The Guardian Arrives

Yes, it’s true:  I was distracted by Project Runway last night, and that took almost two hours out of my writing time.  I don’t watch much in the way of TV, but I’ve never missed Project Runway if I could help it.  Seeing how this year they have a good amalgamation of drama queens, stress freaks, a crazy Russian who it trying to keep Old Soviet Union from asking for its stereotype back, and a dude trying to save unicorns, there’s enough insanity to get through the season–at least until they start culling the herd, then it’s every person for themselves, and you grab the popcorn and enjoy.

When that isn’t happening, I write.

The last part of The Foundation Chronicles is here, and that light at the end of the tunnel is probably me, the glow girl muttering, “It’s a girl, Mrs. Walker.”  Before the runway I wrote about a meeting in a format headmaster’s office between a Foundation official and the woman who ate the headmaster’s face–rule one:  never piss off the wrong teachers–and in the process of writing that scene I began mention people who will appear in the upcoming novel.  No, not this novel:  the next one.  Remember?

The writing part was a bit slow, due in part to having people PMing me, due in part because I needed to look up time lines to make certain a person who was recommending another for a position actually knew that person when they were together in school.  Remember those all those time lines I made before I began writing this story?  Yeah, they work.  I’d recommend making them and using them, but that would be proselytizing, and who wants that?

Really, try them.  It can make life easy to do your homework up-front.

But after almost two hours away from my computer, after all that time when I wasn’t writing, with it being nine forty-five PM and knowing that sleep would call soon, there was something I wanted to write.  There was someone I wanted to bring onto the stage.

There was someone I wanted to create.

I’ve been waiting for this moment to bring onto the stage a character I created two years earlier, and who would play a rather full part in this novel I’ve got kicking about in my brain.  So now I’d reached the point in my current novel where this mysterious woman, she who was mentioned earlier in the novel, to walk on and make her grande entrance . . .

By the time I’d finished, I had a little over five hundred words written, on top of eighteen hundred or so I’d written throughout the day.  It was a double good feeling to have all that wordage out of the way, and to have my character show up to–well, not save the day, but lay out some ground rules.

That chapter is on for today.  I hope to finish it tonight, then do a short scene–and, yes, I do mean short–then write the final chapter, and . . .

Check back tomorrow.  We’ll see about and then.

The Lights Go Down on Past Ways

I start off this morning with a little advice from Henry Miller.  He’s the sort of writer I’d like to become:  banned everywhere for writing interesting things.  Who doesn’t want that sort of notice?

As noted on the Novel Spaces website, Miller left behind eleven points of writing advice:

 

1.  Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2.  Start no more new books, add no more new material to Black Spring. (At the time this was his WiP.)
3.  Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4.  Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5.  When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

 

I have rules that I stick to, or at least do my best to dance to their tune.  It’s not always possible–yesterday was a great example of how you can’t always write when you want to write–but I still get my writing in every day, even when I feel as if I’m drowning in a pool of fetid water, surrounded by the crap that are my stories.

That was this morning, when I crawled out of bed, by the way.  Now I feel much better.

Most of the time I get lost on that eleventh point; I also get lost on the tenth as well, which is distracting as hell, because that’s happened to me for the last three stories I’ve written.  But back to the eleventh . . . with social media all over the place, it’s easy to lose the signal because you’re trapped in the noise.  (Yes, that was a Peter Gabriel reference.)  It’s a simple matter to roll over to an online group, and think, “Oh, I’ll just check in and see what’s happening,” and before you know it an hour has gone by because you’re eye-locked upon something that, more than likely, has you scratching your head because you can’t believe what you’re reading.

Last night a friend of mine summed up a feeling for me pretty succinctly, which she does well.  This happened in a group of which I’ve been a member for some time, but where I’ve stopped participating because it’s become more of a social gathering hole than anything else.  One person was lamenting how people have begun turning on one another in the group, and they can’t understand why it’s happening.  After a few posts where people were kind of saying, “Mean people suck,” my friend stepped in and said, “Because all that gets posted here is insane, time wasting crap.”  The moral being, when you post insane, time wasting crap, you draw to those posts the people who love to wallow in said crap.

Rule Eleven is important.  You want to write, you write.  You don’t continue asking if you think it’s strange that you’re looking up techniques for dismembering a body, or what’s a good name for an alien (I always go with Bob, you can’t miss with that name), or your main character tells you they want to have an affair with the cute girl down at the Steak n’ Shake, but you want them to go skydiving, what’s a person to do?

