Out of the Fire and Into the Flames

Before getting into any details, allow me to show you where the novel is after this first day of the new year.  For one, I have reached this milestone for the act:

More than three-quarters of the way to six figures.

More than three-quarters of the way to six figures.

With the nearly thousand words added to this new scene last night, the act just made it over the seventy-nine thousand mark, and I should be close to eighty by tonight.  I’m going to say that being close, or at, eight-five thousand words by the end of this chapter isn’t out of the question, and the four remaining chapters would pretty much guaranty I edge over one hundred thousand words for this part before the final words are typed.

Which brings me to “Where am I with the novel?”

Right here.

Right here.

Three hundred and eight-six thousand and change.  And I’m ready for a change as well.  Trust me, sitting down to crank out what it pretty much five eighty thousand word novels has been an experience.

But what sort of experience are we having at my school?  Glad you asked.

It’s Beltane, or more importantly, it’s eleven PM on 30 April, and the school is getting ready to light the big bonfires.  And come to find out, a certain headmistress really gets into this celebration:

 

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

Of the festivals held at school, there was no secret that Mathilde enjoyed Beltane the most. Some people said it was because it marked the point where there was only a month of classes left, and she was eager to returned to her husband and daughters. Others said that she loved that it represented the coming of Summer, and even if the weather wasn’t cooperating this year, it wouldn’t be long before she could enjoy throwing on a tank top, shorts, and sandals, and go for a walk and be alone with her thoughts.

The real reason was far more vain, however. Blodeuwedd Cover was responsible for setting up the Beltane festival, and when she was a student and member of Blodeuwedd, she always threw herself into event planning. Within the coven itself the celebration was known as the “Headmistress’ Festival,” as the school’s first headmistress, Rhiannon Fettle, was also the founder of Blodeuwedd, and she helped establish many of the school’s traditions current traditions.

Three hundred and twenty-eight years later—and for the tenth time since becoming headmistress—Mathilde ascended the elevated podium that allowed her to see every member of the school—the students and faculty—and begin the festival with perhaps the most important of all the Beltane traditions. “Good evening, everyone.” She scanned the group of students standing before her and smiled. “Beltane is a wonderful time: it marks the beginning of summer, and it marks the beginning of the final month of classes. It is a day indicative of change and renewal—and this represents is the same for out students. Our E Levels graduate in a few weeks, and will head out for their year of Life Experience Travels. All others will return home, leaving another level behind with the anticipation of returning for a new one in a few months.

“But that change begins here, this evening. As it has been for over three hundred years, in the hour before midnight on the last day of April, the two huge bonfires erected here in Selena’s Meadow are set ablaze. One represents what we are leaving behind; the other represents the changes that wait for us ahead. These will burn until midnight tomorrow night, and will serve as a focal point for our celebrations.

“As Beltane represents approaching change, it has been the school’s tradition to select two students to light the bonfires using magic. And as this celebration also represents improvement of our selves, we chose two students who did not come to us proficient in magic, but who have come to Salem as new students, and have spent the months and years developing and improving their skills.”

She turned around and nodded at the instructor standing near the podium stairs. “I will now have Wednesday Douglas come forward and announce whom she has selected for the honor of starting our Beltane celebration.”

 

In another story–well, okay, novel–I wrote about Salem, you discover that Mathilde was actually suggested to run the school by one of the instructors, that person being Jessica.  You have to wonder if she, or any other student, ever sat in their room at night and thought, “I wonder if I’ll ever run this place?  I’d love that.”  And with Mathilde coming from the same coven as the first headmistress, you could see how presiding over this event makes her feel especially proud.

Now Wends is getting up there, and she has two students picked out to light the fires.  And . . . any guess who they are?  Any one?

 

Wednesday joined Mathilde upon the podium and stepped into the speaking field. “Thank you, Headmistress.” She turned to face the gathered masses. “As the Spellmistress here, I am responsible for finding the school’s youngest witches who not only know the Fireball spell, but have the ability to control it with expertise and dexterity. And I have found those students . . .”

A tablet appeared before her, floating within arm’s length. She grabbed it and pulled up the information waiting. “This year, the honor of lighting the Beltane bonfires fall to Annie Kirilova and Kerry Malibey, both A Levels of Cernunnos Cover.” Wednesday pointed towards the crowd and motioned to two marked out areas about fifteen meters from the bonfire locations. “Children, will you take your positions and do us the pleasure of lighting the Beltane fires.”

 

Now, wait:  they’re going to throw fireballs?  We know Annie can do that with Cold Fire, but Kerry?  Nope, not in his repertoire.  Then again, Wednesday did say Fireball spell, which isn’t Cold Fire.  So . . .

 

Annie and Kerry stepped out of the crowd and headed for the partitioned areas. People noticed right away that they brought their normal habit by Kerry going to the left area, and Annie going to the right, but Wednesday and a few other instructors knew that they did this to keep their dominate hands away from the others.

As if on cue they held their hands before them and pretended to shape a sphere. A few seconds later a tiny dot of energy appeared in the middle and began growing. In less that ten seconds both children kept suspended before them a ball of glowing orange fire about a third of a meter across, which they then turned over and held hovering above the palm of their dominate hands.

