Pulling the Strings

With things getting back into a normal routine and the transphobic jerks tossed into a nearby star–if only–it was time to write.  And while it was only about only eight hundred words, that’s good enough for me to get back into things.  Because sometimes you need to walk slow back into things.

Also, I’m making up stuff as I go along more or less.  See, some of this process is coming to me as I write, because I have an outline, but I don’t have it all well-developed.  I don’t get everything figured out in my head ahead of time, regardless of what some people think, and I gotta work this out with words as I go along.  And that was what I did last night:  workin’ it out and writin’ it down.

And what I came up is a couple of kids ready to rock–


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

“At least we’ll have a good connection.” Helena approached the rigs. “How are you feeling?”

Kerry leaned forward into his harness. “I’m good.” He rested his head against the cushion and pushed his face through. “I’ve been looking forward to this since last night.”

“I can see.” Helena turned to Annie, who was rolling her shoulders before completing getting into her rig. “And you? Not too nervous, are you?”

“Not at all; I can’t wait to start.” Annie was aware what they were about to do was something that wasn’t normally taught at school, but rather was something explored during Salem’s Continuing Education Program. For the Guardians to have us train like this only a year after we came to their notice is incredible—I wonder if this means there’s more to come? “This isn’t something anyone else at school is doing—”

“This isn’t something anyone at school is doing—” Ramona punched something on her tablet. “Period. Marionette training usually takes place at a Guardian facility.”

“Which one?”

Helena chuckled. “One of them.” She touched Annie’s rig. “Come on, Sunshine: your better half is waiting on you.”


Annie is wondering what is going on, and it could be something, it might be nothing.  The Guardians work in strange ways, though the interesting thing here is Ramona not questioning a thing.  One has to figure that Helena gave her an overview of what’s happening and then told her not to say a word, which is likely:  after all, just about all the instructors in the heavy magic classes–as well as martial arts and probably some of the science stuff–have to come in contact with both the Protectors and Guardians at some point.  Or, as in Helena’s and Isis’ positions, a lot of points.


Kerry’s blush was bright against the dull cream color of the face padding. “Sorry, I’m just—”

“Excited. I know.” Annie finished getting into rig and pressed her face into the padding before giving the overhead straps a tug. “I’m ready.”

“Starting elevation.” Ramona moved her fingers over something on her tablet surface and a second later the marionette rigs began to rise off the floor as they slowly pitched forward.

As soon as the kid’s feet were off the ground Helena unfastened the rigs from their ceiling straps. “How they looking?”

“I’m getting good feedback on their auras.” Ramona looked up from the tablet. “I’ve got a connection: we’re ready to move to the next step.”

“Sounds good.” Helena stepped between the two floating children. “Okay, guys, just relax and let your arms hang down.”

Kerry almost nodded. “Do we need to close our eyes or anything?”

“No—that will happened as soon as we enact the enchantment.” Helena ran her fingers over the contours of Annie’s rig. “When your eyes close, you’ll feel like you’re floating under water and there’s a line nearby stretching away from you. Grab that line and imagine pulling yourself towards the surface.” She nodded at Ramona. “Let’s kick it.”


Yo, Ramona, let’s kick this bitch!  Once more, something you’ll never hear anyone at other magical schools say.  Before you know it, Helena and Ramona will be kicked back with a couple of Sam Adams reflecting on all the magical fun they had with the kids.  Probably with a Pandora stream in the background.

So what is puppeteering like?  Well . . .


Annie’s eyes closed and after what felt like perhaps ten seconds she sensed the line she was supposed to take only a meter from where her consciousness resided. She reached out with what felt like a hand, took the line, and began to pull herself towards a lightened area above. The light grew brighter, and in a matter of seconds she felt herself breaking the surface of some unknown pool—

—She opened her eyes and let out a gasp as she drew in a breath. Everything felt different: she was on her back in a reclining position, the light was different, the room felt larger—and Helena was sanding next to her, looking down.

