Seeing Down Into the Past

Today there isn’t any writing to show, because you got it all yesterday morning.  The rest of the day involved being out almost the whole day, and once I was safely back in the confines of Casa Burg, I didn’t feel like starting on a scene that will be difficult to write.  Not to mention I have to start getting ready for work in about twenty minutes, because while it’s a holiday for state employees, as a contractor I only get paid when I work, so I need to roll in about eight and put in at least four hours.  Those bills don’t give a shit if I get a day off or not.

Walking around the city yesterday gave me plenty of time to think about where my kids are going.  Not that I don’t already know, but still, sometimes you want to get things down in your head a little clearer, while at the same time you go back over events that have occurred and you put a different eye on those matters.  Like last night I was reading an excerpt where Kerry said something, and for a few moments I had to think, “Okay, what was he saying there?” and then it came to me because I’ve been living in their heads for way too long.

Also, I have their Timelines.

The timelines for these stories have become almost mythical, at least to my thinking.  They’ve been in place for about a year and a half, and I’m still adding to them whenever I get an idea.  It’s my way of keeping track of things, like when they did meet, when did they have their first dream together, when does Annie have her first little witch–oh, wait.  I shouldn’t talk about that.  Spoilers!

Well, guess what?  I’m far enough along on this trip that I can now show some of things of which I’ve discussed.  Because why not?  You’ve already ridden with my kids for a year and a half, so why not see how they arrived at where they are today?

It’s funny how I’ve had to keep these hidden and secret, because there are things on here that do give away a lot of the what’s coming.  At the same time I’ve really wanted to bring them out in the open, because putting them together was great fun, and I’ve always wanted to share.  With the A Levels behind me, and a good chunk of the B Levels, too, it’s time to show you how it got to where I am.

First with Aeon Timeline, it’s possible to segment things into different groupings.  So you can have a “Global” area showing events that affect your world and everything in it, and then you can create little areas that show events for that particular section.  What I did, besides having a global event, is set up sections for Annie and Kerry individually, so if there is something particular to them, it stands alone.

Like this:

As you can see, each kid is special to me.

As you can see, each kid is special to me.

There you see Annie’s Story and Kerry’s Story, going back to when they not only started school, but they were first introduced.  “Annie and the Tree” and “Kerry Gets Picked” were the first two scenes in the first chapter of the first part of the first act, and it only went from there.  If you’re watching the points you see they start in 2011, but end in 2013, which is where we’re at now in the second novel.

But don’t I have things they do together?  And what about the school?  Glad you asked:

Because here they are.

Because here they are.

Here are all the things they do together, and below that are all the normal school events, like the duration of racing season, the beginning of classes, when the first and last Madnesses occur, and the dates for Samhain and Ostara celebrations.  You also see the duration of each Level:  A you see from start to finish, and B is still on-going.  You can see the start of their loving one another, Kerry’s trip to the hospital in what turned out to be their first night together, and while you don’t see the timeline for the attack on the school, you see a little mark next to the point, “Kansas City”, and clicking on that opens up another time line showing what they did there.

When you look at the top and bottom pictures–which, in Aeon, are directly above and below each other as illustrated–you may see some points above matching up with those below.  That’s because I’ve pointed out individual things that happen within something that happened to both kids:  Kerry’s Fifth Time in the Hospital and Annie Goes After Lisa is one example of that.  There’s also some detail in some points that doesn’t show up here, but I can access it if I open up the segment in the program’s Inspector.

Here’s one of my guides, and you finally get to see a small segment of this.  Believe me when I say it goes back in time several hundred years, and also forward in time about the same distance.  I’ve used this for a long time, and you have no idea what I have set up ahead–or some of the things I need to add.  It’s all so very strange.

And speaking of strange, this afternoon I’m going to try something that I haven’t done in a long time–and it may just be the strangest thing I’ve attempted yet.

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–

dfdf

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?

Back to the Beginning of the Beginning

How did I start writing my current work in progress, The Foundation Chronicles?  It started with designing buildings.

The main characters in the story, Kerry and Annie, were originally created for an online role play.  I made Kerry, and a good friend of mine created Annie.  We played these characters for a few months, but with most good things the role play came to an end and the characters were shelved.  In the process of building the game there was a great deal of material the two of us developed, both characters and world-wise–

However, I was always pushed to show the buildings, to show the grounds, the show the towers.  My partner in crime kept after me to make maps and building layouts, and being that I was the sort of person who loved doing that kind of thing, I obliged.

