Understanding the Normal

Though it didn’t happen until last last night, another one hundred and forty-eight words were written and C For Continuing popped up over thirty thousand words.  Why did it wait so long to happen?  Because after I left the coffee shop I stopped off at Capital Gastropub for brunch, ran into someone I know, and we ended up drinking four mimosas each while chatting about relationships, makeup, and politics–

Before the drinking started.

Before the drinking started.

Needless to say I was a little toasty by the time I made it home at two-thirty in the afternoon, and by the time I started feeling myself I was only an hour away from getting notes for Fear the Walking Dead.  So writing was hard.

This means I’m now less than ten thousand words from forty, which is the first bench mark I notice on the way through novel land.  And the part that led up to this point in Chapter Three is the last few hundred words of Chapter Two.  And it’s right below, were Alex wonders what Annie wants to ask:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Alex nodded. “Sure.”

“Did you have a difficult time with your family when you came out last summer?”

There wasn’t any need for Alex to prod Annie for the why of the question: it was fairly obvious. “Kerry having a difficult time at home?”

Annie nodded. “They’re not speaking to him.” The tiniest of raspberries flowed over her lips. “His parents are so damn passive-aggressive, so this is how they show their displeasure.”

“Yeah, my parents were like that at first.” Alex set her elbows upon the table and rested on her arms. “The acted like they didn’t know how they should deal with me, so they spent the better part of the first two weeks I was home pretending I wasn’t there.”

“Why? It seems so strange that they’d react that way.” Annie shook her head. “It’s difficult for me to understand how any parent could treat their children that way, especially one that was born a witch.”

Alex shrugged. “It’s just how it is.”

“Well, it’s stupid: I don’t understand how your parents can be that way.”

“That’s because you’ve never had a Normal life, not like us: magic has been there from before you were born.” Alex lowered her voice so no one else could overhear them.  “Normal adults don’t get real magic so they don’t get us. I mean, they have this understanding that witches and magic are all bullshit, so when one of their own kids comes home from school and tells them, ‘Hey, guess what? I’m a witch and I can do magic’, they first think we’re lying to them. Then when we show them we’re not—” She shrugged. “Parents don’t get how we are as tweens and teens, so how are we to expect them to get us now?

“That’s why you have a hard time understanding what Kerry’s going through, ‘cause in your house you only have to deal with your parents trying to cope with a teenage girl: they don’t have to deal with a just-out witch.”

 

Above you can find the quote from the trailer, though it’s broken up just a bit, but the intent is just the same:  Annie doesn’t understand this concept where Normal parents are pissy about their kids becoming witches.  And it isn’t that strange when you think about it:  Annie didn’t know many witches outside her family before attending Salem and it seem she wasn’t given a heads up about how Normals react to having witch kids.  She knew she shouldn’t do magic around them, but this is something all the more different.

It’s safe to say that when it comes to being a witch, Annie’s led a life of privilege.  At this moment in her life her parents are going to treat her like billions of other teen girls are treated and not like someone who they feel has just gone over to the Dark Side–

"See, your parents only have to worry about you tossing magic around when you don't get dessert--hum, I guess mine have to worry about the same now..."

“See, your parents only have to worry about you tossing magic around when you don’t get dessert–hum, I guess mine have to worry about the same now…”

Both my kids are looking for understanding and answers from their friends and they’re getting it.  It’s a good thing they made friends during their B Levels, otherwise this time in their lives might be difficult as hell to manage.  Which means that at the end her Annie reaches some kind of understanding:

 

Annie understood what Alex told her, but she still couldn’t see why The Malibey’s were acting as they did towards their son. She suspected it had a lot to do with how they treated Kerry before his coming out. It’s all about control and becoming a witch was something they never saw coming and therefore couldn’t keep from manifesting. “But they do get used to the idea, yes? Your parents seem good with you now.”

Alex munched on another sushi roll before answering. “They’re very much okay with it now. They let me do a little magic around the house where it helps out with some things and once a week I fly into Kiev to pick up things for my mother.” She sipped her virgin mojito. “Jario’s parents stayed butthurt at him nearly the whole summer: it wasn’t until he got his travel package for our C Levels that they all finally sat down and got everything straight.” She waved her hand as if pushing something unseen aside. “They’ll get over it, Annie. In time neither of you will have anything to worry about.”

This was something Annie dearly wanted to believe, but given what she know of Kerry’s parents she suspected that “getting over it” was something The Malibeys didn’t do quite as easily as Alex suspected—

Especially his mother: it seems like coming to terms with anything Kerry does these days is a practicality she’d rather ignore. Annie didn’t nothing to prevent the smirk she felt inside from appearing. I wonder when Kerry will tell her that all the magic comes from her bloodline? I also wonder when he’s going to tell her more about me, my family, and my family history?

The smirk began to fade as one last thought came to her: how was Kerry’s mother going to react when she discovered that she not only a son but a daughter? It was in that moment that Annie understood his near-fear at having his first transition happened before he returned to school—

Annie brushed all those concerns aside. There’s nothing I can do, nothing at all. I can offer support from afar, but he’ll have to confront this problem on his own. She glanced off to one side so Alex couldn’t see the concern in her eyes. I’m certain he can do this, but it seems it won’t be an easy task

She took a sip of her drink as she faced Alex and smiled before speaking. “Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, where do you want to go after lunch?”

 

Annie’s starting to feel what Kerry is feeling, and that trepidation is finally sinking in.  But she’s certain Kerry will muddle through the issues with his parents–though she’s also certain it won’t be easy.  And…  I could tell her something, but then that would mean she’s getting visions and she had enough of those.

With Chapter Two finished we’re on to Chapter Three, and guess how that starts?  Well, if you said “Annie goes off to have lunch with someone,” you’d be correct.  Only it’s a lot closer to home and with someone you might not imagine…

Super Lab Proficiencies

Believe it or not, Chapter Two is finished and in the book, so to speak.

Here's the proof so believe it.

Here’s the proof so believe it.

