Gather Here the Brain Trust: Setting the Scene With the Unbelievable

Yes, this is getting out a little late today, but that’s due to starting on the scene at six AM, writing until nine, getting ready to go out and get my hormones, then stopping to get groceries, and finally getting back here to eat.  It’s time consuming, let me tell ya.

"Do I want to get makeup or make up a blog post?  Oh, I made a funny!"

“Do I want to get makeup or make up a blog post? Oh, I made a funny!”

At least I managed over a thousand words this morning, and after I’m through with this point I’m gonna sit down and take a nap, and then get back into the scene because I’d really love to finish this chapter tomorrow before I sit down and watch the zombies and do a recap for their shenanigans.

All that said, things start out a little slow here, ’cause it seems we’re missing someone–

 

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

“Said she’d be along shortly. She said there was a bit of business she needed to handle and that we could start without her.” Coraline pointed to the lunches. “Do you want to eat first?”
Jessica removed her suit jacket and hung it over a chair. “I’d rather work first and discuss matters while eating, if you don’t mind.”

Coraline suspected this being the case considering the women present. Erywin was well-known for being able to work while eating, and Jessica’s powers of transformation allowed her to consume and digest any meal in a matter of minutes if she so desired. “Okay, then—” She turned towards the lift entrance to see if Deanna had arrived. “Where do you want to start?”

Erywin scratched her chin. “What happened with Kerry?”

“This is what he said—” Coraline explained the little she discovered about his dream before telling her guests what she’d done for both children.

Jessica nodded. “How much longer are they going to be out?”

“I don’t expect them to wake up before fourteen hours. I have an active motion sensor in their bay, and the moment one of them starts moving around or appearing aware, Bianca or Thebe will get the catheters out and order them lunch—”

“Which I expect they’ll need.” Deanna quickly walked into the room. “Sorry I’m late, but you know how coven business gets.” Erywin and Jessica, both coven leaders, nodded in agreement. “Did I miss anything?”

“I told them about what Kerry said last night—”

“Let me guess: he saw that girl in his dream and it scared him.”

“Pretty much. Do you—?”

Deanna shook her head. “I caught the conversation after came up on the lift; I was standing back there waiting to hear it all.” She stepped back and took in everyone. “We need to move on to this information Erywin has.”

“I agree.” Coraline stepped back as she motioned to the other two instructors. “You have the floor.”

 

Deanna likes to hang back and listen, and we know everyone is caught up on the sleeping beauties two floors down.  But there’s information to be had here, and Jessica’s about to lay it on everyone.  So, Mistress of Transformation:  what gives?

 

The two women exchanged a glance before Jessica spoke. “Last Tuesday night my Advanced Transformation class performed their gender change spells, which, if you’re not aware, allows a student to change from their current gender—” Erywin loudly cleared her throat. “Sorry: allows them to change their physical cis forms from one of the binary to the other.” She eyed the woman on her left hard. “Better?”

Erywin smiled. “Better. Continue.”

“Erywin came to me a month ago telling me what she was look for, and asked if I’d give her access to the videos of the class. Naturally I complied, but gives this was Ostara week—” She looked at each of her companions. “You know how busy it gets before the weekend.”

“Why do you wait until right before Ostara to do this then?” Coraline raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t it be better to wait until after the weekend events are finished?”

Jessica chuckled as she crossed her arms. “Ostara is all about change—and I consider these spells among the ultimate in change.”

“That’s all well and good—” Erywin set her fists on her hips. “But let’s move on.” She turned to Jessica. “Tell them what you told me Friday.”

“A little back ground first.” Jessicas glanced down for a second as she appeared to think for a couple of seconds. “Because Kerry’s a Mimic it’s necessary to teach him all the components of transformation magic before turning him loose. Just because one can mimic it doesn’t mean one can put all the parts together property.”

Deanna raised her right index finger. “I’m a little unsure as to what a Mimic does.”

“A Mimic interfaces their aura with that of another person, and since an aura is a reflection of a person’s physical aspect, they are copying that information to their aura and using it to alter their physical form. That’s why they need to know the specifics of doing a full transformation before they can craft the magic.