What you do is write.

Cut out the noise; listen to the signal.

There and Back to the Big House

Oh, did you notice this is coming out late?  These things happen at times, trust me.  The delay is due to getting up at five AM, driving one hundred miles for a thirty minute interview, then driving home.  A little lunch later, as well as the fixing of a screen door has kept me off the computer for about two hours, and then–

Here we are.

It’s so far made for a long, tiring day, but at least I don’t have to cook tonight, because I’ve done enough of that for the last two days.  Kick back tonight, maybe pizza tomorrow.

Right now, we’re talking Great Hall.

The last two days I’ve been running about in Blender designing.  I should say, “Building,” because what I wanted to do is taking the build I’d made for my current story, and sort of see what it would look like if you turned into a three dimensional model.  I know, that’s being a bit obsessive about something that isn’t real, that’s just a part of my imagination.

There is a point to all this, however:  having a designed floor plan allowed me to figure out where some of the action in the building occurred.  I know there are those who may feel that’s a little too much work to put into a project, that it’s getting down into the metadata a little too much, but screw them.  It’s my story, and it’s one I want to publish one day, so I put work into my background.  Hey, it’s either this or spend twenty years on some fan fiction that will never see the light of day, right?

Originally I started with what you see on the right:  a building Main Hall 518layout rendered in 3D that showed as much of the inside as I could dream up.  I still have this, and the information came in handy when I started writing about battles and running and flying going on inside.  Visualizing these things came about from working with someone else, and I’m thankful that I listened to them on this matter.  (As for the rest, I’m still working on that . . .)

But I wanted to see more.  I wanted to see the area around the Pentagram, I wanted to feel the size, the enormity of the area.  It’s a big school:  everything here feels enormous, or is at least should.  Therefore I need to model the outside and the grounds, and I couldn’t do it in the program I used for the floor plan.

So off to Blender, and . . . Pentagram SoutheastBehold!

It’s not much to look at unrendered, but that’s what I’m building.  I have the Pentagram walls, the Coven Towers, the Clock Tower, the covered walkways, the older South Part of the Hall, the transepts, and the newer, more modern looking Library with the curving windowed wall that I couldn’t do the proper way in my floor plan program.  I figured out the scaling for this monster so that it’s not taking up a whole lot of virtual space, and it leaves open the possibility of modeling some of the other buildings.

If you want to get a feeling for scale, look at this:  Pentagram Main Gateit’s the main gate of the school going through the fifty foot high and eighteen foot thick walls.  And there, standing in the arch, those little sticks?  Those are two students, each five foot tall, catching sight, for the first time, of the main entrance some two hundred feet away.

With the story almost finished, I’m ready to move onto the next project.  But come November, when I may or may not do NaNo again, I’ll start in on another novel, and that novel will build off the little novel I wrote this month of July.

Maybe, in four months time, I’ll have even more to see.

 

 

. . . In That Quiet Earth

It’s interesting that just a few days ago I was talking about using Nukemap to figure out explosions for my story, and all of a sudden both Time and io9 are talking about the 3D version of the site, which does let you see what your home town looks like with a mushroom cloud rising overhead.  Of course the site is down at the moment, ’cause everyone is busy nuking their old schools, or their last job, or the home of the significant other who gave them heartache.  Enjoy that W-76 in your corn flakes, butthead.

I finished the part of my story dealing with the, let us say, battle I had there.  I started writing yesterday morning after posting yesterday’s musings, and thirteen hundred words later I finished everything with a good mauling.  Really, someone had their face eaten by a lioness, which isn’t the worst way to go, unless that lioness also happened to be an instructor who the foolish character in question had done nothing but piss off for the last two years.  That’s when your face gets eaten.  It’s worse than being mauled by a bear, let me tell you.

I even managed another three hundred words late last night to show things getting a little back to normal, though there are some whispered tales of what’s happening and who died.  The end is close by, and the story will probably end up hitting the fifty thousand mark when it’s all said and done.

The thing is, I feel no need to rush and finish the story before the end of the month.  If I do, I do.  If not, I’ll finish it the first week in August.  I met my Camp goal, and surpassed it.  I even feel proud that I managed another novella if not a short novel.  Beyond that, however, I feel a bit burned out and a whole lot of stressed.  Some of that comes from things in my life, some from things online.