During this morning’s writing session I actually came within about forty words of hitting the thirty thousand word mark, so I’ll likely write a few hundred words in the first scene of Chapter Three to jump that mark.  It won’t be long–maybe a week and a half–before this is a “real” novel.  But who keeps track of word counts?  Oh, me:  that’s who.

Also, today is the first time out wearing the new wig and so far I’ve had a couple of complements on how I look.  I have to say that I really love how I look with this wig and that I do feel a lot more girly, if that’s at all possible.  The next step is to get a low-heat curling iron and see if I can style this sucker a little, as it’s heat resistant.

Coffee, great hair, and cute crazy eyes.  It doesn't get much better.

Coffee, great hair, and cute crazy eyes. It doesn’t get much better.

Yesterday we heard about the reasons why Alex wanted to get into Advanced Formulistic Magic and how she was willing to work hard to make that happen.

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Annie realized in that moment that while she loved mixing formulas into magical mixtures, she did not understand the excitement the Normal kids in Advanced Formulistic Magic—Kerry included—appeared to have when they learned they’d be working in the Chemical Superlab in the Tesla Science Center after the start of 2014. She thought it was perhaps due to knowing how her mother worked within the confines of a small workstation similar to what they used on a regular basis and didn’t understand the glamour in working with equipment that would allow them to created several hundred kilos or liters of a mixture at one time.

Annie barley broke into a smile when she thought back to the next to last Advanced Formulistic Magic of their B Levels when Erywin showed them around the newly refurbished chemical lab, which was damaged by a magical mishap right before Yule holiday, 2012. About ten minutes after arriving Kerry climbed up on a stepladder and looked into one of the processing vat before yelling “Yo, Gatorade me, bitch.” Annie didn’t understand why he said that at or what it meant at the time, but half the class began laughing while Erywin stood silently and rolled her eyes. It was only while walking back to the Chemistry Building that both Kerry and Erywin explained his outburst—

 

Good ol’ Kerry, living up to his geek status and finding a way to let it shine around around the most mundane of science equipment.  But what could have possessed a twelve year old boy to yell out the thing he did?

Oh yeah:  this guy.

Oh yeah: this guy.

As kinda pointed out in the first novel, by this time everyone knows that your middle or high school chemistry instructor is only one financial emergency away from becoming the world’s next drug kingpin, and Erywin did point out during her first day in A Level Formulistic Magic that she does have the know how to cook some wicked-ass meth.  And if there was ever a place to do so, the Tesla Superlab is the place.  Outside of Isis, Eyrwin, and maybe a few other people, who would really know if an enterprising student were producing a mixture that would likely put them on the DEA’s Most Wanted List?

Actually the lab is monitored pretty heavily for this reason, because you can bet that some asshole witch has tried doing just this at some point.  And believe it or not, The Foundation is really loath to allow a student at their most prestigious school to cook up the most incredible mind-bending shit the world has ever seen.  Of course, what they do once they’re out of school is another story…

Now that we’re pretty certain Kerry’s going to become the Jesse Pinkman of Advanced Formulistic Magic, is Annie going to help her friend work her butt off so she can join in on the fun?

 

But that wasn’t why Annie smiled: it was the realization that Alex wanted to work extra hard so she could join their craziness…

Annie set her virgin mojito aside. “Alex, I would be happy to tutor you. I understand why you want this: I mean, if there’s anyone who works to be the best at school, it’s me.”

Alex appeared as if she were about to leap out of her seat. “Oh, thank you, Annie.” She rocked back and forth a few times trying to dissipate her excitement. “I promise, I’ll work hard. I want to: I have to.”

Annie tapped at one of the roll with her chopstick. “One of the things I could do is work with you on a project and have Kerry watch. If you and I do something that he and I have already worked on, he can track our steps and see if there’s something you’re doing that varies from what we’ve done.”

“I didn’t think about that.” Alex folded her hands in her lap and closed her eyes as she gave a pleasant sigh. “You’re sure he won’t mind just sitting there watching us?”

Annie didn’t feel the need to elaborate that when they spent part of their B Levels teaching magic to each other that was exactly what they did. “He won’t mind. And I know he’ll be happy to help you out.”

“Thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome.” Annie folded her arms across her body as she looked down at the table top. “May I ask you something?”

 

Of course Annie is going to help Alex and she’ll even bring Kerr in to help out, because Alex is his friend as well, and he knows better than to say no to his soul mate.  But what is this that Annie is asking?  Could it have to do with future mother-in-law problems?  Well…

Into the Sleepy Breach

At the moment I have a head full of concrete and it’s not getting any better.  I’ve been up since four-thirty, been out shopping, and have watched some TV while barely staying awake.  Why no nap?  Because I have a package coming in that I want to pick up today and if I’m not down in the lobby when the mailguy comes I won’t get it until Monday.  This is what happens when you live in a big apartment building and you have no recourse on getting your package:  you put your life on hold and wait, wait, wait.

Though  did get something nice out of this:

Shopping--remember?

Shopping–remember?

Yeah, a new skirt and some nice dress boots that come up over my knees ’cause yes, that’s what I like to wear.  So as soon as it gets cool I can start wearing this into work once in a while.  It’s like something Annie would want me wearing…

Oh, and this happened, too:

Still a Ginger:  Still Gorgeous.

Still a Ginger: Still Gorgeous.

Speaking of Annie there was a question on the table and my Bulgarian Buttercup was supposed to give an answer–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

“Certainly.” Annie found the request a bit strange as Alex had never seemed shy about asking thing or expressing herself. “You can ask me anything.”

“Okay…” Once again the nervousness Alex showed before they entered the restaurant reappeared. “Would you be willing to tutor me in…” She looked around to see if anyone was nearby before leaning over the table and speaking in hushed tones. “Formulistic Magic.”

The food arrived and once more conversation needed to stop until they were alone. Annie reached for one of the rolls. “I thought you had excellent proficiencies in Formulistic Magic.”

“I do. But…” She swallowed a roll whole and slowly chewed before swallowing. “I want extraordinary proficiencies. I was hoping that at the end of the last level Sladen would invite me into AFM, but she didn’t. The only reason why I think she didn’t invite me is because I didn’t have extraordinary proficiencies, and that’s what I want.” She motioned across the table with her chopsticks. “I figure since you’re already in AFM you might be able to see what it is I’m doing wrong.”