“With Kerry it’s been necessary for me to teach him how to craft a full-body transformation before allowing him to mimic someone. He was performing small mimics before entering class, and I readied him for the full mimics over the last couple of class. Two weeks ago he did his first full mimic on the other boy in class, Fekitoa Naitaku. Fekitoa was a good one with whom to start: he’s from Fiji and he’s somewhat bigger than Kerry, so getting the transformation right would require considerable skill.”

Coraline asked the question everyone wanted to hear. “Did he do it?”

“Yes, and with flying colors. He actually did the transformation so fast that a couple of students gasped. However, I first had him perform a full-body cismale transformation, which he also performed marvelously.”

Erywin leaned towards the transformation instructor. “Tell them what you told me.”

Jessica drew a deep breath. “I wanted to do the same this last week and have Kerry attempt a full-body cisfemale transformation before mimicking the girls in the class. And . . .” She released a slight sigh. “He failed.”

 

I know what you’re thinking:  Kerry failed?  And you’re not the only ones–

 

Coraline and Deanna glanced between them before Deanna spoke. “What do you mean ‘he failed’?”

“I mean he was unable to perform the transformation.” Jessica held up her hand to forestall any questions. “By that I mean he couldn’t craft the spell. He wasn’t able to do it at all.”

Coraline’s eyes grew wide. “Not even partially?”

“Not even partially—which is strange because he has performed small csifemale changes before, mostly hands, feet, that sort of thing. When it came to doing a full-body change?” Jessica shook her head. “He told me he couldn’t visualize a girl’s form.”

“Wait.” Deanna held up both hands as if trying to stop something from getting by her. “He couldn’t visualize a girl’s form?”

“That’s what he said.”

“That seems impossible.”

“I agree.” Jessica looked about the room as if she were uncomfortable speaking about this event. “It’s never happened before with him in my class.”

Deanna appeared slightly surprised. “I don’t believe it’s happened to him in any classes. I’ve heard of him having some difficulty at the start of learning a new spell, but—”

“This wasn’t the same thing; he’s shown he can do the transformations on a smaller level.”

Coraline turned to Erywin. “What does that mean to you as far as conducting your due diligence is concerned?”

 

This is suddenly getting into some strange territory, for saying Kerry was unable to do something that, up to that point, everyone was certain he’d pull off without a problem–it’s troubling.  And you’d think by this point in his life, particularly given his current sleeping situation, he’d have no trouble making it happen.  But that’s not the case, and suddenly things are going sideway.

Where am I going with this?

Off for a nap, if I must be honest.

Changes In Fictional Creativity

Well, then, I’m finally here with a continuation of the story.  This scene has been a killer, and I’ll tell you why:  it’s the end of the year, and I’m tired.  Really tired.  Like I could use a week in bed tired.  This has happened before, and will happen again, so there’s no point in going on about it, right?  At least I got a good night’s sleep last night:  I even went to bed early because I was crashing and burning hard.

Where am I, then?  Well . . .

Right about here.

Right about here.

Almost seven hundred words last night, which is better for me given all the crap that’s happened this week.  And that brings up to a point in the story where little transforming minions are about to strut their stuff . . .

 

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

Annie began the lesson. She explained how her skill in Minor Inanimate Change required her to be in contact with the object, but that she wasn’t limited to changing small objects: if the change wasn’t too extreme, she could change the color and texture of certain articles of clothing. She demonstrated by putting on a white lab coat and changing the color three times, from white to blue to aqua and finally yellow. She explained how, for her, visualization was the most important part of crafting, and that when see “saw” the how she wanted to object she was trying to change to look, she always “heightened” it in her mind’s eye. “When I change the colors, I don’t see them as you see them, I visualize them brighter and bolder than they’ll appear once the spell’s fully crafted.”