The sorceress held out her hand and placed it close to the semi-confused girl. “Okay, just relax.” Helena’s voice was soft and filed with calm. “Don’t try to talk, just nodded when I ask if things are good or if you understand, and don’t do anything if they’re not good or your unsure.” She smiled. “We’ll get to talking once you start getting the feel of your puppet, but first we gotta get you used to the body. You got all that?”

Annie nodded and followed Helena’s instructions as she learned how to control the homunculus. She worked on opening and closing her eyes and slowly turning her head before starting to flex her legs and arms. The first real look she had of her puppet was when she raised her right hand. Immediately she saw the forearm was completely hairless and there wasn’t a single line anywhere: not at the wrist, not on the fingers or the palm of the hand. And the honunculus didn’t have fingernails: when she turned her hand over to look at the back, her thumb and fingers were smooth flesh all the way to the tips.

In time Helena put her hand behind Annie’s head as she felt whatever she was lying upon move her upright. “Okay, Annie: it’s time. We’re going to walk, and I don’t want you to try anything fancy: just one foot in front of the other, nice and slow.” She gave her a smile. “You can try talking; you’ve wanted to for the last ten minutes.”

Annie took a breath and formed the words in her mind before releasing them from the homunculus mouth. “Uoka.” She chuckled softly. “Iii fells su strigue.”

Helena nodded. “Like your mouth is numb?”

“Yuus.” Annie gave slow nod. “Mue toong wunt mooov ruit.”

“That will get better.” Helen had the almost completely upright Puppet Annie by the left arm. “You got your weight on your legs okay?”

Annie looked down for a second. “Yuus.”

“Okay then—” Helena took a short step back. “Follow me.”


There you have it:  at least Annie is a puppeteer:

No, not this kind of puppeteers.

No, not this kind of puppeteer.

She’s in the homunculus and she’s moving, she’s up, she’s even sort of talking.  That means I can take it forward from here–

Tonight.  For sure I’ll get to it tonight, because even though I know what’s going to happen, I want you to see it as well.

I think it’s gonna be fun.

Rigging the Strings

Here we go, getting into the next scene, and this is where I start mixing magic with technology.  And see, this is one of the reasons that The Foundation totally wanted to get down on that magic thing, because everything’s better with magic–like, you know, making clones.  Which The Foundation doesn’t do a lot of, by the way, because someone who’s been a witch all their life doesn’t want to spend their next life as a meat puppet.  Right?  You know it.

Now it’s S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Morning, and here we have these kids flying off around the school when they are in a hurry to get somewhere . . .


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

Upon landing outside Gwydion Manor after Saturday breakfast Annie and Kerry found Professor Chai was waiting in the main entrance, ready to start the day. After calibrating the rigs the afternoon before, Annie knew what would soon follow: they’d head into the back to change out of their normal clothes and into a uniform, then head down to the lower levels and get into the marionette rigs.

It was going to come after step two that things would change considerably.

The uniforms were a bit like Kerry’s racing outfit, but with a few changes. For one, it was light blue instead of black. Gloves and socks weren’t separate items; rather, they were part of the suit. The suit didn’t zip up, but magically sealed up the back once an enchantment was activated. And instead of a helmet, a hood went over the head. While it wasn’t skintight, Kerry remarked suit it wasn’t nearly as loose as his racing uniform, and that it reminded me a bit of what he’d seen of motion capture suits.


The suits described above are really a lot more like a zenti suit–you can look that one up on your own, because most of the images are pervy–but think of it this way:  if there’s a skin-tight suit worn by a superhero in a comic, it’s a lot like what the kids have on.  Kerry is right in a way:  the suit is capturing something from them, which is mentioned below, and that information gets transmitted to the puppet.

And then you can pretend you're a dragon, but only on your own time.

And then you can pretend you’re a dragon, but only on your own time.

Now that we have them suited up, time for the rigs.


The marionette rigs were kept in a room in the north end of the lower level, just off the staircase. They were little more than a harness that pulled up around their torso, leaving arms and legs protruding from the sides while the user rested their head against a padded cushion that encircled their face. Once secure in the rig it levitated the user about a half-meter above the floor and tilted slightly forward to help spread the weight to a large part of the torso, the hips, and the thighs.