Until this moment Annie had never considered the possibility that someone else might ask her for help outside outside of a normal class routine where she was expected to ask as a minion and assist struggling students. She was curious about one thing… “Why do you want to get into the advanced class?”

Alex stared at the table top as she methodically tapped her chopsticks against he surface. “I’m trying to decide if, when I go to uni, I want to major in chemical or aeronautical engineering. I love both, but, you know, I really want to make certain.

“One of the reason I wanted in your class is you guys are getting access to the Superlab this year and I really want a shot at that.”  Alex continued after a few seconds. “My proficiencies are excellent and I thought that would be enough to get an invite for my D Level into your class. When that didn’t happen—” Her shoulders slumped as she sighed. “I figure I must be doing something wrong. I didn’t say anything while we were getting ready to leave at the end of the last school year because I wanted to think things out and see what it was I really needed. And this is the conclusion: I need help to get to the next proficiency level.”

She leaned over the table. “If I stay in regular Fomulistic Magic I won’t get access to the Tesla Superlab until near the end of my E Levels and through my F Levels. You guys are going to get to use it a year before I can and that’s why I want to get into your class. I figure if I have everything up to Extraordinary levels by the end of the calendar year Sladen will give me an invite.” Alex flopped back against the padded booth backing. “Will you help me? Please?”

 

The Chemical Superlab in the Tesla Center is a big deal on campus.  It can be used to make a whole lot of mixture every lab pair gets a shot at operating, mixing, and cleaning the lab for various projects.  Was it used during the B Levels?  No.  Why?  Um…  There was an “incident” and it not only needed to come off-line, but refurbishing was required as well (This will all get mentioned in time)–

Getting put in charge of creating something in this place is a huge deal because a lot of what is made by the students ends up getting put out in the real Foundation world if the quality is up to snuff.  Like, maybe someone will be asked to brew up 1000 liters of an antibacterial, or perhaps 500 liters of that LX stuff than Coraline likes to give out to calm people down.  This is why you don’t use cauldrons because you’d need a damn big one to cook a half a kiloliter of a pharmaceutical-grade mixture–

Or you could use this to make meth.  I'm sure Erywin will get crap from her students about that.

Or you could use this to make meth. I’m sure Erywin will get crap from her students about doing that.

In fact, I think there’s a certain boy who may have done just that–

Straight Outta the Golden Gate

Hey, look!  It’s time to go back to the Ukraine, ain’t it?  Yep, sure is.  I’m not going to say much up here in the front ’cause I’m gonna do a lot of talking in the middle and that’ll give you enough to read as is.  So, when Annie asks, “That’s the Golden Gate?” you know Alex will have a reply–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

“Yes.” Alex waved an arm at the immense structure. “The last Great Gate of Kiev. You can thank the Russians for this: they built it for the city’s fifteen-hundredth anniversary, though everyone then and now says it looks nothing like the original gate—” She shrugged as she lowered her voice. “I guess the only way we’d know what it really looks like is to get a witch out her and have them Postcog the area. It’s the only way we’d know for sure.”

“That’s true.” What Annie knew of Postcogntion was limited to what she’d already read at home and at school. She knew Deanna taught the basics of the skill though she’d heard her say once before that she wasn’t as skilled at seeing into the past as she was the future. Annie figured that, like Demonology an Necromancy, if a student showed promise with Postcognition Foundation personnel from outside the school came in to help develop their talent.
She tapped her friend lightly on the arm. “Let’s talk about this over lunch.”

Alex nodded. “Good idea. It’s down this way.”

 

Now for an annoying historical interlude:

What Alex says about the Golden Gate is true:  it was part of the city’s fortifications going back to at least before the 11th Century and perhaps a few centuries before that.  The truth is no one really knows because stuff like construction records were pretty sketchy at that time.  By the 1800’s the Golden Gate didn’t exist in much of anything but ruins, but in the early 1980’s the Soviet Union decided Kiev needed a nice present for their 1500th anniversary and rebuilt the Golden Gate in it’s present form.  Just about everyone who knows a little history say the current look is all wrong and at the time this gate went up various historians were telling the Russians this, but in 1982 one did not tell the Old Soviet Union “Nyet!”, it told you–often with a trip to a gulag in Siberia.

But the Golden Gate became world famous when it more or less became one of the moments of the suite Pictures at an Exhibition, written by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.  The suite was composed in honor of Mussorgsky’s friend, artist Viktor Hartmann, who passed away in 1873 at the age of 39.  Mussorgsky imagined the suite as representing the feelings one would have as they walked through an art gallery viewing Hartmann’s work, and the musical movements were based upon certain paintings of Hartann’s–one of which was that of a gate designed as a monument for Tsar Alexander II.  That movement, the last of the suite, was The Great Gate of Kiev.  And that’s the gate in the image below:

Not the Golden Gate, but the real Great Gate.

Not the Golden Gate, but the real Great Gate.

Though Pictures at an Exhibition was originally written for the piano it didn’t take long for it to be adapted for the orchestra, and the version below, conducted by Maurice Ravel, is considered by many to be best interpretation of the suite.  Since we’re dealing with The Great Gate of Kiev here we’ll stick to that movement, which tends to bring down the house every time:

 

Now, the above piece actually starts out with the penultimate movement, Baba Yaga’s Hut on Hen’s Legs, and doesn’t get into The Great Gates of Kiev until around 3:20 in the video.  There’s a reasons for that…

Because my first exposure to Pictures at an Exhibition was only classical if you consider rock to be both classical and progressive.  Not long after I started driving–believe it or not I received my licence on 1 April, 1974, and the world has never been the same–a friend gave me an 8-track tap telling me, “This is some of the freak music you like to listen to,” which was a label I was given at the time–Listener of Freak Music–because out of nearly everyone in my school I was one of the few who listened to FM radio.  It was 1974, okay?  People were just not ready to break with Top 40 AM…

Anyway, I popped the tape in my player and drove around that night being amazed ’cause this was a recording of Pictures at an Exhibition as arranged by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and performed at the Newcastle City Hall in North East England on 26 March, 1971.  Not only did I become a fan of the group then, but it also made me go to the library and seek out the original source material and start getting introduced to actual classical music.

