many times among their own level, but this was the first time to hear it used by students from upper levels. Annie placed her left hand against her head. “Who told you this?”

“From A Levels in my coven.” Serafena looked up from her mug and shifted her gaze between the two students. “There is a boy, he was the first I heard speaking to the other in your level—”

Kerry cocked his head forward. “Is he from the Philippines?”

“Yes, I think so.”

His eyes narrowed as he turned to Annie. “It’s Fidele, just like we thought.”

“Yes.” Annie brushed her hair away from her face as she slowly shook her head. “Why did he do that?”

“Who knows?” Kerry couldn’t fathom why people would start saying like that; it wasn’t like Annie and he were bothering anyone, and it wasn’t really any of their business. “Eh, nothing we can do about it now.”

Wednesday—who’d sat quietly while this conversation went on—finally let her view be known. “If nothing else, you’ve developed a reputation—and to do that in your first month here is something of an accomplishment.”

“Yeah—” Nadine spoke between the final bites of her grilled cheese. “Would you rather be known as a couple of mopey losers without a clue?”

 

No, but it’s a toss-up between Lovey Dovey Couple and The Baby Snakes.  Though The Baby Snakes does have a charm to it, and can come off as being pretty bad ass . . .

"I in no way resemble a Frank Zappa song!"

“I in no way resemble a Frank Zappa song!”

One of the things that does come up from that is Annie’s reluctance to fly and race.  There are reasons for it, and they will pop out real soon–in like another two chapters.  Actually, coming up in the next part, but only after some sorcery comes down the pike and our Baby Snakes sort of get tossed in the black magic pit and show their stuff.  It’s going to be . . . well, I was thinking about it on the way to work, and . . .

Won't be long before we finally get to see what happens in The Witch House.

Won’t be long before we finally get to see what happens inside The Witch House.

You’re just going to have to wait.