Heading down the stairs behind Ramona and Helena, Annie focused on what they did yesterday to get the rigs sized properly around their bodies, and to key the rig’s enchantment to their auras. When Kerry asked why the magic didn’t key on their brain waves, Professor Chai remarked that their auras were not only attuned to their brains, but to everything in their body, which is what was needed if they hoped to puppet a homunculus.

Like they’d done the day before as soon as they entered the room Kerry moved to the rig on his left as Annie took the one to her right. As they were getting the rigs—which were hanging from straps attached to the ceiling—into place around their bodies, Ramona pulled up data each of the rigs on a tablet. Helena, who hadn’t been present during yesterday’s calibration, stood to one side and watched the activity.


The rigs are pretty simple, though they levitate and do other cool things:

Though around Salem you don't need one to pretend your Peter Pan.

Though around Salem you don’t need one to pretend your Peter Pan.

As we see, however, the suits and the rigs together help pull information from your aura and that’s what gets transmitted to the homunculus.  Which means your aura is a pretty important part of your body, when you think about it.  But my kids don’t seem to worry about this because they’re getting ready to go big time on this marionette thing–


Annie slipped her legs into the rig and pulled it up around her hips. “Everything look good, Professor?”

“Ramona.” She glanced up as she examined data on the screen. “When we’re alone like this, you can call me by my given name.”

“Okay, Ramona.” Annie activated the suit’s enchantment. The moment it was firm against her body she slipped the hood over her head and tucked in her hair as she was shown the day before. “Question still stands.”

“The rigs look good, both your signals are strong.” Ramona nodded to Helena. “Both signals are over the red line.”

“At least we’ll have a good connection.” Helena approached the rigs. “How are you feeling?”


Because there was so much happening yesterday I didn’t get any further than Helena asking her question, because that’s going to lead to the kids getting ready to do their think, and that requires my full attention, not just Sunday night stuff.  So keep your fingers crossed, ’cause I know I can get to part of that tonight.

We’re almost ready to start pulling those strings . . .

Getting Science All Up In Here

I don’t get out my these days–that’s sort of clear to a lot of people.  And one of the things I don’t get out to do is see movies.  Most of that is due to having sort of a high standard when it comes to seeing a movie, and that’s to be entertained without having too much of my intelligence insulted.  That’s why I’d only seen Mad Max:  Fury Road this year of 2015 and nothing else.  I’m just a cranky bitch when it comes to film.

Yesterday, however, not long after posted on my blog, I headed out to see The Martian, the movie based upon Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name.  One reason I wanted to see the movie was because it was science fiction, and from everything I’d read of the novel, pretty accurate science fiction, with the emphases on science.  I will say now that I have not read the novel, but I’m probably going to pick it up and give it a read just to see the differences between the printed and visual versions.

The interesting thing about the novel is how it came about.  Weir wanted the novel as scientifically accurate as possible, and did a lot of research on the surface of Mars, on botany, astrophysics, space craft design, and orbital mechanics, going so far as to write is own program so he could track the orbits of the ships in his novel.

Which is something only a few crazy people do for, say, a game.

Which is something only a few crazy people–like the one who wrote this a few years ago–kinda sorta do for games.   Crazy.

Weir had been writing since his twenties, and The Martian was his first novel.  He shopped it around, and when none of the publishing houses showed interested, he started publishing the book for free on his website, going thought chapter by chapter.

That's insane.  What sort of nut does that?

That’s insane. What sort of nut does that?

After a while people asked him to put out a Kindle version of the story, and he did, and he sold the book for $.99, the lowest price one can offer for a work on Amazon.  After he sold thirty-five thousand copies in one month, Crown Publishing Group approached him and asked if he’d like a sweet deal for his book.  The deal made him another one hundred thousand dollars and got him a movie, so it sounds like he got what he was looking for.

If you’re asking, “What’s this about?”, it’s about a guy who, through no fault of anyone, gets stranded on Mars and has to find a way to stay alive until he’ rescued.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that says the same thing through Apature.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that makes you wonder if Aperture Science runs the space program.

