Tales of Writing For Tanya

Here I am, once again, with questions about writing, and I saved some of the best–and longest–for last, all from my friend Tanya, she of the video I released just the other day.  If there is anyone who knows me as a writer it’s her, because she’s been with me from the start of when I began writing once again.  That means she also knows what questions to ask.

And those questions are:

 

What does your writing process look like? Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual? Just how important are names in your books? What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process? Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others? Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about? Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

A lot of questions, so let me address them one at a time.

 

What does your writing process look like?

 

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to write, then I start gathering data for my story–if it’s necessary–and once that’s all finished, I plot things out and start writing.  While I’m writing I’m constantly thinking about what’s just around the corner in the story, and I’m working out future scenes in my head as I going through whatever I’m working on currently.  I also do that because with a large enough work–like this last novel–you find that some things didn’t work, some things need more explanation, and sometimes you just gotta add or remove scenes to have the story work.  I try to write every night, and I try to get in between five hundred and a thousand words a night.  Five hundred words doesn’t sound like much, but if you keep at it every day, it adds up.

 

Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual?

 

Other that monthly sacrifices to Cthulhu, no.  I enjoy listening to music when I’m writing (as I’m doing right now, listing to a Genesis concert from Zurich, Switzerland, recorded during their Wind and Wuthering tour in 1977), but there aren’t any other unusual habits I have when I’m working on a story.  Though I suppose one could say that once I start a story I dedicate myself to finishing it and not working on or getting sidetracked by other stories that may pop into my head.  If that happens they go into the idea file and I move on.  Remember, kids:  stay focused on what’s before you, and stop with the “But this other story came up and I just had to work on it!”  If that’s the case, then the first story was never meant to be.  And if you get distracted by a third story after you start that second, don’t quit your day job.

 

Just how important are names in your books?

 

They’re important.  As I’ve pointed out in another post, I work on my names until I get them right, and I’ve worked on stories before (Her Demonic Majesty being one) where I had a character and I just had the hardest time writing about that person because I wasn’t diggin’ the name.  But once I know who “they” are, then I’m good to go and I get into them greatly.  Sometimes I get into a character’s name so much that whenever I hear it outside the story, I sort of flash on my character and wonder what they should do next.

 

What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process?

 

Promotion is, for me, the worse.  That’s because I’m really not good at selling myself, and I always feel like I’m pushing my crap onto other people if I’m trying to get them interested in my stories.  Even though it’s the only way to get any exposure in these days of self publishing, I hate it.  And once you’ve seen another writer spamming every thread they can access with invitations to read their story, you feel like you don’t want to bother people with your requests.  Truly, I suck at this.

 

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others?

 

A lot of people would imagine romance scenes are hard to write, but I’m actually go with those–I enjoy writing them, because if handled right, romantic scenes are great for character building.  Just look at Annie and Kerry and see how they grew in their romance.  (And, no, That Girl does not exist here.  Nope.  Not at all.  Move along.)

The scenes I have the most difficulty writing are action scenes, and here’s the reason why.  These days, action has become associated with visual presentations seen on movies and television.  We now have an expectation of how action is suppose to play out, and directors and special effects people know exactly how those are to look.

The only thing is, action on the screen is difficult to play out on the written page.  There are only so many adjectives one can apply to action before you start repeating yourself, or end up looking ridiculous.  And if you watch closely, some action scenes in movies play out forever:  it’s like they slipped into a Whovian Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey ball of stuff, and what should be over in two minutes gone on for twenty.

My action scenes tend to be short and quick, because if you were paying attention, the three main action scenes that were in The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced–Kerry fighting the Abomination; Annie and Kerry against the homunculi in Self Defense class; and the Battle of Link Bridge–went fairly fast.  Well, two of the three, but we’ll get to that . . .  The reason they went fast is either due to some heavy-ass magic flying about–the Link Bridge battle–or one opponent was outclassed by the other–Kerry and the Abomination.  In the second example Kerry quickly came to the conclusion that if he hung around trying to fight this thing he was gonna die, and did what he could to get the creature off Emma and to come after him thinking he could somehow outrun the beast.  In the first example you saw that magic fights were a little like modern day aircraft or submarine battles:  if you get through the defenses and hit, you’ll score a kill.  As I showed, the Link Bridge Battle was over in forty seconds, and most everyone was in bad shape after that little soiree–even the winners needed a quick evac.

The exception to this rule was Annie and Kerry fighting the homunculi scene–or as I lovingly titled it, The Walking Tests.  That went on for about nine thousand words, due to the set up, the preamble of one coven getting their butts kicked, and after the fight hearing about how the test may have been set up, and our two combatants wandering off to clean up.  The actually battle seemed to take some time, only because there was some butt saving, and some talking, and most talking, and finally–well, once the kids figured out how to dust those loser homunculi walkers, it was over quickly.  If I had to put a timer on the action, I’d say Annie and Kerry were on the mat no more than a couple of minutes at most–and that took four thousand words.

Though I have to admit that scene was one of my favorites to write, even if it did take me almost a week . . .