Pictures at an Exhibition has remained a favorite of mine all these years and I’ve even managed to hear it performed live by ELP on three different occasions.  The selection below, taken from their album of the performance, covers the same two movements as the classical piece above, which allows you to hear how three guys on keyboards, drums, and bass made this score their own.

Now that the music’s out of the way we can get to lunch, and wouldn’t you know it:  the girls aren’t going that far…

 

They quickly left the park and the enormous gate behind as they crossed the street. Alex, walking on Annie’s left, nodded her head towards the road. “That used to be moat in case you were wondering about the name.”

“I figured when I saw it was Yaroslaviv Val that it had something to do with fortifications, particularly with the gate here.” Annie glanced at the park. “I supposed the wall ran along the other side.”

“It didn’t surround the whole city, but there was a wall over there.” As they walked beyond the western boundaries of the park street took a slight dogleg to the right where Alex pointed to a set of stairs. “There’s the place: I told you it wasn’t far.”

Annie examined the name of the restaurant—Eurasia—as well as some of the placards advertising the wears. “They have sushi?”

“Sure. Yakatori and sashimi, too.” Alex looked down and away for a moment. “It’s not all that fancy, but the food’s good.”

Annie nodded. “That’s all that matters.”

A strange tone took hold in Alex’s voice. “If you’d rather—”

“Alex.” Annie turned toward the girl as she flashed a comforting smile. “I didn’t come here to be impressed: I came here to hang out with you. This is fine.” She nodded towards the entrance. “Let’s go inside.”

The Eurasia was styled much like a modern sushi restaurant. They found a small booth near the bar and given that the place had just opened and was nearly empty they were waited almost immediately. The girls order a combination of nigiri sushi and several rolls to start as well as hot tea for both.

Once they food arrived they began eating immediately. Annie found the food prepared nicely and to have a fantastic flavor. She swallowed her second smoked salmon roll and wiped her lips. “This is tasty.”

 

Did you really think Annie wouldn’t like sushi?  That’s not as surprising as Alex liking it, but then Alex seems to be full of surprises–the biggest one here being that she’s a little worried the fare won’t be to Annie’s liking.  Even though Annie and Kerry mentioned their luncheons in London, they probably never said where they were meeting and the rest of the Party of Six may have figured that when they were alone, The Lovey Dovey Couple liked them so fine dining.

Alex had no idea this is just a lateral move from a fast food joint in Russel Square.

Alex had no idea this is just a lateral move from a fast food joint in Russel Square.

And that’s the actual location when the girls are enjoying their sushi right now–

As they prepare to talk about stuff–and things…

The Final Days and Nights: Summertime, and the Visits Are Easy

So, writing.  Yes, I did it.  Not as much as the two days before, but some of that was due in part to writing a two thousand word recap a few hours before, and that tends to drain me.  The good news is I only have one more Monday night recap to do and then I can sort of take the summer off.

Though, you know, I’m not sure what that means.  Take a summer off and do nothing?  I don’t know if I can handle that.

So what happens in the next five hundred words?  Plans, that’s what.

 

This excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

Jairo shook his head. “That would never happen. You guys have been too much fun; we’ve enjoyed hanging with you.”

Kerry ran his finger around the rim of his mug. “We’ve enjoyed hanging with you guys as well.”

Penny pointed a finger at him. “I hope you won’t forget we got a lunch meet up this summer.”

He nodded. “How could I forget?” Penny had approached them both at the Midnight Madness the night of his birthday, with Alex, Jairo, and Kahoku in tow. Not only did they all want to wish Kerry a happy birthday, but Penny wanted to set up a lunch date between Kerry and her, as they were both in the UK and could fly to just about any location in the country. Penny also made it clear that she wanted Annie to know about the invite, and that she knew if Kerry were to ask her about getting together for lunch over the summer, he’d do so with Annie and Jairo present. “Just text me whenever you feel like meeting.”

“Which reminds me—” Alex turned to Annie. “Would you object to getting together over the summer? I’d love a lunch date with someone from school.” She looked around the table. “It was hard to do so last year, and may be difficult for Kaho this year. I thought it might not be a problem for you, though.”

Annie actually felt honored that a friend other than Kerry would asking about meeting over the summer. “I’d love to, Alex. I think it’d be fun.” Annie gave the matter a moment of thought. “Could you fly to Kiev? We could met there.”

Kahoku nervously coughed. “Or are you—?”

“Say that word and die.” Alex rolled her eyes as she glanced at her boyfriend. “Durnyy, bozhevilʹnyy khlopchyk.” She turned back to Annie, a slight grin playing upon her face. “Sure, I can do that. Dubno’s only three hundred kilometers away; I can make that in an hour.”

 

So there you have it:  at least once during the summer Kerry and Alex are going to get together for a lunch date–one where Annie was present when the asking was done, ’cause one girlfriend is respecting the personal space of another–but Annie’s gonna leave the mountains behind for a day and meet up with Alex.  The kids are getting out next summer, and not just to meet with each other–yes, that’s gonna get mentioned later in one of these last two chapters.  Even though they can’t be together all the time, they’re gonna meet for lunch.

Annie picks Kiev because not only is it in the Ukraine where Alex lives, but it’s likely easier for Annie to jaunt over a thousand kilometers than it is for Alex to do the same.  Alex can hop on her broom and jet across the country to get to her destination–

Three hundred thirty-four kilometers, no waiting.

Three hundred thirty-four kilometers, no waiting.

Whereas Annie needs her mom to jaunt her to the Sofia airport so she can take the jaunt station to the main train station in Kiev.

"Don't worry, Mama:  I'll call when I'm though visiting another country."

“Don’t worry, Mama: I’ll call when I’m though visiting another country.”