They held the fireballs over their heads for a few moments as each fireball grew a little, both in size and brightness. They held them overhead, then turned their heads towards each other before drawing back and throwing them in the direction of the tremendous piles of wood. The fireballs arced through the air, growing larger as they neared their target: by the time their struck they were more than a meter in diameter. They splashed across the surface and burrowed into each pile, setting them alight and bringing them to full burn in just under twenty seconds.

Wednesday didn’t hear the scattered applauds from the students: she kept her eyes on her two special students, watching them carefully. They met each other and hugged before milling with everyone else—many of whom gave them wide berth as the disappeared into the fold. She turned and headed down the podium stairs to the meadow, where she knew she was about to be accosted by the coven leaders, and a few other instructors, wanting to know how and where Salem’s most well-known A Levels learned a Fireball spell . . .

 

Yeah, wait:  only nine days before they were in a throw-down with bad guys and gals, and not was Fireball was cast.  So what gives?  Were they holding out?  Perhaps they didn’t want to burn the place down and just kept quiet?  Or . . . was something else involved?

I guess if I write the rest of the scene tonight, you’ll find out tomorrow.

The Untempered Dance

Blessed Beltane to everyone, near and far.  It’s the traditional first day of summer, and it’s a time to build some Maypoles, set out your flowers and may bushes, then build some bonfires and dance your heart out.  It’s a time of joyous celebration, and one that we should get back to–but we don’t, ’cause those commies had to go and ruin it for everyone.  Thanks, Lenin!

At my fictional Salem school, today is a big deal.  Coven Blodeuwedd is responsible for setting up the celebrations–better The Flower Girl than Cernunnos, because Beltane is also tied to fertility, and the last thing you want to do is send half your student population home to the folks in a family way because The Horned God kicked out the jams.  Don’t worry:  Cernunnos does the Ostara Festival, and they keep the kids busy singing and dancing then.

Beltane at Salem has its own traditions.  First, there are no classes:  it’s casual lay about day for everyone.  Despite being metric to all hell, the Flight of the Mile High Club takes place right after breakfast.  What’s that, you say?  It’s the day a few brave A Level, first-time for flying students, hop on their Class 1 PAVs and fly them a mile, 5,280 feet or 1,610 meters, into the air.  It’s described a bit like getting on your mountain bike and riding to the top of a mile high peak–only your mountain bike hasn’t any wheels, and there isn’t any mountain under you.  The only thing keeping you in the sky is a thin sliver of enchanted technology and a whole lotta willpower.  Think about sitting on a bicycle with nothing between you and The Big Splat but emptiness–and then think about doing that when you’re twelve.

Yeah, it’s like that.  Either you stay home because that image is too much, or you become a leaf on the wind.

Funny, I left the splating part out of my outline.

Funny, I forgot the splatting part in my outline.

Then, after it gets dark, about half the instructors head out to Selena’s Meadow where awaits the mother of all bonfires.  They bring about fifty, sixty students with them, all there by invitation only.  They say a few words about how great the school year has been, how there’s only a month left and they’re going to miss everyone, they bless all those who reside within the hallowed walls of the school–then light that sucker up with a few well-placed fireballs.

It’s at this point that people are encouraged to dance, have fun, and let their feelings hang on their sleeves.  It’s also where the optional part of the show kicks in:  anyone wanting to dance “skyclade” is encouraged to disrobe and get right down to their nothings.  This is why it’s invitation only for the students, because you need to have a not-easily blown mind to know you’re not only gonna be dancing around naked with a few of your fellow classmates, but you’re liable to find the instructor you’re having class with the next day cavorting around in her birthday plumage.  Don’t worry:  only about two-thirds of the instructors and staff attending get down to their altogethers, so some students may be spared some momentary embarrassment.

It’s actually in this year, March 2014, that in my fictional universe Professor Erywin Sladen tells Kerry the story of her B Levels, her “Year of Hell” as she dubbed it.  It was the year she came out as the first openly gay student at Salem.  It was the year she got her ass beat in the girl’s bathroom for her troubles.  It was the year she was shoved back inside the fishbowl by a huge portion of the student body, because it was 1979/1980 and shunning was the order of the day.  It was the year that everyone was afraid they were gonna get lesbian cooties from her.  (Sure, it wasn’t like the school hadn’t seen lesbians before–like three hundred years before–but times get strange, you know?)

It was also the year she met her “pretty girl”, her ta mokoed Kiwi, Helena.  It was the year she finally made a mate, and then a bestie, and at Beltaine a skyclade Helena convinced Erywin to cast aside her prudish Protestant upbringing and join her to dance under the stars, and Erywin did that.  She dance first for the first time, she actually made friends–who finally realized she wasn’t some perv and that she wasn’t there to seduce them, and who was, all in all, a pretty damn good witch.

It was also at that bonfire she cried, because someone told her they loved her, the person remained the center of her life and who still taught along side her as she tells Kerry this story with misting eyes.