 

Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about?

 

While I like telling stories, I can’t say I’ve always enjoyed writing.  Mostly because, at least in the beginning, one, I have horrible handwriting; two, I can’t spell worth a damn; and three, I couldn’t type.  Once I learned to type I only had Point Two holding me back, and spell checkers help out there greatly.

The first story I remember completing was a horror tale that was really about as amateur as they get, complete with creepy, unknown things going bump in the night, and the overused trope of the author (the story was told in first person point of view) continuing to write as the Horror Outta The Basement came to eat his ass–otherwise known as the Apocalyptic Log with the writing making sure everyone read The Last Entry.

At the time I thought I was doing something great, but now it’s not hard to see it was complete crap.  I really had no idea what I was doing, and I was totally coping the style of a write whose work I enjoyed.  All writers do this (well, almost all), and I learned from that work, because my next two were much better.  The second story I wrote was done with original characters, and involved a trio of time travelers realizing the part they had to play in the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.  It was the first time I worked with original characters who weren’t just there as part of the scenery, and there was the first inkling of a story starting to play out.  (True story:  this was written as an assignment for an adult writing night course I was taking.  The instructor had wanted something along the lines of four to five pages; I turned in twenty-eight.  She made certain to tell the whole class that I’d actually turned in a story, which I found a little embarrassing.)

And my third story was really sort of a fan fiction, as it took place inside a role playing universe that I was running at the time–however, I used all original character (save for two who were really in a position to help drive the plot along), and there was an actual history developed in the course of telling this story, where I was giving background on some of the characters, and even giving them, in the course of the story, motivation for their actions.  It was also my first really cinematic story, as I could see scenes playing out as if I was watching this play out on HBO–and given all the swearing and mayhem that occurred in the story, it would have been perfect for HBO before the coming of the show known as A Song of Breasts and Dragons.

The most important thing about the story, however, was the length:  it was about forty-five thousand words, which means long before I wrote my first novel, this was my first novel, at least according to the guild lines set down by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  And only a few friend ever heard the whole story:  I never posted it on the Internet, I never tried to get it published because I know, as a derivative entity of an existing work with a legitimate copywrite, I couldn’t do anything with the story.  I read it at writer’s meetings, and that was that.

None of these works exist any longer.  They all resided on the hard drive an old computer that eventually went belly up, and were lost to history.  I managed to find a hard copy of almost half of the third story about fifteen years ago (all these things were written in the late 1980s, early 1990s), but even that has vanished.  I could, however, rewrite the third story if I had to, because even to this day I remember it well, because, really, you never forget your first.

 

Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

And we finally come to the last question, and the crowd goes wild!  Just kidding . . .

I write everything in order, and even I find that a bit strange, because as I have my stories laid out so well, it doesn’t make sense that I start at the beginning, work my way through the middle, and work towards the end, because if I know what’s going into a scene months before I get to it, why not write said scene?  Writing software makes this possible, and with all my scenes for my last novel developed before setting down word one, then why not skip around?  Why not write about what happened to Annie and Kerry in Kansas City long before they go to the Samhain Dance, or why not write the ending–which I knew before I started writing–and then get the kids together?

Because even though I know what’s going to happen before I get to those scenes, I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get there.

Allow me to explain.

When I laid out A For Advanced I knew the kids would go to Kansas City on a field op for the good guys.  And, in a metadata view of the story, I knew certain things would happen there.  What I didn’t know were the details, and I didn’t start working on those until I was about ready to write them.  This was after I had months to think about that adventure, and even when I started writing, I only knew maybe six events in any kind of detail.

Annie and Kerry talking about France outside the school?  Came to me that day before I wrote the scene.  Same with the Dreamspace scene; had that idea the night before because I knew it made sense given what they knew.  The CDC?  Also figured out the day before I wrote the scene, based upon what I knew of the world I’d developed over the last year.  And the Magic Show the kids gave in the park only came about due to knowing what they had already done magically, and want I wanted to bring up in a later scene.

In short, I couldn’t have written any of the Kansas City scenes without knowing what my kids had been through before getting there.  I mean, I could have, but those scenes would have been completely different, and it’s very likely I may have needed to rewrite them completely to fit with what I’d written if I’d decided to work the whole field op out of order.

There are scenes I could write now for later novels because I know them well–and believe it when I say I would love to sometimes, just to write them out.  But I would probably end up rewriting them later, and I hate to do that.  It’s best to get to them in the right order so I know that my kids have advanced the way they’re supposed to advance.

Though if I did write out The Polar Express now it would answer one burning question . . .

"She finally tells us if Kerry nailed that tramp Emma and ends up cheating on Annie, who is just way too good for him!  Yay!"

“She’s finally going to tell us if Kerry nails that horrible tramp Emma and ends up breaking Annie’s heart! Yay!”

Ummm, on second thought, I’ll just keep that information to myself for a few more years.

There you have it:  twenty-five hundred words telling you a bit more about me as a writer.  I hope you found it entertaining.

Because I remembered things that I thought I’d lost.  And that’s a good thing.