And since Pamporovo and Kiev are in the same time zone, there’s no trying to figure out when Annie should get there.  In fact, if she knows Alex is gonna meet her around eleven, she can leave home about fifteen minutes before to ensure she’ll arrive in time–depending on where it is they’re gonna meet.  And I know where they’re gonna meet–I’m just not saying right now.  Same with Penny and Kerry:  locked down their meeting area a few months ago, but you’ll just have to wait on the where.

This portion of the conversation leads into something else that has been asked about already–

 

“Good.” Annie sat back with a smile on her face and her hands folded before her. “You can send a message to my school account: I can access that from my mother’s laptop when I’m home.”

“When you getting your own phone?” Penny scratched behind her right ear. “That way we can just text you.”

Kerry looked across the table and while he kept quiet. They’d discussed this matter more than a few times since returning after Yule, and Annie promised that once she was home and settled in, she’d do everything possible to convinced her parents to let her buy a smart phone. He believed her, too: he was more than aware that when Annie wanted something . . .

Annie’s response was simple and direct. “I’m working on that. You may say it’s my summer project.”

Kerry noticed their four friends exchanging glances between themselves. “Something up?”

Being the closest to him, Alex answered Kerry. “We were wondering if you might like another project for the summer—”

Penny glanced at Annie to her left. “Both of you.”

 

Yes, Annie’s gonna work on getting a phone, and yes, that issue will come up in the next novel.  I know some of you are thinking, “She should have one by now, she’s thirteen!” but you ain’t Annie’s mother:  I guess I am, and I know why they haven’t gotten her a phone yet.  Just chill and wait.  You’ll see.

Now, what is the summer project that is going to be asked of Annie and Kerry?  Well, that’s tonight’s business.

And that means you have to wait until tomorrow to see.

The Agony of the Finish

Last night was something of a first for me, because I did a couple of things I haven’t done in a while.  First, I started and finished a scene in one sitting.  Second, in doing the first, I wrote almost two thousand words.  Well, it was more like eighteen hundred and fifty, but you get where I’m coming from:  I haven’t done that in a while.  I did it by kickin’ it old school:  lots of music, most of it of the older variety, like 60s and 70s, and just kept pushing myself to get it done.

And done I did get it.

The vibe in this scene is far different it that it’s not all Kerry out there in the snow and cold all by himself.  Racing at this joint is a lonely affair, and it’s been proven because you don’t race with others on this course, you race the course, and that means you race alone.

Here you go:  all of the scene in it’s depressing glory:

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

If it weren’t for the fact he was on the last lap negotiating the last major turn on the last section of the Katahdan course, Kerry would have DNFed and headed for the paddock. He wasn’t prepared for the stress the race placed upon him, and over the last twenty minutes he’d fought with the cold, he’d fought with the messy and at times impossible-to-see course, with the constant stop and goes and left and rights—but most of all he’d fought to ignore the throbbing in his left knee. Though he couldn’t prove it, he was certain the initial collision on Lap 1 tore the outer ligaments, and over the course of Lap 2 and 3 he’d torn the other two sets.

It didn’t matter: at the moment his knee was engulfed in flame that has found its way up his thigh and into his hip. He was tired of the pain. He’d raced hurt in other school races, but never for nearly two hundred and seventy-five kilometers, and Kerry was continuing on fueled by endorphins, adrenaline, and sheer willpower, and the same mantra that saw him through a few bad moments during the last school year: A good sorceress keeps their wits about them when everything is going to hell around them.

He flew through McCarty Pass and eased his way towards the Lowland turn. After doing the Perimeter Road flyover all that remained was the straight into Wrap Around and the short chute into Final before zipping across the Start/Finish line. He had no idea where he was in the standings: the last person he’d passed had happened all the way over in Section 2 during this lap, maybe twenty minutes earlier. He knew he hasn’t seen Penny or Nadine since they’d passed him on Lap 1, so he figured there were still ahead of him.

Which, if he were correct, meant there were still a lot of people behind him.

He bounced into Lowland and sailed through the flyover before turning on another quick burst of speed towards the end. There was little left ahead, and behind him—

For the first time in a while he checked his rear view and spotted two racers, then a third, shoot over the flyover and hit the straight behind him. He wasn’t about to try performing calculations in his head, which left him guessing—and his guess was they wouldn’t catch him before Final turn. I’m going to do this; I’ve got this . . .

Every second in Wrap Around left his knee feeling as if someone was jabbing a hot needle into an open nerve. He shook it off and concentrated on getting through Final. On last glance in the rear view and he watched one of his pursuers come out of the last turn. He didn’t bother with IFF: they weren’t going to catch him. He pushed through Final as hard as he could take it, staying to the far outside of the turn so he could keep his speed up, then pushed forward as hard as he could stand. The final gate flashed green as he reached the Start/Finish line and put three lap and three hundred kilometers behind him.

The race was over: he’d completed the Katahdan course, though not in one piece as he’d hoped.

 

Here’s the last segment, Section 8–

We're just about home--literally.

Which is a good term for being nuts, now that I think about it.

Kerry’s done his three laps, and he’s ready to come in.  It wasn’t something he was ready for mentally, and it’s showing.  There’s also something else bothering him as well–

 

Kerry pulled up and away from the course, slowing in a long, high loop to ease the pain on his knee. He was about to call in when Professor Semplen called him. “Congratulations on finishing your first Katahdin race, Kerry. Over.”

“Thanks, Professor.” He gulped as he flipped up his visor. “I need medical attention: my left knee is damaged and it’s killing me. Over.”

“Rodger. We’re contacting the hospital now.” There was a slight pause before Professor Semplen returned to the comm. “Do you think you can stand on it? Over.”

Kerry shook his head even though there wasn’t anyone else around. “Not a chance. Over.”

“We copy. Return to the paddock and remain hovering on your broom, or if you feel you need to lay down have someone help you off and stay on the ground. Someone will be there shortly. Over.”

“Got it.” He angled towards the small open grove just to the north of the Start/Finish line. “I’ll be waiting—over and out.”