Either way, there are changes coming for me, for I need them.  I need to walk away from distractions, and get more serious about this craft I’ve chosen.  As soon as this story is finished, I’m thinking my way through on how to make things . . . different.  Whatever the hell that means, you know?

As I was told once, if you wanna feel professional, you gotta be professional.  The time for acting is over.  Besides, I received my first royalty payment from Amazon yesterday, and it was enough to make me smile.  So the possibility of breaking through is still there.  I just gotta reach for it.

As Chuck says, you might just be doing it wrong otherwise . . .

Lastly, since I’d finished my writing early yesterday, I thought I’d jump into blender and start fooling around with modeling out The Great Hall and The Pentagram as they are described in the current story.  Despite not really knowing what I’m doing, just having the vision in my head and a few layouts I’ve developed.

Imagine my surprise when I finally get it all set up in 3D and . . . whoa.

I’ll show you tomorrow.

Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers . . .

It’s almost over.  This “short scene” of action that would end up the centerpiece of a twenty-five thousand word novella has turned into a novella of its own–thought, to be fair, it’s still the centerpiece of a short novel.  Funny how those things work out.

But it’s in the final stretch.  The last chapter ended up about thirteen hundred words full, and I set the first short sentence of a next part of the chapter before I decided my eyes were going to begin fighting me before long if I continued upon this course.

It’s what’s for breakfast, though.  After posting I’ll get into the chapter and rip into the sucker.  I’ll finish up the last segment of this nightmare, spill the last blood, and set up Part Four.  I still have another character to bring on stage in somewhat dramatic fashion, though I could say I’m really bringing four characters onto the stage, but one doesn’t have a lot of lines, and the other two–better not say.

“What of the unquiet slumber you speak of?” I hear you say.  I don’t really hear you saying it, but I know it’s there, at least in my imagination . . . good question, though.  Here’s what I mean.

First off, there’s this story idea that is tearing around in my head–again.  It’s another of those erotic fantasies, like the one I just finished before the Camp, and it won’t go away.  It wants me to write it down in my Ideas Project so that it becomes a thing, a real thing that stays around forever, but I’m resisting.  At least for now.  But the time will come–maybe today, maybe tomorrow–when I set the idea inside an idea file, and save the project.  Again.  Because I never have enough ideas, it appears.

Then there’s the dream . . .

For the longest time dreams have been impossible to remember, likely because of a combination of long work hours and exhaustion.  But they’ve been coming back, because who knows, they just do.  There’s a reason they tickle your brain in the middle of the night, because they are reminding you that you’re not the boss of your mind subconscious.

What did I have in my dreams?  A whole lot of being told that I can’t do things that I want to do.

It felt like I was at Comic Con, though it could have been any con, since I’ve attended GenCon and know what they’re like.  I was walking to and fro, my badge slung around my neck, and it seemed like everywhere I went, I’d hear from people about how I shouldn’t dress a certain way, or I shouldn’t walk a certain way.  How I shouldn’t walk onto a panel and talk about a certain subject.  How I should write stories a certain way, or that there were some stories I shouldn’t write at all.

Crap like that the whole time.

In the end I walked into a hall dressed a bit like the Silk Specter, though what I had on was more red and black than yellow and black.  I seem to remember flipping someone off as I headed through the door, because they were about to question where I was going, and I didn’t feel like giving them the satisfaction of being able to feel good about “telling me something”.

That unquiet slumber is over.  Now I have writing to do.

After I tell this idea to stop bugging me.

Hanger Time

This is one of those moments when I wake up and realize I made a mistake.  Oh, noes!  What do I do?

Don’t panic.  It’s not that bad.  Allow me to explain . . .

Yesterday I worked on the penultimate scene in Part Three of my Camp story, the part that has all the attacking in the middle of the night and a lot of death and destruction.  It was a good scene.  I’d figured out what sort of equipment was going to be used, which characters would be on stage.  I did my research ’cause there was a bit of math that needed calculating to get one part of the story right, and I’d checked my observation and calculations against the maps I’d created, to make sure when I wrote my last scene, I would at least have some accuracy behind the drama.

It all looked good, so when I wrote the last line in the chapter–“The Hanger vaporized”–I was satisfied with the vision I’d created.  I listened to some music for an hour, read a bit, then headed off to bed.

And . . . I didn’t feel right when I woke up.

The scene I’d written was dramatic, but it felt too dramatic.  It was too explodey.  Yeah, my original calculations said I’d blow things to hell, but I didn’t feel right.