Writing at the Speed of Imagination

After a slow start to the day I’ve come back to a point where I am actually thinking straight, almost like a real person.  It’s wonderful that I’m not crashing out right about now.

Today I’m going to answer another reader’s question and this one is from Christy Birmingham, who I’ve followed for sometime as well.  Her question is simple:

 

What are your top three reasons for using Scrivener?

 

That’s an interesting question, because I’m not certain I can answer it sufficiently.  You see, there are so many different reasons why I use it, but let me see if I can break this down to something that makes sense.

 

One:  I can organize everything from the shortest story to the longest novel however I like.

 

Let me show you a few things.  First up is, believe it or not, the only real short story I’ve ever written, The Relocater, which clocks in at fifty-eight hundred words.  I wrote it in September, 2013, over the course of five nights, just to prove to myself that I could write a short story.

Looks kinda cute, doesn't it?

Looks kinda cute, doesn’t it?

There isn’t much to organize here, and Scrivener even has a short story template that allows you to just rip off some quick stories when you’re in the mood.  In this case I wanted quick and dirty, and that’s what I got.

Now, here is the novel I’m currently editing, Kolor Ijo:

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

Welcome back, my friend, to the show that never ends.

When I laid out this novel I’d used Scrivener for about fifteen months, so I had a better grasp of how I wanted to set up my novel.  You can see that here I’m setting things up in parts, and that each text file is really a chapter.  And since most are short and separated in action from each other, I can get away with having it neatly laid out this way.

Now, maybe you recognize this work . . .

Every time I think I'm finished, you pull me back in.

Every time I think I’m finished, you pull me back in.

This is, right here, the most advanced layout I’ve ever done, which is for, naturally, The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced.  And I should mention that the layout I have today is not the one with which I started.  When I began writing this in October, 2013, there were parts, there were chapters, there were scenes–but there were no acts.  It was only after I was close to finishing what is now Act One that I realized this story was gonna be huge, and trying to release it as one large tome might not be a good idea.  Therefore, I added the acts, began moving Parts into those Acts, and everything followed.  And that’s one of the things I love about the program.  However I want to set up my story, however I want to lay out my research, however I want to link to information from internal and external sources, I can.  It’s all up to you.  It’s even possible-though I haven’t tried it yet–to build your own template so these setups are available when you go to create a new project.  Like I’ll need with I write that B Level novel.

 

Two:  Write in one simple format, compile it into anything.

 

As a word processor Scrivener is simple:  it’s just text files where you can set margins, font styles, and font sizes.  You can so most everything that you can do in, say, MS Word, though for some functions you need to be hooked up to the Internet to get them to work, but who isn’t these days?  (And those functions are really needed to get the story written–I know; I’ve done that.)

But where the program really shines is in the area of how your final product look.  The Compile function is the formatting system of the program, and it makes it possible to just write lines of information in each text box, and by setting definitions in the Compile pop-up box, you can make the output look any way that makes you happy.

So many options, so little time to play with this stuff.

So many options, so little time to play with this stuff.

Most of the time I’ll compile into PDF format to look for errors and to send to beta readers, because you can’t change the stuff in that format–well, you can, but I have to trust my beta readers.  When I’m ready to send something up for self-publishing, I’ll compile the document to a Word .doc and run it through various checks as it’s converted into an epublishing format–

Which Scrivener will actually do for you.  .Epub and .Mobi are the two epiblishing formats supported by Scrivener, and if I remember correctly, Amazon will allow you to upload .mobi to Kindle Direct.  And those options on the left of the popup window?  Those are you selection and formatting options.  It’s actually possible to take plain, unaltered text an set your margins, fonts, and sizes in there, and have a ball getting your final product ready for whatever you like.  I haven’t explored all that because, well, it would take away from my writing.

And speaking of writing, the most important reason I use Scrivener:

 

Three:  It keeps everything I need for the story right in front of me.

 

Scrivener is not a word processing program:  it’s a project management program.  That’s why, when you go to create something new, you’re not creating a story or a short or a novel, you’re creating a project.  And into that project goes–

Everything.

Here’s something I’ve not shown much:  the research section for A For Advanced.

I seem to have an interest in aircraft . . .

I seem to have an interest in aircraft . . .

All that stuff on the left are things I slipped into the binder almost a year and a half ago, and some of the information I’ve kept updated, or even changed, as I went along with the story.  After all, the Spell List was being updated and added to constantly, because I’d come up with new things as I wrote.  But all the world building I did in October, 2013–it’s there.  Everything.  And up above I have information on students and who’s in every coven, and the levels and . . . you get the idea.

Now, in the picture above, there are four entries that look like little globes.  Those are interactive webpages that you can set up inside the project–you know, some of those functions that you need an Internet connection for?  Here’s what that looks like:

I seem to recall looking for these schedules back in 2013--

I seem to recall looking for these schedules back in 2013–

And the website is completely functional, so while I’m working on a scene, if I really needed to know the time for the train from Rockport–which, if you remember, is the end of the train line on Cape Ann and not that far from the school’s main gate–to Salem, it’s right here.  That was why I set this page up:  so I would have access to these schedules if they were needed.  And they will be–maybe.

