Transforming the Imagined Past


Out of November and into December, and from here on out it’s a countdown to the end of 2015.  It’s also congratulations to all those who won NaNoWriMo 2015, and for those who didn’t, there’s always next year.  As for me, I reached 175,000 words on 1 November, and as of last night I’d written a total of 194,444 words, and as right around twenty thousand words a month is my average, I’m good with what I did, particularly when I remember there have been four or five days–like last night–where my output was not all that great.

I began a new chapter which means starting a new scene, and when it comes to starting one I usually spend a lot of time staring at the blank Scrivener text file wondering what the hell to put down on the sheet.  This is one of those scenes that, believe it or not, I plotted out oh so long ago, and I was really damned about what was going to happen in here.  Every so often that happens because these ideas come to me while I’m plotting things out, and then comes a point six months later where I reach a scene, and the first thought in my head is, “What the hell is gonna happen here?”  Because I don’t know.

See, I don’t always have the story written in my head before I write it down.

So while Taken 2 played in the background, and I had a pretty good loop of Tom Waits’ Hold On rolling in my earbuds, I tried to figure out how to start this scene.  Staring and listening and wondering–and that’s when it hits me.  See, during the day, while I was at work, I figured out what would happen in this scene.  I even played out some of it when I had a moment to myself, so the general ideas behind the scene–and the next two after that, I should point out–were now known.  Still, it’s hard to get the ball rolling–

So why not roll it with a look back?

This scene takes place in Transformation class, which means we’re now in Jessica’s World, and it’s the end of January, 2013, and she’s dealing with students who are back into the grind and maybe not having an easy time of things because of a certain deadline that’s coming down the line.  Which gives me ideas about her, and as I look at the page it becomes clear:  why not have a little of her backstory play out along with that of the school?

And that’s how I managed the following three hundred and ninety words for the start of the scene:


(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

A month into the new calendar year and Professor Jessica Kishna was keenly aware of the stress many of her students were under. Sorcery class wasn’t the only one where a student’s performance over the next year was going to determine if they continued on with that particular line of magical training: Erywin was also turning up the pressure on her students, making her determinations on who was going to move on to C Level Formulistic Magic, who of that group she might consider for her advanced class, and who she would pass over, and while Wednesday always taught for levels of standard spells, it was during her C Levels classes that she offered additional work for those students who, while not necessarily up to the levels of those students in her Advanced Spells class, showed enough exceptional talent to warrant specific, and sometimes personal, consideration.

With January coming to an end nearly all the B Levels were realizing their return home and the subsequent unveiling to their parents as witches was not that far off in the future, and that was a another level of stress Jessica knew they didn’t need, but couldn’t easily remove. She remembered her own time so clearly: returning to Chicago on the afternoon of 1 June, 1984, and dreading every second of the car ride from O’Hare Airport to her home in The Island neighborhood between the South Austin community and Cicero. Then there was the walk up to the house that seemed to take forever before sitting down in the living room with her parents and two siblings, an older brother and younger sister. Before telling her family the truth about what she did at school, Jessica though she might actually faint from the building anxiety—

And few, if any of her current students, possessed the same control she had at their age. She wasn’t It was no wonder that about a third of her class found it difficult to concentrate, and transformation spells required tremendous concentration. There was a flip side to that equation, and it was that witches who became experts in transformation magic generally found themselves in situations where they were required to perform spells under all various levels of pressure, and now was as good a time to learn how to temper their reaction to this pressure as any . . .


There you have a little of Jessica’s backstory, including the real area of Chicago where she grew up.  If you look up The Island you’ll find it exactly where I said it’s located, just south of the Eisenhower Expressway and the CTA Blue Line.  The date is correct, too, because students filed out of school on that date in 1984, and as Jessica started her A Levels in 1982, she’d leave as a B Level on the date in this scene.

And while students might be under a lot of stress, she’s right:  there are more than a few who might find themselves doing magic under far more stressful situations that having to deal with their witchy coming out:

"Yeah, easy for you to say, Professor, you never had to worry about getting you iPad taken away because you came out!"

“Yeah, easy for you to say, Professor, you never had to worry about getting you iPad taken away because you came out!”

And speaking of those students who have done magic under far more stressful situations . . . two of them are in her class in this scene.

Which means I’ve done my job getting things set up.  Now to get them on stage–