It was from there that the Salem Institute of Greater Learning and Education was built.  It was from there that we named our covens, and the buildings, and figured out where everything went.  It was a great learning experience for that fantastic summer of 2011.

Over the next two years I thought a great deal about writing about these character’s adventures.  Even while working on other projects, the story of Annie and Kerry was never far from my mind.  Kerry I knew, but Annie was always a problem for me, because I wanted to get her right, and she wasn’t my creation, at least not at the beginning.  So it took a lot of thinking to get where I wanted to be with her, and I probably tortured myself for a year thinking about her motivations, her feelings, what she wanted the most.

So after I’d finished publishing Her Demonic Majesty in May of 2013, I decided it was time to tackle the tales of Salem.  I didn’t want to start right in on Annie and Kerry, but rather I wanted to do something else that would help build The Foundation World, but at the same time introduce a number of characters that would end up in their world.  I decided that for Camp NaNo, July 2013, I’d write The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, a story of a traumatic event that occurred just before the end of the Twentieth Century.

While speaking to Annie’s creator about the upcoming story, we started talking about Annie’s Lake House.  This is an important location, a place that plays in a lot of scenes not only in my current book, but will have a place in the hearts of both children in their future.  And I wanted to see what it looked like, inside and out.

So it was time to get into the software and design.  I used a program that would allow me to make floor layouts and then show the building in three dimensions.  I could even place furniture inside and imagine the scenes that hadn’t been written yet.

The building that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

The house that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

And there it all was, the house that little spoiled Annie pestered her father to build.  With living room and dining table and kitchen, a library and a private bedroom, and the loft guest area overlooking the ground floor below.  And the wall of windows facing to the south, keeping the house illuminated from morning to nightfall.

I showed it to Annie’s creator and she loved it, even going so far as to say it was perfect.  To hear those words made me feel wonderful, and empowered me to prepare to get my world ready–

Because if I was going to write the story I wanted to work, I needed to build something else:  my Great Hall.  I knew it in my mind, I saw it in my imagination, so it became necessary to lay out with floor plans that would display it as I’d displayed Annie’s Lake House.

I wasn’t able to created it fully, because my computer couldn’t handle all the rendering needed.  But I did most of it, and . . . it was so worth while.

Because if you're going for "Great", you best go all the way.

Because if you’re going for “Great”, you best go all the way.

I had building all created:  I had my Atrium and Rotunda, the Library, the Security Center and the Instructor’s and Headmistress’ Offices.  There was the Clock Tower and the Transepts, the Hospital and the Dining Hall.  It took me about a week of work, but when I looked at this building, I saw my Great Hall.

I was just about ready to write.  Except–

I needed a school.

Tools for the Making

I’ve been around software a large part of my life.  I started taking classes in computer programming in 1979, and began writing code for real in 1982.  Most of what I’ve written has ended up on IBM boxes, though I have dabbled in web based applications, including one that took the better part of a year to write because I ended up slinging about fifteen thousand lines of code before it was all over.

Even today I’m coding.  That’s my day job:  playing code monkey for the State of Pennsylvania.  As it is said, it pays the bills, though after thirty years of it I’m ready for something else.  That’s one of the reasons why I write, because I’d like to be able to work on my projects full-time and not have to spend nine to ten hours a day engaged in endeavors that hold very little interest for me.  I also write because I love to tell tales, but I would love it were it to become my full-time job.

Because I’ve found myself so connected to software for so long, I find dealing with it to be somewhat intuitive.  Most writing software seems to follow a pattern for me, and once I get the basics down the more difficult stuff tends to come once I’ve had time to play with things.  I’ll find something that looks interesting and mess around, get a feel for what I can do, and if it works for me I’ll keep it.  If not, I file the information away just in case it is something I can use later.  Most of what’s in a program really falls under a 40/60 rule:  about forty percent of the stuff in a program is gonna be your go-to stuff, and the other sixty percent is there if you find a reason to use it.

Yesterday’s post received a lot of attention.  Probably because of the pretty picture I included with all kinds of time lines and talk of history, but I have received a bit of feedback about the things I’ve done and what I’ve used to get there.  I’ve written about software a bit in the past, and most of the time the responses I’ve gotten are great.  Sure, I’ve gotten a few, “I never plan anything, ur a hack,” comments, but I tend to laugh at those these days, because who needs that negative energy?