The great thing is when it comes time to set up a project for B For Bewitching, I have an option to import another Scrivener project, so I’ll just zip all of this into that new project, delete what I don’t need, and keep the rest.  There you have it:  all my research is available for the new novel, with a little fuss as possible.

That’s pretty much it:  three main reasons why I use Scrivener.  There are a lot more, but those three are the biggest reasons.

And with reasons like those, I don’t really need any others.

The Path to Knowing is In the Missing

Here is an interesting quandary:  I was supposed to work on Kolor Ijo last night, because when you’re in the editing, you should edit, right?  And editing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, because the novel is only (I would put that in quotes but then it feels like I’m showing off if I do) twenty-four chapters long, with a prologue and a code that stretches it out to twenty-six chapters, the whole novel is sixty-eight thousand, eight hundred words total.  And nearly all of the chapters are short:  in Part One the longest chapter is just under three thousand words, and that was a standard with my last novel.

See?  Just little bitty chapters.  The good ol' days when you could rip off something like this in a month.

See? Just little bitty chapters. The good ol’ days when you could rip off something like this in a month.

The nice thing that comes from editing a work like this is that you can take your time reading the tome and see what needs to be changed, and what has to be changed.  I found a lot of interesting but messed-up sections in the chapters I’ve read, and without a careful re-reading, that crap would have slipped through.  That’s one of the hazards of NaNoWriMo:  you’re writing so quickly at times that words just flying into the page, and there are sentences where those words make no damn sense.  I found about a dozen of them so far, and it’s a scary thing, let me tell you.

But at the same time I’m editing this–and I should mention I’m taking my time editing, because I’m reading this once for the first time in over two years, and it’s taking me time to get to know the characters once again–I’m thinking about another couple–and you know who they are.  Over the weekend I began thinking about something that happens to the kids–here it comes–after they leave Salem, because they do have a life outside the reinforced walls of that environment, and the things that happened to them when the Real Annie and I started thinking about their lives at school have changed slightly.  Meaning their future has changed slightly as well.  This is a perfect example of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff going on, and one must adjust.

There are things that happen to them both that need to be adjusted, because what happened before was, frankly, a little strange.  Also, life is a little different in The World of the Foundation, and it’s pretty obvious that Annie has her sights set on doing something that she wants to make her own, and it seems likely that Kerry may follow in her footsteps.  They’re gonna be busy kids from their F Levels on for a couple of years, and later on into their lives.

In fact, one of the things I was time lining out was . . . hum, should I do this? Naw, better to keep you guessing and wondering.

I don’t need to wonder:  I know what’s coming.  In both the future and the past.

I just gotta get their on my own power.

 

Revisiting Old Horrors

I have to confess:  while I was editing another project I realized that I was missing something, and I think you know what I was missing.  When is put down almost sixteen months of your life to a single project, you tend to put your heart into said project, and now that it’s not in my life at the moment, things feel lonely and just a little bit empty.

I was looking for ways to keep busy after editing, a little of which was done by catching both Judgement at Nuremberg (a movie I’d only seen the first fifteen minutes of a long time ago), and Dr. Strangelove (which I’ve seen dozens of times and never get tired of seeing, only because I want to exceed my authority and launch a nuclear attack), so I sat down and did something I started on a few days ago.  And that something looks a little like this:

You also now know when the Last Madness of the 2013/2014 school year is held.

You also now know when the Last Madness of the 2013/2014 school year is held.

I’ve always been curious about the time line of the “books”–I guess I can call them that now–and now I know.  The first three are the “shortest” in terms of calendar time, with A For Advanced the shortest of them all.  Why?  Because it picks up right as the kids are getting ready to leave for Salem, and any discussion of their summertime fun is seen in flashback.  The time between the B and C Level books is deliberate:  the story, as I see it in my head, actually starts on 2 June, then immediately flashes back to the night before.  Why?  You’ll have to wait for me to write it, that’s why.  But it does, because I know how it starts.

And the last three novels, particularly the last two, cover a year in their lives.  In reality, there’s almost no break in the story between the start of the B Level book and the end of the F Level one, save for the month that passes between the D and E Level novels–and you’ll know what’s going to happen in that month because it’ll be discussed at the end of the D Level novel.

There you go:  I know the road.  Just have to write it now.  And know that between the screen borders on the left and right of that shot, I know just about everything that happens to my kids.  Everything.

But this didn’t keep me up all night.  Nope.  I got into something else . . .

First off, I finally moved my Foundation novels off my computer drive and placed them on my external drives for safe keeping.  It’s a sad thing, I know, but when I’m finished writing those stories I move them away for safe keeping.  And in return I moved something back onto my computer–

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

I started editing Kolor Ijo last night, and let me tell you, it’s so different to go back into a work you haven’t actually laid eyes on for over two years and started reading it again.  As you can see I began editing the Prologue, and . . . oh, boy.  Was it a little rough?  Yes.  Has my style changed?  Tremendously.