He floated out of the sky and was over the confines of the paddock only ten seconds after his conversation with Professor Semplen. With the excitement of the race behind him the adrenaline stopped flowing and the endorphin high was rapidly fading. Even before he reached the ground Kerry’s vision had begun graying out from pain. He leaned over his broom’s control column before sliding to his right—

“I got ya, Kerry.” Penny held him tight, easing him to the ground while Nadine removed his helmet. “You’re okay now, just relax.”

He moaned as his left leg bent the wrong way. “Where’s Coraline?” He clutched Penny’s arm, digging his gloved fingers into her arm. “Where is she?”

“The professor called; a nurse is on their way.” She gave him a reassuring smile. “Hang in there, mate. You’ll be okay.”

“What happened?” Alex came running towards them, sliding to a stop next to Nadine, who was kneeling at Kerry’s left. “What’s wrong?”

Nadine had the answer. “Remember Emma getting a slow down at the start of the race for rough racing? Erywin told me she collided with him in the Pond Switchback.”

“She hit my leg.” He spoke through ragged breaths. “Screwed up my knee.”

“Again?” Alex shook her head. “Son of a bitch—”

 

So Nadine and Penny are there, which means they were up near the front as Kerry suspected.  And Alex is there as well, so she’s somewhere in that mix.  Now what could make this party complete?  How about . . .

 

“Kerry? How are you?”

All three girls attending turned to Emma, standing about three meters past Kerry’s feet. Nadine tilted her head slightly to the left. “You might want—”

Alex was on her feet, taking a few menacing steps towards the Mórrígan racer. “Did you do this? Vy nimyy suka.”

Emma’s demeanor alternated between upset and pissed. “I only wanted to see how he was feeling—”

“He’s hurt.” Penny shot her a withering glare. “How did you think he was gonna feel?”

“I didn’t know, Penny.” Emma’s tone was beginning to match those of the other girls. “That’s why I came over.”

“Well, now you know.” Penny looked down at the injured boy, who was sweating profusely in the cool Maine air. “Now you need to get out of here.”

Emma wasn’t taking the hint. “Who do you think—?”

Penny was standing and not bothering to hide her anger. “Piss off, Neilson.” She dismissed the girl with a wave. “Move your arse out of here before we move it for you.”

Nadine put herself between the Cernunnos girls and her teammate. “Come on, let’s go.”

Even with this Emma still hadn’t caught on that she wasn’t wanted. “I just wanted to—”

Let’s go.” Nadine stiff-armed the arguing girl and led her out of the area before a fight broke out.

“Let us through.” At that moment Nurse Bianca Gallard appeared wearing her white hospital jacket and carrying a stretcher. She left the stretcher floating just beyond Kerry’s head as she knelt next to his head. “How are you feeling, Kerry?”

 

Really, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, huh?  The Mistress of the Misstep causes a calamity and then comes over so see how things are.  Maybe she figured Nadine being there would keep the Vipers chilled out, but no:  Emma came within moments of getting an ass beating, and it required her team captain stepping in to pull her out of harm’s way for her to get the messages.

At least help has arrived.

 

He answered in a soft, weak tone. “I’m hurtin’ bad.”

Bianca gave him a tiny smile. “How’s your pain on one to ten?”

“About a seven.” Kerry closed his eyes and swallowed. “Maybe eight.”

“Okay. Here’s what we’re gonna do—” She looked across his body. “I’m going to immobilize your leg so we can get you to the hospital with it moving about as little as possible. My assistant is gonna give you something for the pain: just enough to dull it, nothing more.” The smile returned. “Got that?”

“I got it.”

“Okay.” Bianca stood and turned to someone standing behind her. “Give him a Number Two patch; we just want to manage the pain right now.”

“Yes, Nurse Bianca.”

 

An assistant?  We haven’t seen any assistants working in the hospital before–Oh, Wait!  Yes we have, back during the Day of the Dead attacks.  Yeah, they exist, so I wonder who got tagged for this duty?

 

Though Kerry hadn’t seen the person the nurse spoke with, he recognized the voice and accent instantly. A large grin appeared upon his face as Annie—also wearing a white hospital jacket over her sweater—knelt next to him. “Assistant, huh?”

“I am a member of the Triage Team, am I not?” She removed his right glove. “Coraline thought it would be a good idea if I came with Nurse Bianca.”

 

As if you hadn’t expected this one–Nurse Annie to the rescue!

“I’m sure you ran to the hospital and offered your help, too.”

Annie nodded as she reached inside her jacket and removed a medpatch. “You know me all too well, my love.”

He watched her unwrap the patch and cracked it to activate the enchantment that would get the medication into his system. “You gonna make me feel better now?”

“Yes.” She gently slid the patch against the back of his hand and pressed it in place.

“With a kiss?”

She leaned close to his face and whispered. “That’s for later tonight.”

Bianca was standing over the couple. “I’ve got the knee set. You want to get him up so we have an easier time getting the stretcher under him?”

“Yes, Nurse Bianca.” Annie stood and took a step back from Kerry before raising her hands so they were level with her waist. Kerry slowly rose from the ground as Annie levitated to where he as high as her knees. “Ready here.”

Bianca slapped the stretcher over him, phasing it through his body before getting it set under him. She pointed towards Kerry’s feet. “You take that end.” Annie moved into position as Bianca raised

Kerry until he was level with her waist. “Okay, Kerry; we’re taking you directly to the ward. Hold on though—” She cradled his broom in his right arm. “Wouldn’t want to leave this behind.” He looked across to her assistant. “You got a good grip, Annie?”

Annie held tight to the stretcher handles. “I’m ready.”

Kerry stared straight up into the gray, snowy sky as he heard Bianca give a three-second countdown before there was the now-familiar sensation of something light pushing against his skin and quickly vanishing. He started up into the lights of the first floor ward as he was moved down the corridor, finally ending up in familiar surroundings: Bed #2 in Bay #1.

Bianca whipped the stretcher over him and slid it into the bay across the corridor, then turned to Annie. “Start getting his accessories off and set them on Bey #1 with his broom. I’ll get the IVs and what we need to clean him and set his knee. I’ll be back in a moment.”

“Yes, Nurse Bianca.” Annie set his broom on the other bed along with the glove she’s held since they’d arrived. She moved to the other side of the bed to get his other glove. “Just relax; we’re gonna get you all better.”