"No, I don't need negitivity in my life:  that's what my job is for."

“No, I don’t need negativity about my writing: that’s what my job is for.”

Since I have time, I thought I’d spend a few days talking about my process:  how I set things up, how I get things plotted out, how I try to tie things together to make my story coherent, what I do with the software I use.  I’ve done a little of this from time-to-time, but this would be with a little, or lot, more detail.  And since I’m intimately tied into my current work in progress, it’ll make a good test bed for discussion.

The hope is that someone will see something that I do, and imagine how it might work for them.  As I told someone last night–someone who was like, “Most writers say they just write”–what I do works for me; what you do will work for you.  That doesn’t mean you might not see something that looks like it might work for you and use it, however, so why not throw that out there?

It’s always worth throwing things out there and seeing what happens.

The Far and the Near

My jaunt into The Black has reached one milestone:  last night I finished creating the main system–aka, The Core–for The ‘Verse, which I’ve been working on here and there since Saturday.  Lots of things to put into this sucker, and even spending an hour or two at night means you only get to add a couple of planets and their moons.  Or a protostar and its planets and their moons–yes, there are stars within stars here, and it makes for one of the most impossible systems I’ve ever seen.

The more I build the more I look at this and shake my head.  It’s such an out there system, but hey:  it’s suppose to be considered canon these days, and who am I to argue with a bunch of Browncoats?  Though I’m sure at some point I’ll probably write about how all the core planets exist outside the habitable zones–the “Goldielocks Zones” we sometime say–and the most massive of the stars is in orbit around all the other smaller stars.  I don’t even want to try and calculate those parameters.  I know there’s one article I want to write that’s based in part on this system, and that’s something I think just might pop up this weekend.  If I’m not shopping, that is.

Then I was into the mind mapping for a while.  I love the Scapple program:  it has certainly become one I want to get when it comes out of beta.  I love the flow, I love how you can put notes wherever you like, and links them not only to one thought, but to many if that is your choice.  I’ve found a few bugs, but it’s beta, remember?  There are suppose to be bug, and they get corrected before the program goes live.  Or so one hopes, yeah?

The one thing I don’t like is how I’m using it.  I reached a point last night where I realized the story I’m playing with works, but I’m flowcharting, not throwing out ideas and seeing if they stick.  Tonight I’m going to “play” with it, do some character sketching, see how that plays out.  I need to think out some characters, and there are a couple I can use to “create them” with the program.  ‘Cause they ain’t gonna build themselves, you know?

That’s the fun when it comes to new software:  you test it, and in doing so you test yourself.  You look for things you could do, and you go there and do them.  You follow new paths, you try new things.  I’m great at thinking things through in an analytical sense, but I need to be a little more spontaneous, more of a throw things out there and see what sticks sort of person when it comes to the craft.  Then from that point, I can build.  I can make things that are incredible, that are inspiring, that feel real.

Just like the gift I sent someone last night, something that, I hope, will give their kids many hours of entertainment, and at the same time get their imaginations a-growin’.  Get them to thinking and dreaming at the same time.

Everyone needs to dream, and have fun while it’s happening.

 

Builder of Worlds

I received a new toy the other day:  the beta version of Scapple for Windows.  Scapple is a mind mapping program, a very simple system that allows you to diagram your thoughts and working out plots, characters, locations, anything your heart desires.  I’ve waited for this software for a while, since it’s made by the same people who make Scrivener, and on the Mac version of both programs it’s possible to drag notes from one program to the other when you’re in the mood to think things out in the middle of a complex story.

When I posted this link a discussion came up about the uses of software for writing, and I mentioned that I’ve used mind mapping software before, and that I’ve used a number of other programs, too, when building a world that is my story.  The question came back, “What software do you use, Cassie?”    I sent a PM to the person who asked, then started thinking last night, “Hey, maybe someone else will be interested to see the sort of tools I use when the writing madness strikes.”

If you’ll allow, I’ll show the thing I use, and maybe you’ll find some of this information useful.

Shall we begin?