Reading the prologue was like reading the writing of another author.  I was trying for a style and it felt clumsy, as if it were almost experimental.  That comes from writing a whole lotta stuff since then–probably close to 600,000 words if you include the end of my latest novel, and not include this blog.  It was a little tough getting through the work, and I ended up not only re-writing certain portions, but I cut out about fifty words.  That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s likely closer to a hundred when you take into consideration what I rewrote.

This is something I’m doing.  My mind is on other things, too, but I do want this story edited and even published.  I miss Salem, but I miss some of my other characters as well.

And it’s a change of pace to go back into the horrors of the past.

Back At Makassar

Last night was editing of another project, not any of my novels, and playing with time lines–you know, doing that thing that I said I wouldn’t do.  It was a lot of fun, actually, and I’m discovering something about a B Level novel:  there won’t be a lot of talk about classes, because it’s not about classes, it’s about people.  Most of the stuff that ended up in events had to do with personal things and improvements, though I did see where someone goes to the hospital twice in the course of the year–probably off to Bay #1, Bed #2.  And in one instance it’s almost a repeat of another incident that happened to a particular person, and they’re brought in unconscious after same person they collided with before sorta runs into them once more.  Yeah, that’s a thing again.

And there’s this:

Not sure what it means, but it involves being outside the school, that's for certain.

Not sure what it means, but it involves being outside the school, that’s for certain.

You know me and how I love to play with maps, and if given the chance I will.  I usually only do anything with them if it has something to do with the story, so you can rest assured that map above has something to do with another novel.  Keep in mind that it takes time to plot things out in detail, so the likelihood I’m going to start writing a second Annie and Kerry Novel within another week or so is slim.  You’ll have better luck finding Bigfoot riding on the back of the Loch Ness Monster.

What I have decided is that as soon as I finish the project I’m doing on the side, I need to get back into editing, because I have a novel I want to push out.  And that novel is Kolor Ijo.

Some people may remember my first self-published story Kuntilanak.  That was the first thing I wrote, and kept writing, and finished writing, and even went so far as to put it up for sale.  It was never meant to be a best seller:  I just wanted to say that I wrote a story, and that people have bought said story.

I was never certain I would ever expand upon the story of Indriani Baskoro and Kadek Bagus Surya Buana:  as it was the original story started out because someone wanted a Halloween story, and I wrote it only to discover later that it was too long for what the person wanted.  I thought those twenty-five thousand words would be enough.

And then NaNoWriMo 2012 came along.

I usually start thinking about what I’m going to write for NaNo about two months before November rolls around, and 2012 was no exception.  Really, the expectation was high for me, because I’d “won” 2011 writing Her Demonic Majesty, and I wanted to prove I could do it again.  And as I needed an idea I thought I’d write a sequel to Kuntilanak, but instead of setting the story back in Bali, I’d go somewhere else in Indonesia.

Like . . . here.

Like . . . here.

There are a lot of places to visit in Indonesia, and they are all so very different.  I moved the setting to another island, changed it up further by creating an urban setting, and started writing Kolor Ijo.  And when I finished–

That was it.  I hadn’t done anything with it in over two years.

I think I need to change that up, and it’s likely I’ll start editing it in a couple of weeks.  It’s not the monster A For Advanced is:  I could fit five Kolor Ijos into that binder.  Which means I should be able to edit it up right.

At least that’s my hope.

Let’s see what comes of this.

Knowing Unknowns

Chapter Thirty-Six is finished, almost reaching the same word count as the chapter before.  Which means the next chapter will likely be a little longer, and I’ll probably ride Chapter Thirty-Seven out until just past Christmas–and that means this current section, Part Twelve, will probably finish up right around the first of the year.  After this part’s out of the way, there are only five chapters remaining until the end.

It’s almost there:  it’s almost the end.

It's almost there; it's almost finished.

It’s almost there; it’s almost finished.

Only we gotta get out of Kansas City first . . .

So . . . the question was asked:  who is this new girl?  I asked it, and you can bet other people in the story asked it as well.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look–

 

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

“How is it that the Guardians missed this?”

Helena was asking herself the same thing. It didn’t worry her, but she was slightly bothered that what they’d discovered hadn’t appeared in any of the documentation she’d examined while preparing for this operation. “I have no idea, Erywin.” They were back in th instructor’s suite at the hotel after a quiet, hurried dinner, and Helena wasn’t concerned that they were going to be overheard using their own names. “You read the same reports I read. There was nothing there about this.”

Erywin hadn’t stopped pacing the suite since they’d returned. “Another Aware girl—speaking with Tanith. How long have the Guardians been monitoring her?”

“Months.” Helena turned to Kerry. “You’re certain that ID is correct.”

Kerry, who was sitting on the sofa with Annie, had the tablet next to him with the information still pulled up. “Ruth McRoberts. She’s in the school system and in the same grade as Tanith.” He sat back and tried to look confounded. “It’s legit.”