That’s the story in a nutshell, and without going into a lot of detail, it’s what the movies shows.  What I loved was the attention to detail and how everything was so . . . sciencry.  As I indicated I haven’t read the book, but there were things in the movie that because of my knowledge of Mars and space stuff in general, I got right away.  (There was a scene in the movie where the main character was looking at a map, and the minute he realizes something and was hit with a light bulb moment, so was I.  Geeks, I know.)

The movie is magnificent in appearance.  The Mars stand-in was Wadi Rum in Jordan, which has stood in for Mars in a couple of movies, and one of the locations used in Laurence of Arabia.  With the help of a little CGI you feel like you could be there on the Red Planet.  All the tech looks workable and has an authentic feel.  And the spaceship Hermes and the Mars HABs . . . Oi.

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

I can look at the ship above and see stuff that’s supposed to be there on a real spacecraft, and that makes me happy.  There are things I saw happening in the movie that shouldn’t have happened (when you decelerate in space, your engine is supposed to be pointed towards the forward edge of your orbit, thank you), but they were minor and nitpicky.  Even Weir admits that he made the storms on Mars more visually impressive than they would be in real life because, you know, sometimes you have to do that.

The characters are good, though I think NASA in the middle of the 21st Century would be a tad more diverse than shown, and in one major instance, a character was completely whitewashed. The moment I saw the character’s name I thought “Shouldn’t she be Korean?”  This, again, came without reading the novel, and after a little investigation last night I discovered I was correct.  It isn’t impossible to find an actress of the proper ethnicity these days,  so Hollywood, you need to stop that shit right now.

There is one scene in the movie that got a huge laugh out of the audience I was with–and with me as well–and without going into detail:

When you see the scene, you'll get this completely.

When you see the scene, you’ll get this completely.

I came out really happy, not only because I saw what I’d say was a real science fiction movie, but because there was a scene involving engineering that was done while ABBA’s Waterloo played on the soundtrack.  I mean, come on:  that’s something I’d do in my stories, so you know I was smiling like crazy and bouncing in my seat as the scene played out.  And in a moment of disclosure, in a game I was running some twenty years ago, I’d planed to use Waterloo as a song-over during a scene were some people were preparing in invade a planet.

See?  Great minds think alike.  And so do those who know what makes science fun.

Ready for Overnight Flight

So, here we are, sitting around waiting.  In my case I’m waiting for my laundry to finish, because I’ve run out of unmentionables to wear, and a girl’s gotta have clean unmentionables.

And I got my nails done yesterday, too.

And I got my nails done yesterday, too.

Once laundry is finished I’ll need to run out and pick up a few things, and I figure I’ll get out about eleven or so.  Once all that’s done, I’ll start on the next scene, which sees Kerry heading off to go camping.  And, believe it or not, I’ve been getting ready for this moment . . .

First off, I’ve worked on the route my group is going to take.  As was sort of mentioned in the prior scene Friday–the day after the camp out–there will be a lot of flying.  The reason for that will get covered another scene, but it’s all over the place.  Love my maps, you know, because it really helps to know where my students are at certain times, and that also means I can check on weather conditions for those areas.  Because, you know, it’s gonna be cold, and there may be snow.

You’ve seen the brooms they’ll fly–everyone’s on Class 1s–and you’re kinda seen the camp site–

Right here.

When it’s not cold and gloomy and dark.

Which is easier to see from above–

North of the mountains and just south of the Allagash.

North of the mountains and just south of the Allagash.

Now, since there is a line heading off the top of the map, it’s pretty much a given that my fliers are heading off in that direction come Friday morning.  More of that will come out as I write not the next scene, but the scene after.

Now, gear.  There are tents, cots, and sleeping bags, not to mention food and hydration systems.  Let’s get this out of the way right now:  these are not TARDIS tents.  They are not bigger on the inside and decked out with all the comforts of home.    Nope, these tents are simple two-person, four season, cabin tents with a vestibule, just like Normal people use.

Though most of overnight tents will be combinations of black and white.

Just like this, though most of overnight tents will be combinations of black and white for tundra conditions.