First off, I use Scrivener for writing.  I’ve wrote about Scrivener many times, even going so far as to post pictures of SA Startmy projects–like the one at right which comes from December of 2012.  Lets get this out of the way right now:  Scrivener is not simply a word processor, it’s a project management tool.  The idea is to have all the things you need for your story in one place, and eliminate the need to bring up multiple files onto your desktop and flip back and forth looking for something.  If it were “just” a word processor, it wouldn’t be worth the $40, but it’s more than that, and that makes it well worth the price of admission.  Plus I have a fifty percent off code from Camp NaNo, and you never know who might end up getting that little gem.

Since Scapple is in beta mode at the moment, and will likely not be ready for full-out production until right before NaNo 2013, I use FreeMind for all my mind mapping needs.  FreeMind is Java based so it’ll run on any computer that uses Java, and it’s open source, so it’s free, but kick in a donation if you’re in the mood.  It’s not a perfect tool, but once you learn the ins and outs of how it works, you can build mind maps in no time.  Another nice thing is that the saved mind map can be imported into Scrivener, and it’ll set up separate text cards for each point in your map, which means you only have to go and fill in the words.

Aeon Timeline isn’t available for Windows at the moment, though I’ve seen that they are working hard on a Windows version.  Time Line Blog 01Since it’s not available, I use Timeline, which is another Java-based, free program released under the GNU General Public Licence version 3.  I’ve written about this program and its use a few times as well, and thought it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Aeon has, if you are looking for a quick and dirty way to lay out your time graphically, it does the job.  The learning curve is minimal, and since it doesn’t have a lot of stuff loading up in the background, it runs fast on just about any machine.  It’s also great for plotting out all those stories you’re going to write about characters who’ll be around for a very long time, and figuring out where all the events of their lives take place . . .

I’ve said it before:  I like to make maps.  For some stories you need them, or at least I Pentagram Closeupdo.  There are a few programs out there that will allow you to draw up maps, but years ago at GenCon I bought Fractal Mapper, which was really designed for the gaming community, but works wonders if you want to lay out something for a story.  The shapes may not be exactly what you need, and the sometimes drawing roads and paths isn’t always easy, but once you figure out how all that stuff works, you can draw up towns and villages, or those secret government complexes that people seem to want to write about so much.

When I want to look at the layout of a building I use Sweet Home 3D, another Java-based, open source Main Hall 518program.  This program will not only allow you to develop the floor plan of a building, but you’ll be able to see it in 3D from both an aerial view, and a walk-through view.  This program came in handy, because for my last story i created the structure you see on the right, and I was able to figure out where action occurred when I needed it to occur.  Some might call it overkill:  I say I’m getting it right.

If you are of a mind to see how your worlds really look, Pentagram Southeastdo what I do:  get Blender and start modeling.  So far I’ve used it to create a space ship, and to lay out the school where my last story takes place.  Once you figure out how to scale your models, you can build something huge:  for example, the building on the right is five hundred fifty feel from front to back, so you can imagine the size of everything else in that picture.  This is a step most people will never take, but I’m one of those people who sometimes need to see their creations, and there’s few programs that do this better.  Blender is, if you haven’t guessed yet, free to all, and will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.

The last program I use from time to time is only for those of us who write science fiction and like to create real worlds–as in, I build solar systems.  I’ve done this more than a few times, both for stories and for games I’ve run/played.  The program I use for this world building is AstroSynithesis, which is currently on version 3.0.  I’ve Cymru Newydd Systemwritten about this software before, most famously in a post when, because I had a character speaking to a person he’d just met he guessed the world she came from orbited a K Class star, I decided I better design that world just in case my character was wrong about his observations.  You can see that world and its moons to the right, because the program not only allows you to lay out orbits and figure out the rotational periods of the worlds, but you can see what your systems look like the 3D.  I plan to get the newest version–I’m still on version 2.0, since I bought it at the same time as Fractal Mapper–because the next thing i want to map is The ‘Verse, which is something I should be able to do with the newest version.  Why do I want to do that?  I’ve an article I want to write . . .

It goes without saying that I also use Google a lot–everyone should try it, it’s like magic!–and there are a number of websites with conversion calculators that I’ll use from time to time, depending upon what I’m writing.

There you have it, the tools I use for building my worlds.  Maybe some of these are going to be useful to you, maybe not.  But you now know where they are if you suddenly have the urge to start time lining the life of one of your characters.

Oh, I forgot:  there’s one tool on here that I didn’t mention, one that I absolutely need for any of my stories–

My imagination.

Just try writing a story without one.