“I checked it as well, Helena.” Annie sat close to Kerry and nodded at him. “The software Isis gave us worked perfectly. I also looked up her address and found her home address and mobile number. It checks out with the number I pulled off Tanith’s phone when the picture they took together was sent to her.”

“But are we sure that’s not just a cover?” Erywin didn’t care for the feelings that sprang up inside her the moment they discovered that Tanith was being visited by another girl who was now only Aware, but whom appeared, based upon the brightness of her aura, had been that way for some time. “I mean, that has happened before.”

 

Erywin is alluding to something that’s about to break in a big way in this discussion, but Helena–trying not to be the paranoid sorceress and Guardian in the room–isn’t ready to go there.  She’s her own compelling counter-arguments.

 

“Honey . . .” Helena wasn’t ready to go where Erywin was already residing. “It is entirely possible the team that was here watching Tanith never encountered this—”

Kerry spoke up. “Ruth.”

“Yeah, her. That has happened before as well.” She pointed out the window to her left of where she sat. “There’s no coverage out there; The Foundation has no presence in this city. For all we know there are more than a few people out there who are ready to become Aware, or who may already be there.” Helena slapped the chair arms and sighed. “We only know about Tanith because she’s been observed.”

“Which goes back to my concerns about this Ruth.” Erywin finally sat on the edge of the bed and slipped off her shoes. “They’ve had Tanith under observation for a while, so why wouldn’t they have picked up any signs from her?”

“Maybe because they didn’t see them together.” Helena stood up, stripped off her jacket, and tossed it on the chair behind her. “Maybe they didn’t watch Tanith as often as they wanted us to believe. Or maybe the observation team consisted of arseholes who didn’t like coming to the middle of the US and did their job half-assed.” She turned to Erywin. “That’s been known to happen, too.”

 

Yeah, it’s always possible that the Guardians aren’t always the best of the best of the best, and they did a pretty crappy job keeping a twelve year old girl under observation.  However, that doesn’t address the two hundred kilo witch in the room . . .

 

“That’s bullshit, my darling.” Erywin was having none of these explanations. Having lived with Helena for thirty years, she knew her moods, she knew her body language, and she knew when she was trying to hide concerns from others—in this case, Erywin suspected she was trying to avoid bringing up a certain subject in front of the children. “You’re thinking the same thing that everyone else in this room is thinking about this girl.”

Helena turned on her partner with intensity. “And what is everyone else in this world thinking about this girl?”

“You know what I’m thinking—”

“Yes, I’ve figured that out.”

“Well—” She waved out an arm at the sofa where Annie and Kerry sat. “Why don’t you ask what’s on their mind?”

She almost told the children to go back to their room so she could discuss this matter with Erywin, but they were the most important part of the team, and they had a right to voice their opinions. She turned to the one closest to her. “Kerry, what are you thinking about this girl?”

He kept his eyes locked on Helena and didn’t once turn to Annie. “I wonder if she’s a Deconstructor.”

“Do you, now?” She knew he’d discuss this matter with Annie, so she wasn’t surprised by his answer. After all, of the two, Kerry had come the closest to having direct contact with them, and was probably leery of most contact.

He nodded. “Yes.”

She turned to Annie. “And you, Annie?”

Annie didn’t hesitate with her answer. “I agree with Kerry: I think she may be a Deconstructor.” She cast a sideways glance to the woman on her left. “And I agree with Erywin: I don’t see how the Guardians missed this girl.”

Helena sighed loud and long. “I agree. I’m wondering the same thing on both counts.”

 

There it is, out in the open:  the bad guys may be in town.  Perhaps they came for the ribs and stayed for the magical girl, or they just are here because they are.  Either way, things have possibly become a little dicey, and Erywin–who has found herself in this position a few times–what’s to know the story, morning glory.

 

Erywin crossed her legs. “So are you pulling your plug on this operation?”

There was a long pause while Helena turned and stared out the window. Based upon how she thought this conversation would go, she’d made up her mind considering the field op before they’d finished dinner. “No.” She turned to face Erywin. “I’m not.”

Erywin was off the bed in an instance. “And why the hell not?”

“Because everyone in the room thinking this Ruth girl may be a Deconstructor is not the same as her being one. And while I could shut this operation down this very second, doing so would leave Tanith in the lurch—”

“Not if you called in the Guardians and told them to take her under their wing.” Erywin wasn’t bothering keeping her feelings concealed. “You need to bring in a team that—”

“That knows what?” Helena waved her arm about the room. “This mission? The objective? We’re that fucking team, remember?” She calmed herself before she could explain more. “We know this girl, we know the local, and we now know there’s someone here who could be upsetting this equation. If this girl is a Deconstructor, she may know Tanith is on the cusp, and she should be preparing to force her into Awareness.”

Erywin calmed herself as well; it wasn’t good to be fighting in front of Annie and Kerry. “That would likely drive here insane.”

“It’s a possibility.” She turned to Annie. “You mentioned that Tanith and this girl talked about getting together for lunch tomorrow?”