The reason for having a vestibule is simple:  it’s a place where brooms and backpacks can be stored for the evening and remain out of the elements.  When the vestibule is zipped closed, it makes it easier to get things needed without having to worry about letting in wind and, in the case of these campers, maybe snow.

The cots are ultra light and remain close to the ground.  This way while they fill up the floor of the tent, they’re not so impossibly large that it makes it difficult to move around.  You can be assured that the sleeping bags will be able to handle the cold, either in the middle of Maine in mid-December, or somewhere in Canada in the middle of January.

It looks so cozy in there, doesn't it?

It looks so cozy in there, doesn’t it?

How are they going to carry all this stuff?  Thirty-six liter backpacks, that’s how.

Like these, only without the scenery.

Like these, only without the scenery.

Everything they’re gonna carry–save for their brooms–goes in the packs, and I know what you’re thinking:  how do they get everything in there?  Well, you’re gonna find out about the Compression and Expansion spells soon enough, and for the advanced fliers not in Advanced Spells–*cougheveryonebutonekidcough*–those are two spells they have to know by the end of their B Levels or they’re not gonna be allowed off the school grounds to go camping alone.  Does this mean Kerry knows these spells?  Well . . . you’ll have to see, won’t you?

It should also go without saying that the material is enchanted so it’s stronger, more resistant to cold and wind and rain, even a little lighter.  Now, that doesn’t means that the cold stays out completely–after all, what if you’re stuck with nothing but Normal equipment?  You may just have to rough it, or know how to craft the right spells to keep yourself nice and comfy.

Like I say quite often, writing isn’t always writing.  You want to get little details like these down, then you do your research and get everything together.  This is why getting scenes written don’t always go as smoothly as expected.  Sometimes you really do have to find the things you need to make the things you say sound a little more convincing.

Tricking Out the Trade

I’m much better today.  Yesterday I had to come home early from work and get some sleep because a proto-cold was knocking me up, and I wasn’t handling it well.  I had a stuffy nose and soar throat, and I felt as if my energy reserves were below zero.  After sleep, rest, and medication I seem better today, and I’m doing my best to stay warm.

Even though I did some editing last night–and managed to finish a scene and a Part to Kolor Ijo–I pretty much took it easy.  Which means I’m ready to answer another reader question.  And this one comes from Skye Hegyes, who asks:


You use many things I’d love to hear more about, but recently the one that has me the most curious is the research involved to find out where everything is (place-wise) in your stories, what the weather is like certain days, and things like that. Sometimes it drives me nuts. I see all your screen shots and I’m like, “How did she find this out?!?” It would be a cool thing to learn.  I am good at research, but nowhere near as good as you. Tips of the trade would be awesome.


I’ve been asked about research in the past, and I’ve even written about some of the things I do to bring a story together.  I think the best thing to do here is see how things were put together for The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced, because the world building started right there.

Originally the Salem Institute for Greater Learning and Education, or Sigle, was originally located on the southwest flanks of Mount Katahdin in south-central Maine.  The idea originally was to place it there to keep it away from prying eyes, but as I thought more about this aspect of my world, the whole “Hiding in Plain Sight” idea became stronger and stronger, and I finally decided it could hang out in a populated area because magic and technology would keep it hidden from the outside world.  Which meant all I had to do was find a place close to Salem where I could put a huge, walled-off school . . .

So it was off to Google Maps to look.  And after some looking around I was able to settle on Cape Ann because the center of the island was a forest and nature preserve–

Or is it?

Or is it?

I’m a bit of a map freak:  I love looking for things on maps, and Google Maps is a great place for me to loose time.  When I saw that blank space, I knew my school could go there.  And in doing my research, I discovered that Gloucester was the original location of Salem, but that the first colony failed and they moved to the location of the current city.  Hummm . . . I wonder if someone had a hand in that failure?

As for finding out a lot of things that I use in my research, I tend to Google and then search the hell out of the links.  Sometimes I’ll go several pages deep into a search and see what turns up, but I rarely stick with one site.  And if you look around you’ll find lots of interesting things . . .