She started walking around the lab explaining how bright and bold colors and textures were easy to do once you developed the proper visualization techniques, and every thirty to forty seconds Annie would change the color or created minor texture changes. She admitted that texture was tough to do unless you understood how a particular material felt—and to drive home she point she changed the lab coat into a lovely creamy silk. “I own two pair of silk pajamas and several silk camisoles so this one is easy—” As she headed back to the front of the room she changed the coat back to simple white cotton. “But I don’t know wool, so trying to give this a wool texture would be difficult, if not impossible, for me.”

Once back in front of the class she changed back into her school jacket before heading into the second part of her discussion. “Smaller objects aren’t any easier to modify: if anything, it’s more important to pay attention to detail, because people tend to notice imperfections in tiny things.” She held up here right hand. “This morning I put clear lacquer on my nails because if you want to change something small that you’re also touching . . .” Her nails changed from their normal, non-painted color to a vivid red. “Fingernails are a good way to practice your crafting.”

Like before, while Annie walked around the room she changed her nail color once every minute. “The important thing here is to know the object well, and to see it in your memory many times larger than it is in real life. That way when you want to do things that are more intricate—” She stopped and closed her eyes while holding out her hands with her fingers spread wide. In seconds her nails changed from a light pink to a bright gold base that slowly developed into ombre gradient with dark silver tips. “You can let your creativity flow.”

 

I could never imagine Annie wearing anything wool right now, but silk?  Oh, yeah.  She that sort of girl–some might say a spoiled little rich girl, but she’s a lot more than that.  Okay, so I did once call her a Bulgarian Pop Princess, but it was meant with love . . .

It probably took just over an hour to write that part above, mostly because I have to do my own visualization–just like my witches–when I’m writing.  I play the scene out in my head like a movie, and I did that here, watching Annie walk around the lab, first in her Technicolor Labcoat before switching over to her lesson on nail care–and if we remember a few scenes from last year, she knows all about that.  She’s always so assured and confident, thought Kerry knows it can slip away at times.

This is also good because you can see how fast Annie works as well.  She’s not only crafting quickly, but while she’s doing other things.  She can walk, chew gum, and lay the magic on you all at the same time, and her levelmates should take this hint seriously, because when she’s in the ring with you, she’s only gonna have one thing on her mind, and that’s kicking your ass.  You’ll go down faster than the time it takes for her to do her nails.

Speaking of nails, the magical pretty she’s bringing gets the attention of a couple of people–

 

Linh Dam, Mórrígan student from Vietnam whose work space was adjacent to Emma’s raised her hand. “Can I see those?”

Annie shook her right hand as if she were drying the polish. “Certainly.” She strolled over and held out her hand for the girl to examine. “I like this one a lot, because I’m partial to metallic gold and silver polish.”

Linh closely examined Annie’s nails. “Wow, that’s fantastic. I do my own, but nothing as good as this.”  She blushed.  “Nothing with magic, either.”

Emma popped up out of her seat and leaned on the low wall of her cubical. “Can I see, too?”

Annie nodded. “Certainly.” She let Linh’s covenmate get a better look.

After a five second examination Emma sighed and leaned towards Linh. “I so want to learn this; then all I gotta do is buy top coat an I can change my nails as much as I like.”

Linh nodded as Annie stepped away from the girls. “Yes, I’d like to know that, too.” She looked towards Annie. “Can you do this without the top coat?”

“Well . . .” Annie slowly turned towards Kerry. “That would be a question for my fellow minion.”

 

Hummm . . . Emma wants to do her nails now.  Nope, not what you think.  After all, she’s gotta compete with the girl who just showed how fast she works, and Emma is not in her class.  Not at all.  At least Annie’s being nice to her.  And giving them a lot of tips–

"Annie's right:  all the simply things in life are better with magic!"

“Annie’s right: all the simply things in life are better with magic!”

But the question that comes up now is, “What’s Kerry gonna show?”  Well, I’m gonna show you tomorrow.  I think.  I should.  Probably.  No, really:  I will.

I promise.

Calling Upon Presentable Resources

Today feels like it’s gonna be different somehow.  For one, today is the tenth month I’ve been out at work as myself, and therefore I’ve been living true to myself, or as about as true as one can get, because there’s always things we can change to be better.  But I do feel pretty good–

I took a picture just for you guys.  Sorta.