“Yes.” Annie sat on the edge of the sofa and leaned forward. “They chatting about a lot of things, but they made plans to get together for lunch about thir—” She rolled her eyes. “About one in the afternoon.”

Helena nodded. “You said you have this Ruth’s number?”

“Yes.”

“I want you to use that number and send a message to Tanith telling her you can get to the mall earlier and you’ll meet for lunch around eleven.”

Annie had been shown how to do that, so she understood the how, but . . . “Why?”

“Because we’ve moving up the time table.” Helena turned to Erywin. “I want you and the kids to be at the mall first thing tomorrow. When Tanith comes in—” She swung around and faced Annie and Kerry. “I want you to do what you were planing to do later in the afternoon: make contact, convince her you want to show her something, then take here across the street to Washington Square Park and give her a demonstration.”

 

Like it or not, Helena is right:  they are the team for the job.  They’ve trained for a month, they know the area and the target, and if they bail there’s nothing that says the bad guys don’t swoop in and take this girl ahead of time and mess here up.  It’s not a good position to be in, and Helena will likely tell the people monitoring them of this twist, and that they may need to get out in a hurry.

In the meantime, however . . .

 

Helena knew, however, that this brought out another matter—and now that it was hanging in the air between Erywin and her, it needed addressing. “Honey, you brought a weapon, right?”

Erywin nodded. “As you instructed.”

“All right.” She glanced over to the sofa and slowly turned towards the children. Time to know our unknowns. “Kerry . . .” He turned his attention to the sorceress. “What can you do, sorcery-wise?” She glanced over at Annie, then back to him. “And I know Annie’s been showing you things, so don’t bullshit us. We need to know everything.”

He looked away from Helena’s glaze for just a second before returning it without hesitation. “The stuff we’ve picked up in class—”

“No: I need to know what you can do if your life—or Erywin’s life, or Annie’s life—depended upon your knowledge.”

“Right.” He glanced towards the window for a second, the came back to Helena. “Annie showed me how to do Shadow Ribbons. She also showed me how to put up a magical screen, and how to use dark energy with regular spells, and I’ve practiced doing that with our shields and with Air Hammer. And . . .” He slowly turned towards Annie.

She nodded towards Helena. “She wants to know: tell her.”

He stared off across the room, not looking at anyone. “Annie showed me how to do Electrify, both major and minor variants.” He looked up at Helena. “I don’t know how good it is, because I haven’t actually tried it on someone.”

“Understood.” Helena turned to Annie. “You know all the same, plus Exsanguination?”

Annie nodded. “And Cold Fire. I can do that, too.”

 

There you have it:  all the little things that Annie has been showing Kerry on the side.  See, this is what happens when you have a soul mate who can pretty much kill you with a look:  she starts showing you the same things she knows.  Just imagine if they do get married and they get into a fight . . .

That leaves on last thing that Helena needs to say.  And it’s not, “We’re having waffles for breakfast tomorrow”:

 

“Yeah, that might come in handy.” She stepped back to take in the room. Helena had hoped she wouldn’t have too make this speech, but given the unknown situation facing them, she felt it was necessary. “I’m saying this now because I don’t want to waste the time saying it tomorrow. What hasn’t been mentioned—but I’m certain Erywin has already considered—if that if Ruth is a Deconstructor, she’s not alone: she’s probably working with one, maybe two other people. Now they wouldn’t have seen us yesterday, because we masked our auras, but tomorrow, when you start showing her what you can do, it’s possible if they’re watching her they’ll see you. And then they’ll know for certain we’re on to them.

“The three of you, when you are on the op tomorrow, if things go sideways and you find yourself knee-deep in the shite, you have full authorization to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself and your team. And I mean anything—so if you find yourself facing down one of these bastards, don’t hold back: kill them.” She took a slow, deep breath. “Because they sure as hell aren’t going to hesitate to kill you . . .”

 

“So, kids, this is where your education in black magic has taken you:  be ready to off someone if becomes necessary, because if you don’t . . .”  You can imagine the kids might not have the easiest time sleeping tonight, wondering if they’re gonna have to fight for their lives and dust a few Deconstructors in the process.  And they won’t get any help from friendly spirits, or magic mirrors, or an army backing them up–

This is gonna be all on them if it it should turn bad.

No one ever said being a witch and a sorceress was gonna be easy.

This Sorrowful Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything personal–okay, maybe a month, but for me that’s a while.  Or long time.  Or longer than I’m used to, but that’s how things are in my life.  And I should point out that I’m liable to say some things below that may freak others out, so if you are the kind the freaks out easily, depart before you abandon all hope.

If not, let’s roll on in, kiddies . . .

I’m mentioned, off and on over the last few weeks, that I’ve found myself fighting depression.  It’s not a lot of fun, let me tell you, ’cause it wears you out.  I once described depression as treading water in the middle of the ocean:  you’re doing all the work to stay above water while the ocean does nothing–it just sits there and waits for you to tire and go under.  That’s why if you don’t find a way to get out of the water, you’ll drown and die.  And the ocean doesn’t care ’cause it’s a force of nature.  Just like depression:  a force of nature that gives zero shits about you as a person, or for your quality of life.