I already knew Kerry’s name when I started the story, but that doesn’t stop me from going to my favorite naming places, Baby Center, and looking up his name.  Not only do I like all the information available, but I love using the Related tab, which shows you names that are like the one you’re considering–in case you decide you suddenly like Cary better.

I am not buying Homer, however.  Witches, yes:  Homer . . .

I am not buying Homer, however. Witches, yes: Homer . . .

I’ll also search by certain names as well, such as Persian and Gaelic, which I have done many times in the past.  Sometimes you just have to go that route.

Speaking of maps, I’ve been asked before about how I make some of the routes I have, and that’s done through Daft Logic’s Advanced Google Maps Distance Calculator.  I found this a long time ago–back in late 2012, to be exact–and I’ve used it to lay out several routes that will show up in The Foundation novels as they come out.

It looks like a couple of routes have been removed from your viewing.  I wonder what they were?

It looks like a couple of routes have been removed from your viewing. I wonder what they were?

This comes in handy if you’re trying to figure out distances through flight as well, since Google Maps will tell you the distance if you’re traveling by road.  But for making some of the things I’ve made–or, as you can see, laying out the flight from the school to Pearl Hill State Park–it can’t be beat.

Now, about the weather . . .  Historical weather can be had at Weather Underground, but there are a few things you need to understand.  The National Weather Service tracks weather at airports, so when I’m looking at the weather at the school, I’m really getting it from the airport at Beverly, MA, about thirty miles to the west.  This means that what I’ll have at the school may not be the same, but as far at the story goes, it’s close enough.  And when you’re traveling over a wide area, you may want to check with several airports along the way.

You can get a nice rundown of the daily conditions–

Hey, look:  it's the last day of school.

Hey, look: it’s the last day of school.

Or you can scroll down and see an hour-by-hour recording of the weather:

It's still the last day of school, but now there's a lot more of it.

It’s still the last day of school, but now there’s a lot more of it.

This is how I come up with those “Kerry looked out the window at the thick overcast” scenes.  I’ve not tried a lot of this with overseas locations, but eventually I will–only because I’m like that.

I’ve also written a little about Seat Guru, which I use to see aircraft layouts, but which you can use to get a good seat on a flight.  But if you absolutely, positively need to see the layout of a Air France 777-200 (772) Three Class V2–


You know what to do.

And lastly I give you this, because I never know what anyone out there is working on, but as for me the need once arose to see the sort of effect a large blast would have on an area, and in looking about the Internet I found Nuke Map, which is the place to go if you wanna see what nuking a city, any city, looks like.  I’ve played with this before, and if you consider seeing the aftermath of a devastated area after you lob a twenty megaton bomb into the center of said area “playing”, then you’re just like me.

For example, I picked Indianapolis–the capital of Indiana, a place where politicians are working overtime to allow legal discrimination of people like me–and I decided to see what would happen if I exploded a standard 150 kiloton cruise missile above the capitol building, which used to be right across the street from where I worked.  And . . .

My therapist is well outside the blast area, so it's all good.

My therapist is well outside the blast area, so it’s all good.

As with any research, consult several sources.  When I was looking up information on runes I looked at four different sites, and correlated the information between them to get the results you may have saw the Annie’s and Kerry’s dreams.  Don’t assume that the first site you find will have everything you want:  you may need to consider a lot of information before deciding on what you want to use.

And another thing to remember is that most libraries have Internet access these days.  There’s nothing wrong with taking something you found on the Internet and seeing if there’s a hard copy source of that info you can take home–or visa versa.  If you can, use all the information.  It makes for a better story.  And don’t forget to bookmark anything you find that you like.  If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have found these lovely physics calculators that I’ve used over the years.  You never know when you might need math . . .

There you have it, and I hope the information I’ve given you is helpful.  If nothing else, it tells you about how I go about looking for things–

And some of the stuff I’ve found.

The Road to Camp Reka

Cassidy is dragging a little this morning, in part because of this stupid Daylight Savings Time thing which should be abolished to hell and gone, and in part because I was out last night and didn’t roll into the apartment until half-past midnight.  It was nice getting out for the first time in a long time, and I’ll have to do this more often.  Of course, I need to find a few more friends to go out with to make that happen . . .