Kerry had little difficulty relaxing now that the pain meds were in his system. “You’re going to clean me up?”

She began sliding off his comm helmet. “Doesn’t the staff always clean you up?”

He started grinning. “Does this mean you’re gonna undress me?”

Her right eyebrow rose. “What do you think?” It returned to its normal place of rest as Annie chuckled. “I did say we were going to make you feel better . . .”

 

Don’t worry, it’s all medical stuff gonna happen, so if Annie just happens to be there when Kerry’s in his birthday suit, it’s because she’s helping out the hospital staff.  That Annie, she certainly knows how to work the angles.

There you have it:  the end of Kerry’s race on the big track.  And the penultimate scene to this chapter:

It really is because I show you that it is.

It really is because I show you that it is.

One more scene, and then I put the penultimate chapter to this first part of Act Three to bed and move on to something . . .

Well, you’ll see.

Right On Down the Line

I’ll tell you, coming down to my local coffee shop on Sundays and writing for three hours straight has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I’ve finished the current scene after writing seventeen hundred and sixty-eight words, I’ve pushed the chapter over five thousand words, and the novel is now a few hundred words short of two hundred and twenty-nine thousand words.  I’m also sitting by a great window seat and dressed about as comfortably as ever.

Totally slipping into Basic White Girl land here.

Totally slipping into Basic White Girl land here.

Yes, that’s what I’m wearing today.  I’ve swapped out the Uggs for my leather Clark’s boots, but the leggings and Old Navy sweater dress are a reality, and I’m totally not sorry for being out like this.  It’s quite comfy, and it’s warm enough to be out like this, so it’s really great to get out and enjoy myself.  So I can work.  Yeah, why not?

A whole lot has happened out on this start/finish line, and I’m gonna give it to you all, because that’s the way I am.  And it more or less proves that I’ve been working, yeah?  Sure does.  So what did Kerry see after seeing Emma off?  Well . . .

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

He joined the group and hovered his helmet and gloves to his left. “Hey, guys: what’s up?”

Manco nodded in Kerry’s direction. “I just wanted to say a few things.” He looked down for a second before speaking. “First off, I need to have this said. Beginning of the season, when you came up—” He nodded towards Kerry again. “—Darius and I were pretty shitty to all you guys—”

“Pretty shitty?” Penny crossed her arms while a slight smile played upon her face. “I’d say it was more than pretty, considering you acted the same way towards Alex and me the season before.”
Manco considered Penny’s comment. “You’re right, we were—I was. The way we treated you last season sucked and was totally uncalled for.” He paused to see if someone else would comment, and proceeded when no one spoke up. “You all proved me wrong; you showed everyone—not just me, but all the other teams—who the best racers were in Cernunnos, and you did it where everyone could see: out on the track. I know it’s probably not going to mean a lot, but I want to apologize.” He looked at Penny and Alex. “You should have never been held back last season. It was wrong, and the team got screwed because it happened.”

Neither girl spoke for a few seconds, then Alex put their thoughts to words. “Thank you for telling us this, Manco, but you know, you’re team captain, and this is something you should have said in the ready room in front of Darius and Professor Semplen. It’s good that you’re saying this, but you should say it to everyone.”

Penny nodded. “This should be said in front of the whole team. You’re team captain, man; you gotta stop letting Darius get away with all this lame shite because you’re worried he’s gonna piss and moan.”

Manco chuckled as he looked down. “Yeah, well, you don’t have to share a room with him.”

Kerry figured it was time to speak up. “Yeah, but you’re just enabling him to act like a butt muffin to the rest of us. Anymore, all he does is race pissed off and he doesn’t do the team any good.” He looked around. “You notice he isn’t here.”

 

And the phrase of the day is “Butt muffin.”  Manco is trying to write a wrong here, and he’s actually apologizing to the girls more than to Kerry.  Which is fine with him, because he knows Penny and Alex should get apologies from the captain of the team.  Penny is right on the mark as well:  Manco should say this in front of everyone, not just the only girls on the team when he’s away from a disruptive teammate who we now discover is also his dormmate.  He’s getting the message, though, as well as a bit of support–

 

“I almost didn’t make this, either.” Manco looked away, not wanting to face anyone. “I’m lucky to be here.”

“Yeah, but you can race—” Penny lay a hand on his arm. “You can race; you’ve gotten a couple of podiums this season, and damn near won a few times.”

“You can turn this around.” Alex took a step closer to the boy. “You need to tell Darius to come with the rest of us, or tell the professor that we need to bring up another flier from the B Team.”

Kerry nodded. “Yeah, man; that’s your job.” He chuckled. “That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”

Manco finally laughed which got everyone else to laughing. “Yeah, right. I don’t know what to do with all the cash they’re sending my way.”

They had no sooner stopped laughing when they heard a voice in their comm helmets. “Attention, this is Race Control. The race will begin in ten minutes. All fliers make final preparations. We will light the starting grid in five minutes. Please stand by.”

The four students looked at each other while allowing the silence to fill the moment. Manco finally spoke, as he was team captain and felt it was his duty. “I know you guys are gonna do great. I’m gonna do my best to point: like the professor said, this is the first time in a long time the coven’s had four racers on this course, and all of us pointing would be a hell of a jump in the team standings”

Kerry playfully slapped Manco’s shoulder. “You can do a top-ten with ease, man.” He looked toward Penny and Alex, who were both nodding in agreement. “This is gonna be a good day.”

“You know it.” Penny stuck her right arm out and made a first. “Cernunnos.”

The rest of the team pressed their fists against Penny’s and echoed her sentiments. “Cernunnos.” Manco had the final word before they began their final preparations. “Let’s have a good race.”

 

The one thing we have not seen from Kerry’s team is a lot of unity, and this is really the first time we’ve seen them come together seem to be not just individual racers, but a real team.  I guess this is what comes of first acting like a butt muffin and thinking the girls and the new kid on the team are gonna suck, then continuing to act that way because they’ve proven you wrong as hell.  Tweener/Teen Drama:  even witches can’t get past this shit.