That meant re-checking a few facts.

First off, I’m using Nukemap, an online nuclear bomb effects program, to calculate effects.  I’d used the original version, but this morning–about seven AM to be more or less exact–I checked the link for the new and improved 2.0 Nukemap, and I thought I’d give it a spin.

What’s nice is that I could set this for a surface burst, and eliminate Nukemapthat pesky radiation, since my detonation wasn’t an actual nuke.  I added a few blast markers to check for over-pressure effects, centered the point of detonation right about where it should be in the real life place, and clicked the Detonate button.

As you can see, my effects are quite a bit different.  In particular, the radius of my air pressure effects.  Damn those ground bursts; they always try and spoil your fun.  In primary effect I want–which is a lot of damage up close and personal–is still there, but what happens to the structure is going to be a lot less than “vaporized”.

(With this site, if I wanted to use the 3D version, I could have had a little cloud rise up from the point of detonation, but that would mean loading the Google Earth plugins, and knowing my computer, it’d have a breakdown trying to render that effect.  I’ll just pretend the cloud is there and move on.)

One I have the new effects nailed down, I bring up my map and start Hanger Blastabout doin’ some figurin’.  I need a couple of rulers, I move them to the area in my Hanger were I figure the blasting is going to happen, set them at right angles to each other, and . . . yeah.  Just what I thought.  Not a lot of vaporizing going on here, but there will be a lot of damage.

So away with “The Hanger vaporizes” line.  Instead I head back into the last chapter and write a bit of prose about how one wall disintegrates and the southern portion of The Hanger collapses to the ground.  There’s no mention of how the floor craters and everything dropped into the basement under The Hanger, or how two instructors die and three bad students end up with incompletes for the year, but a reader should be able to figure that out for themselves.

Some people wake up and wonder when the coffee will finish brewing, or what the weather’s like.  I gotta think about power systems blowing up and buildings collapsing.  Because I want a paragraph to be right.

Yeah.  It’s like that all the time with me.

 

The Slow Grind of Fast Action

I completed the longest chapter in my story last night, and though it might not seem as much happened, there was quite a lot going on, with the most important being that one can be strangled with toilet bowl water.  It’s kind of hard to face the kids after that happens to you.

But the part, as a whole, has so many little sections–if you call fifteen hundred words little–so many characters that show up, so many things happening at different locations, that once you get into detailing it all, it takes more than a bit of time to write it all out.

Not counting the penultimate chapter I started last night, all the scenes of this third part total 22,540 words.  Checking against my log totals, that means I started working on this section on 7 July, almost two weeks ago.  The last four chapters total 9,247 words; I’ve been working on them since 14 July, almost a week.

And I still have a Part Four to put in the bank.

Action is, to put it bluntly, a pain to write.  Fight scenes, combat, battle between titanic fleets; none of it is easy to “show”.  It is easy to tell, though you might not want to type out all those words, because you’ll find yourself five thousand words into a scene and suddenly find you’re only about a fifth of the way through what you visualize, and you have a good novella of things to show ahead of you.

Some of this comes, I think, from the way action is portrayed in cinema form for a while.  Titanic battles between incredible monstrosities seem to go on for days; smaller battles for hours; even a gun battle between two people seems to drag on a lot longer than it would in real life–though I blame John Woo for that.  Well, not actually blame, though the actor he almost blew up just to get an action sequence might disagree . . .

I ran into a situation when writing the final battle between my main female character and her nemesis in Her Demonic Majesty.  I had originally thought of doing a battle with a lot of magical pyrotechnics flying about as my two witches began throwing down.  This was also NaNo 2011, and I was not only getting towards the end of the book, but the end of the month, and I didn’t want to stretch the sucker into December.

With a couple of self-imposed deadlines ahead, I looked at the scene and thought, “Okay, what would they really do?  Throw fireballs at each other?  Blow things up for the hell of it?”  Naw.  I figured someone would try a sucker punch, then go for the knockout blow.  If they failed, they’d probably get their ass handed to them.

That’s exactly what happened.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  Because what’s the one thing you have to remember when there’s combat and you start blowing up public locations?  Someone’s likely going to give you a bill for damages later.

As much as is happening on screen, there’s so much more being implied.  So much that isn’t seen, but imagined.  For every person who goes down in flame, there are two more who get whacked behind the literary camera.

I blow up a couple of building, so I’m at least keeping my pyro hand in the game . . .