Since I was out yesterday, this means I spent a lot of time getting ready, ’cause that’s what you do when you’re planing on a night out.  A big part of my afternoon was spent doing my nails, and if you’ve ever had to do your own nails and get them so they look half-way decent, you gotta put in the time.  This means there are a few moments when you can’t type on the computer, but you can use a mouse–

And you can think.

I did some of that yesterday because this scene I have in my head for a part of a novel to come is really obsessing me.  And when I get like I tend to work on it a little if I’m in the middle of a work in process, or a lot if I’m not.  As I’m not, then I’m working on this sucker like crazy mad.

The strangest thing about this scene is that things are happening, at one point or another, in four different locations in three different time zones.  Since people tend to get a little freaked out by time, it’s always a good idea to know your zones when you’re reaching out on a global stage.

The main website I use for this sort of thing is Time and Date, which has been around for a long time.  Most of the time I use it for it ability to give me a calendar for just about any year–do you need a calendar for Saudi Arabia for 2132 so you can figure out when Ramadan begins?  Have at it, people.  And in case you didn’t generate the calendar, it’s 10 November–but of late I’ve been looking at the time zone calculator.  ‘Cause if you get confused about when things are suppose to happen at a certain time in different parts of the world, then you need to check out their Time Zone Converter page.

For example, for the scenes I’m imagining, this parade of crap begins when Annie and Kerry–yeah . . . Kerry–get hauled out of bed at somewhere around six-fifteen in the morning.  The person coming for them has teleported in from San Francisco, and the hell that has initiated all this activity happened far gone and out in the wilds of Siberia.  So I go into the Time Zone Converter page, put in a date and time and some city names, and . . .

I know I said four locations, but the forth is in the same zone as San Fran.  Chill out--I got this.

I know I said four locations, but the fourth is in the same zone as San Fran. Chill out–I got this.

If I was the sort of person who needed to know when all this stuff was happening–and you already know I am–I’d just plug this into one of my Aeon Timeline spreadsheets.  In fact, I just this moment came up with something insane for keeping track of everything.  Just wait until I show you . . .

The gist of this little part of the story is it takes about three hours to get everything explained–this is where the fourth location comes in, because the rest of the gang going on this trip are located there–so when Annie and Kerry and the people they’re working with finally jaunt over to Russia it’s 23:00 local time, or eleven PM for a lot of other people, and the thing Annie and Kerry see when they get their wits about them is a sky burning bright with the aurora borealis, something Kerry got used to seeing for a couple of nights while flying The Polar Express.

"So it was like this when you did The Polar Express?"  "Yeah, only it was Emma holding my hand--"  "SMACK!"  "Owwww!  I was just kidding!"

“So it was like this when you did The Polar Express?”  “Yeah, only it was Emma holding my hand–” “SMACK!” “Owwww! I was kidding!”

No, Kerry:  never kid about shit like that with a witch who can kill you in the time it takes to think about the magic she needs to kill you.

And just as an added bonus, since I wasn’t certain about how to do that Owww! I Googled “Sounds of pain” and was instantly given directions to The Written Sound website, and in particular the Onomatopoeia Dictionary, because sometimes you do need to know the sound uttered by a person choking, or that Blam is the sound of explosion–unless it’s being uttered by Rocket Raccoon after he, well . . .

He gets testy when he discoverers you've locked down your trash bin lids.

He gets testy when he discoverers you’ve locked down your trash bin lids.

There’s my madness out in the open for all to see once more–

Yeah, it’s a great life, isn’t it?

To Map, Perchance to Plot

Let’s met Annie.  Say hi to her–

"Hi, Annie!"

“Hi, Annie!”

When I was working towards understand Kerry’s far, far, better half, I started throwing around what I knew about her, and began format that knowledge into the world I was creating.  This is where Scapple, the mind mapping program created by the same people who make Scrivener, came in handy, because I could make notes and interconnect them to other notes, work them around and get an idea about where I was going with the character.

I’ve seen where others have also used Scapple to work out plots for their stories.  I’ve played with this a little in that area, but I’ve yet to work out a story where my notes and ideas would find themselves interconnected in such a way that a coherent tale springs forth.  Though there are a couple of scenes I’m considering working out this way . . .