It looks like that’s changing with fist bumps all around and a general feeling of good will upon the course.  Now that Race Control–which is really Vicky as the over-all coordinator–has spoken, it’s time to get the show rolling:

 

Kerry grabbed his gloves from his helmet and slipped them on before pulling his hard racing helmet on over his soft comm helmet. He flipped up his face plate before touching the right side of his head. “Race Central, this is Starbuck. Comm check. Over.”

Professor Semplen voice came back soft and clear. “Starbuck, this is Race Central. We have you five-by-five. Over.”

“Rodger, Race Central. Read you five-by. Over and out.” Kerry pulled his Espinoza from Hammerspace and waited for his grid position to light up. He was slightly amused by the notion that for a race so long and arduous they still did this even on Class 1 PAVs. The reasoning, he was told, was one of tradition: since the race was run on the old, classic wooden brooms, there wasn’t any reason to make any changes. However, Erywin had told him a few weeks earlier that one of the reasons they’d decided against using Class 2 or 3 PAVs was the fear that someone would kill themselves.

“This is Race Central.” Everyone at the Start/Finish turned attentive as their final order began. “The race will begin in five minutes. We are lighting the grid in one minute. Remember that this is an inverted start, with those lowest in position starting up front and the best positions beginning at the rear. Each individual position will have you name and indicate your position. Once you position is illuminated, place your broom in position and await further instructions. The grid will appear in thirty seconds. Please stand by.”

Kerry stood about where he thought he would start, and a few seconds later, when the grid appeared, he discovered he was off by only a few meters. He set his broom on the red “X” hovering a half meter above the ground beside his name and his starting position for this race. Being sixth in the over-all individual standings meant starting eleventh on the Katahdin course, which actually put him slightly behind the middle of the pack. Being first in the individual standings Nadine was all the way in the back, five positions back and on Kerry’s right, while Rivânia two rows direction behind him on the left side of the course, and Penny in the row ahead of them and directly in front of Nadine.

Alex, fifth in the individual standings, was in the same row as Kerry and to his right and slightly behind him. He watched her shoot a death stare at Emma, who was directly ahead of Alex in the next row and starting in tenth due to being seventh in individual standings. He knew the reason for the animosity: on two occasions Emma had beaten Alex to the finish line through what the later felt was overly aggressive racing, and three weeks earlier Alex lost a race to Emma when, on the last lap, Emma slid into Alex as they negotiated the Green Line’s Diamond Chicane. The bobble was enough to cause Alex to lose momentum and come in second behind Emma’s forth win, and though she’d appealed the aggressive move to Race Control, they ruled that Emma’s move didn’t appear intentional, and refused to penalize the Mórrígan racer.

This didn’t sit well with Alex, and after the podium presentation she exchanged words with Emma, who responded by flipping off the Ukrainian racer. While no spells were thrown, Alex nearly connected with a punch to Emma’s face before Nadine, Penny, and Kerry got between the two girls and stopped the impending fight.

Since that time both teams kept an eye on the two fliers, and before the pre-race briefing, Penny and Kerry pulled Alex aside and reminded her to not worry about Emma. Kerry wasn’t worried about trouble on the course: this was a first-time race for all three of them, and all the new people were fully aware the race difficult enough without bringing personal issues to the track.

 

We learn a few things here.  One, everyone still uses the Class 1 brooms for racing because back in the old days the witches ran this course on the real brooms, those damn uncomfortable wooden things they stuck between their legs.  There probably is some truth to the fact that people might have a better chance of getting killed if they did the faster, more responsive brooms, but let’s face it:  if they aren’t dying at the school on those suckers, they probably won’t on the Katahdin course, either.  It’s all about tradition, kids, don’t let anyone fool you.

And we also learn of the Emma/Alex Issues!  First she takes out her wingmate because she’s a little pissed, and now she’s done pissed off his team mate, and done so enough that Alex went in swinging on her ass.  The Bolder Ginger needs to watch herself, ’cause the last thing she wants is a crazy Ukrainian gunning for her–

Okay, maybe not this crazy a Ukrainian.

Okay, maybe not this crazy a Ukrainian.

–but you can imagine if three people jumped in to break the sucker up, it was serious.  Also, you have to wonder about the look on Emma’s face as a fist went sailing past her nose while the air was filled with Ukrainian curses.  It  was probably a bit humorous for everyone watching.  Makes you wonder, too, how Emma would react to a piss-off sorceress throwing death spells at her . . .

All that remains to getting ready:

 

“This is Race Control. All fliers mount your brooms and remain in hover. The race will begin in two minutes. Please stand by.” Kerry slipped his leg over his broom and used transformation magic to slip his genitals into his body before getting comfortable in the saddle. He looked back at Alex and gave her a thumbs up, which she returned. He faced forward and mentally prepared himself for the difficult hour and fifteen minutes ahead—

“This is Race Control. One minute to race start. Light are on the course.” A row of steadily glowing red lights appeared several meters ahead of Anna, who was starting on the pole due to making the race the week before. “Spyeyes in place and active. Activating elevation gates.” Down the length of the course ahead the hovering gates the races needed to pass appeared. “All flier, attend to final preparations.”

Kerry slapped down his face plate and leaned over his broom, waiting for the signal to begin. For just a second he imagined Annie sitting at their table in the Dining Hall, watching the race playing upon holographic screens. They’d done the same thing last year; this year she and Jairo, maybe Alex’s boyfriend Kahoku as well, were watching him prepare to take on the mountain—

“This is Race Control. Fifteen seconds to start. Set the light.” The red lights started flashing. “Ten seconds.” The row of lights went to black, then a single red light appeared on the left as a beeping tone sounded in everyone’s comm. As the beeping continued the lights began activating from left to right, turning to yellow as it continued to the right. “Five seconds, and . . .” The last light on the right illuminated, all turned to a flashing yellow for a few seconds before every overhead light turned a bright, steady green. “GO.”

 

With that we are totally off and running, and you know what’s coming–

Maybe the race?

Maybe the race?

Yeah, I’d say that’s a good bet.