And November hasn’t helped the situation much.  I’ve got a lot more pressure at work of late, and there’s NaNo, and I’m getting ready to head home at the end of the month for the first time in almost six months . . . it’s a mess.  Really, the last few weeks have started to engulf me . . .

My Resting Bitchy Face from this morning offers proof of this statement.

My Resting Bitchy Face from this morning offers proof of this statement.

Last Friday, right around noon, because I remember it being after I ate lunch at work, I started to find myself getting in a bad way.  I actually cried a little at work, but not enough that it was noticed.  Actually, nothing I do at work is noticed, so it’s not in any way unusual that people would see me sitting in my office starting to lose it.

It wasn’t until I made it home that things came right off the rails.  The moment the door shut behind me I began crying.  I was still crying when the computer came up.  In fact, I cried off and on for the better part of an hour straight, and spent the rest of the night floating in and out of the feeling that there was far too much pain in my life.

Last Saturday was my shot day, and I thought that might help me break out of the funk, but the moment the psychological effects wore off I was right back to being a maudlin little bitch.  Going out and getting makeup didn’t help; being out in the sun did nothing.  I felt as if nothing I did was helping break the feeling that, no, things weren’t going to get better.

By about three PM I’d already made up my mind:  there wasn’t any point in going on, so I might as well shuck this moral coil as fast as I can.

I started preparing for my death.

It’s not easy for me to say that last line, because that’s a hard point in your life when you hit the tipping point and realized you’ve gone from “if” to “when”.  I didn’t care, however:  once you reach that point you just wanna kept going.  It didn’t matter if I was finding the energy to love myself, because I wasn’t feeling any love coming back, and that’s something that’s so difficult to put aside an ignore.

So I started getting ready.  I knew I was going to record some videos and post them for people to view.  I rehearsed what I was going to say, and when I was going to post them.  I knew the manner in which I wanted to check out, and weighed the pros and cons of survivability.  I was all ready to go–

Save for three things.

One, that day was the last episode of Doctor Who‘s most current season.  Okay, so I sound like a geek here, but I had to see how the season ended.  Two, I was into Act Three of my huge, Infinity Jest-like novel, and that meant I was not only getting towards the end, but I was also coming up on a good part that I’ve been sitting on for over a year.  I’d made promises to people that I’d finish this damn thing, and I knew I couldn’t leave people hanging about what happens–and if that doesn’t sound like a writer’s ego hard at work, nothing does.

And finally, there are two people on my “If you die you’ll hurt them” list, and if I died now, I’d be in violation of Jacqualyn’s Law, which I named for a friend.  It’s a variation of Wheaton’s Law, though this one is geared more for women.  It says, “Don’t be a twat,” and I’d have been a massive twat if I did what I was thinking of doing.

So I settled back to watch Doctor Who, and when that was over I headed into writing.  I still hurt, I still found it difficult to get through Sunday–which I helped smooth out by doing more writing–and I made it into Monday, then Tuesday, then . . .

Here.  Today.

Last night I felt the depression coming on again, and I was really not looking forward to dealing with this crap.  Then I noticed someone I’d just reconnected with on Facebook was trying to get my attention.  She’s a transwoman from Canada who transitioned decades ago, and we’ve shared some information over the months.

We started talking, and we talked, and we discussed why I was depressed, and why I felt suicidal, and were there things that I wanted to do that may have made me feel this way.  And there were answers to those questions, and a lot more–

And by the time we were finished, we’d chatted for about three hours, and I felt a whole lot better than I had when the evening had started.

As you can see, I'm actually smiling a little.

As you can see, I’m actually smiling a little.

Things aren’t “over”, but they’re better.  Much better.  I had some plans I want to discuss with my therapist when I see her the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I hope she agrees that it’s time I actually move on these things.  I’m not feeling the trepidation about going home that I have had for a while–it’s going to be the first time I’m going to be Cassie with them full-time since I’ve started transitioning, and while I’m certain my daughter will be cool with it–after all, we went out shopping together as daughter and, um, other mother–I can’t say the other person in the house is gonna dig things.  Maybe I’ll have to cook a couple of good dinners to break the ice . . .  And I’m going to start taking the first steps towards getting my name changed.

But mostly I’ve chilled on the death stuff.  I’m still in the ocean, but I feel like I’m closer to shore, and if you keep moving towards shore, eventually you get up onto dry land and you don’t have to wear yourself out treading water.  And if I can’t get onto dry land, maybe I can get somewhere shallow enough that I can rest once in a while.

This Sorrowful Life.  Sometimes you find yourself surround by bad people and zombies, and you have the choice of either giving in and joining one of the two hordes, or you fight back against the hell that waits outside your walls.  Neither is an easy choice, but you have to make one, because doing nothing is not an option.  You must make a choice.

I mentioned in one of my last videos that you have a choice with transition:  become who you are, or die.  I said I’m trying to get off the death track and be who I am, and last night I finally felt as if I was bucking that first track and leaving it behind.  I hope to make it so.

I really do.