On to the current work in progress.  When I prepared to start the novel, I did so–as I usually do–with two things in mind:  I needed a title, and I needed an ending.  The idea of the title I got from Harlan Ellison, who commented on more than a few occasions that he couldn’t write until there was a title on the page.  Now, my titles may change as I get deeper into a story–that happened a few times with The Foundation Chronicles:  A for Advanced–but I always have a title.  And the ending idea comes from Issac Asimov, who was quoted saying that it was necessary to know how his story finished so he’d know how to get there.

I knew how I wanted to start the story.  There would be a prologue with two scenes:  the first would have Annie standing next to a tree near her lake house, and the second would be The Foundation people convincing the parents of a sullen and likely depressed Kerry that he was getting a free ride to a school for special students outside Salem, Massachusetts, and that he should pack his bags because he was leaving for London in a couple of hours if he said yes.

The last two scenes would mirror the intro:  the first scene would show Kerry returning from school, somewhat depressed because he’s parted from someone special to him, and now it’s time to go back to his old, “Normal” life, while the second scenes would show Annie standing next to a tree near her lake house, equally sad from saying goodbye to her “Ginger Haired Boy”, and having to face the summer without him.

With that in mind, it was time to start plotting.

Since I was working in parts, chapters, and scenes, I decided to work in Scrivener through Outline Mode, because as folders and text files were added, and metadata added, it was a simple matter to move things around when and where needed, and lay out dates and times as needed.  As the Prologue and Chapter One were almost all Annie and Kerry there wasn’t much of a need to keep track of other characters, because the one who did walk onto the written stage didn’t require a great deal of attention.

Carefully taking my kids on the trip of their lives, one scene at a time.

Carefully taking my kids on the trip of their lives, one scene at a time.

It was easy to plot things out like this, but keep in mind this is a small section of the story.  There’s a lot more in the next two acts–which were added about half way through writing the first act.  This is something that’s nice about Scrivener:  you need to add or move something around, you do.

Something else I used for the first time were document notes.  These came in handy when I was writing about Annie and Kerry’s day trip around London, which was done almost entirely via tube travel.  Notes stay attached to a scene, so once in place they’re always there inside the Inspector (the area on the right) all the time.

Sure, you could make up how you get around London, but it's easier if you do it with notes.

Sure, you could make up how you get around London, but it’s easier if you do it with notes.

Another thing I did on this novel was layer scenes under a top scene.  I used it extensively for the scene “Over the Pond”, where all the action took place on-board a 747, and point of view switched from my kids to some traveling instructors, and back.  The date and time were already set, so here it was just a matter of knowing who was in each sub-scene aboard the plane, and that information was kept in the metadata for each scene.  The great thing with these layered scenes is when you don’t need to see them, you just collapse them under the top lead-in scene and all is right in the world once more.

There's a party in the sky, and you're all--well, you'll get invited in time.

There’s a party in the sky, and you’re all–well, you’ll get invited in time.

One last thing to mention about this layered scenes is that they were added as I wrote.  I did the lead-in scene, then decided I’d write about Annie and Kerry finding their seats, or the instructors talking about Phee–I know who that is–and I’d add the text file, do a copy and paste on the metadata, set the Label and Status, and away I’d write.  Easily Peasily!

And that leads to cross-checking what I’d laid out in Scrivener by seeing if the time lines matched up.  There was always the possibility that something was off, and sure enough, once I started plugging things into Aeon Timeline, there were a few things that didn’t make sense.  Now, this didn’t affect the plot, but in terms of when things happened, it was a good idea for me to see if everything worked.  I didn’t actually need to do this for what became the first act, but this was practice for something that was coming in Act Two, and the practice of laying out this first section of the book helped me understand how I was going to lay out an important set of scenes that required things to happen at certain times, within a certain time frame.  And that would be important to the story . . .

Time be time, mon.  And here be the time for Act One.  Looks so different here, doesn't it?

Time be time, mon. And here be the time for Act One. Looks so different here, doesn’t it?