I took a picture just for you guys. Sorta.

Oh, and I also have on pink, because it’s Wednesday, and we all know what we do on Wednesdays, right?  You don’t?  Get in the car; we’re going shopping.

There was also writing last night, nearly six hundred words.  This has been a hard scene to start, mostly because this is one of the first times I’ve went nearly a thousand words without any dialog.  In face, the first line of dialog appears near the end, about nine hundred words into the scene.  And what is going on?  Well, here’s what:

 

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

Since her students’ return from Yule holiday Jessica saw a visible drop in their ability to craft, but she knew this situation would clear soon; her experience with B Levels indicated that by the second or third week of February her students would settle down and regain their normal abilities. That sort of drop off might be fine for Wednesday and Erywin, but Jessica had a schedule to keep, and she needed all her little B Levels to put aside their fears and start crafting correctly right now . . .

That was why she reached out for some help.

This last Sunday after lunch Jessica approached Annie and Kerry and ask if they’d help out in the next B Level class. She knew they could craft the spells she wanted demonstrated, for Kerry had already master both early on in Advanced Transformation, and he’d confirmed he’d taught Annie the same well before they left on Yule holiday. She explained what she wanted, and what she hoped they would accomplish. She also let them know that their participation in her Tuesday afternoon class was completely voluntary: unlike Helena and Wednesday she’d never considered using people from her advanced class to come and work with students on their own level—

She wasn’t surprised that agreed to help.

Jessica began the with a twenty minutes on today’s lesson, which would involve starting to learn Minor Inanimate Change and Minor Personal Change. She had actually went over these spells with these same students right before last Ostara, and at that time no one was able to do the spell—well, almost no one. Kerry managed a simple Minor Personal Change during lab, and Annie accomplished Inanimate Change before she dismissed class. It wasn’t until later she discovered they’d begun working on both spells after they returned for the holidays, and mastered both well before they showing up for that particular class. Jessica hadn’t been surprised then: they were both driven to be not just good witches, but far more advanced than their fellow levelmates, and developing a mastery over those spells only seemed natural for them.

Annie and Kerry entered the classroom just before thirteen-thirty, and Jessica felt the atmosphere change before the door behind them clicked shut. She was aware of the hostility they’d encountered assisting in B Level Spells and Sorcery, and given that this was their first appearance in a B Level Transformation class since the start of school, Jessica expected a few students might likely object to the lesson plan, or even become surly and try to push back against instruction, but there wasn’t a chance in hell she was going to allow that to happen.

She let the class know that her two advanced students were there to help their fellow levelmates become proficient in the spells she’d lectured on today, and she expected the class to listen, to pay attention—and most of all, to learn.

“And with that—” Jessica took a single step back and held out her right arm towards the students standing off to one side of the class. “I’m going to turn the lesson over to . . . my minions.”

Annie and Kerry moved to the spot at the front of the class while Jessica leaned against her desk. Kerry and she went over their lesson plan that Sunday evening in their private lab, so there wasn’t any need to wonder what they were going to say and show.

If they could teach each other various kinds of advanced magic, they could teach what were now normal spells without a problem.

 

Now we know:  Jessica doesn’t like to ask people for help.  But at the same time she’s in a pinch and it’s time to ask for help, so she goes to the people she knows can help.  Oh, sure, she could have asked students from a different level, but if these kids can do the job, let them.  Also, if there’s someone who does what they damn well please, it’s Jessica–but then, that’s also every other instructor, too.  If I don’t get too hammered tonight–I promise I’ll stick to just two drinks–then I’ll get into what the kids are getting into, because it’ll be interesting to see how they teach their fellow students.

One last thing and then I’ll go and leave you alone . . . one of the things I like to harp on is that writing is work, and if you wanna get that novel out, you gotta write.  There’s nothing magical here:  fairies don’t come out and work on your computer when you’re asleep, nor do your characters actually write out the story for you.  It’s all on you, Bunkie, and if you want the words to appear on the screen, you gotta get your fingers to tap-tapping on the keyboard.

I did a quick check yesterday and found out how long I’d been working on B For Bewitching.  Counting last night, it’s been two hundred and thirty-five days.