It’s a time to change, to bring in newness.  It’s a time to find direction and focus.  It’s time to cleanse yourself of the staleness of winter.

It’s time to get out and dance–

With wild abandon.

Blessed Be the Cabin

Blessed Beltane, Happy May Day, Good International Workers Day . . . whatever is getting you in the right frame of mind today, I’m there with you.  At least I’m trying; I spent the better part of a couple of hours writing code with the payoff of getting two items to come out in the correct order on a report.  Can I get a “yay”?  Yay . . .

The 1st of May is the traditional beginning of summer, regardless what they might say in America, where we make our own holidays to keep from making the Commies happy.  It’s a time of change, a time of transitions, a time to make a new start.  It’s a good time to go around and leave goodies for your friends and neighbors, though I’m tired of the kids around me playing in the street and looking at you like you’re some kind of idiot when they decide they won’t get out of your way.  So no goodies for you . . .

Here I am, however, at the start of summer, and I’ve no project ongoing.  My novel is being reviewed, and the final edit awaits.  I likely won’t see it back in my inbox for at least a week, so I’m in the process of cooling my heels on the writing front.

But I can’t.

Last night I sat around and wondered about what I was going to do.  I pulled up the idea file and started puttering about, thinking about the things before me.  I looked at the story I want to do for Camp NaNo July, my little erotic fantasy that will take its place among the Smashwords elite.  I looked at it and thought, “What can I do?”  And the answer was, “Build a cabin.”

It’s like this:  the story takes place in the middle of nowhere, with three writer friends deciding a great way to spend Camp NaNo July is to go out and actually rent a cabin, and spend the weekend writing.  At some point during this endeavor, something magical happens–literally–and the writing degenerates into . . . well, I know what happens, you’ll have to buy the story once it’s published.

I found an open source floor plan designer and started in on my house, because if there’s one thing my precious Annie taught me, it’s that you sometimes need to see a design before you can imagine the stories there.  I designed the cabin, put in doors and windows, added a kitchen, put in the furniture, added the sofas and the beds–

The scene is built.  Now what?

Now I write, that’s what.

I have that bug where when I get these ideas I have to act upon them.  With nothing to do right now I feel a bit lost, and not in an Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 way.  I feel like I should do something, because when I’m home at night I feel like I’m without purpose.

I feel I should write, because that’s what writers do.

So the hell with Camp NaNo July, I gotta write this sucker now.  I’ll get my thoughts together, give my characters names, determine my locations, and crank out the story.  Oh, and I need a sexy writer’s name, ’cause I’m thinking it might not be a good idea to put this out under my name.

Then again, why not?  This story could be like a milkshake–

It could bring the fans to my front yard.

 

Golden Week

The weekend is over, the week begins anew.  And this is a very particular week for me, because there is so much going on . . .

First off, today is the Second Anniversary of this blog.  Yes, it is true, I created my first point on 13 April, 2011, but that didn’t really count.  Two years ago today I scribbled some nonsense, and I was . . . well, sort of creeping along, because I had no idea what the hell I should do with this space.  You want to know something?  I’m still not sure.  But I keep coming back because it keeps getting funnier every time I’m here!  Not to mention, you’re talkin’ to a . . .

Sorry.  I must have mispronounced a star’s name three times.

Then we have 1 May, and that’s a time of celebration.  It’s May Day, it’s International Workers Day–something we in the U. S. used to celebrate until we got pissed off at the Commies and said we were taking our holiday and going home–and it’s Beltane.  Anyway you look at it, it’s the traditional start of summer, and time to enjoy the coming warmness.  It’s also the start of Golden Week in Japan, which is suppose to be the one week when people get time off from their jobs–about they only time they get a holiday, actually.  Golden Week is also the period where Japan sees its greatest number of suicides, and they put additional people on hotlines to handle the surge, so to speak.  Why does this happen?  Is it because the down time gives workers reason to reflect on their lives, and realize how their jobs turn it into a huge crap sack of nothingness?  Probably one of the reasons they don’t do something like that here . . .

And then we get to the end of the week, and it’s 3 May, and we all know what that means?  Yeah, Iron Man 3 opens.  I, for one, do so want to see Pepper Potts in the suit; just something about a woman in powered armor brings out the nasty in me.  Though I probably won’t see it right away, ’cause . . . aliens.

The mini-meltdown is over.  Saturday happened, I sulked, I recovered.  I finished up Her Demonic Majesty yesterday, compiled it, and sent it off for a look-see.  I’m hopeful that I don’t get a lot of, “This totally sucks,” and if I do, screw it:  it’s my novel.  I’ll publish it anyway.  I want it correct, but if they don’t care for it, so be it.  It’s ready:  I just don’t need typos to mess me up.

And I wrote an article.  One about mecha, one that involved me having to put out the math skills.  It was actually sort of fun to do, and I hope it is enjoyed.  It’s always a crap shoot when you send out something like that, but it’s just another way to keep the writing going–

Which reminds me:  I have nothing to do tonight.  Nothing.  It’s sort of sit and think time, I guess.

Or I can sit and do . . .

What a choice for Golden Week.