I have the calculations right here.

I have the calculations right here.

I know I started this novel on 11 April because I made a point of noting this on my Facebook author’s page, so there are no mistakes.  Actually, I’ve probably worked closer to two hundred and twenty-five days on this novel, because I’m likely telling the truth when I say there are at least ten days that I wrote nothing.  But I’m not going to knock those days out of the calculations, because it’s time I could have spent writing even a hundred words, but didn’t.

Chuck Wendig, an author I like and admire, has stated many times before that if you write just five hundred words a night, in a year you’ll have a novel.  How big a novel?  Well, 500 words times 365 days = 182,500 words.  That’s a pretty good-sized novel.  I know:  I’m there now.

Actually I’m beyond that, because as of last night, my total word count was 195,038:

And another picture for you to examine.

And another picture for you to examine.

If we wanna do the math, 195,038 divided by 235 days = 830 words a day.  That’s my average, and it’s a good average given that I usually write a couple of hours a night, editing and sometimes doing research as I go along.  Today is day 236, and that means there are 130 more days until I’ve got one year down on his book, and if I can maintain a rate of eight hundred words a day, I’ll add another 104,000 words to the story.  That means, give or take a few hundred words here or there, this book could end up around three hundred thousand words and completed–the later of which is most important to me.

Writing is work.  You have to hone your craft by sitting down and getting the words out.  There are no easy ways about it:  you gotta put in the time, and you gotta sweat the product.  You got a story inside you, be it short or long, sit down and get it out.  If you do three hundred words a night–which is gonna be about an hour of your time–you’ll have three thousand words in ten days and close to ten thousand in a month.  That’s a good short story, and and if you wanna keep it up for a few more months you’ve got a nice novella.

But you gotta put in the seat time to get there.  This is why, rain or shine, feeling good or feeling bad, I sit and get some words into the story.

Because while my kids may be damn good witches, they don’t do jack when it comes to telling their own tale.

A Flurry of Moments

If there is anything about 2 June that can be said in its favor, it’s that . . . well, it was interesting.  It was rainy; it was emotional; it was sad; it was happy; it was tiring.

Rainy first.  It was rainy throughout the whole day.  There was misting in the air when I went to work, and it rained all day, and most of the late afternoon.  I caught a small window when I was walking home where it didn’t rain, but when I ran out to get something to eat, raining again.  A lot of rain.  Really sort of set my mood.

Emotional and Sad.  I was going over scenes in my head, some for this novel, some for other stories, and one of the things I thought about was my characters dying.  In particular, Annie and Kerry.  They will die.  Everyone in the story eventually dies, but, as I said, I know how they die.  I’ve worked out the details for them both, and . . . well, here it is right before six in the morning, and I’m starting to cry writing this.  Part of the reason comes from bottoming out on hormones–which makes me nuts–which is the complete opposite of boosting them–which makes me nuts–so there is only a small window where I’m not weepy.

Every person I’ll see in the story dies at some point.  Most of those deaths will never be seen.  Some will, and they’ll go quietly.  Some won’t.  Some will be horrible.  And some . . . just make me cry.  Which I did.  Which I’m doing.

What about happy and tiring?  Well, now, tiring comes first.  I had to run out and pick up a few things, and driving in the rain and dealing with traffic put the strain on me.  Then I was back, and that’s when I got the notice about another venture coming up–

Starting at the end of the month, and going on for sixteen weeks, I’ll be reviewing television shows over on the blog of my friend Rachel Tsoumbakos.  She’s got herself a writing gig, and this has caused her to fall behind on her reviewing commitments, so I asked if she would like me to step in a do a couple of shows, and she said yes.  So click on that link and read the release, and a little quick bio I worked up which I count as writing time, because it’s writing, and it took time.

And that brings me to my writing.  I’ve started the last scene of the chapter, and it’s All About Helena right now, because it’s Thursday morning, and we’re out to do some sorcery . . .

 

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

“It’s so nice to see all your . . .” Helena Lovecraft gazed out over a classroom full of somewhat attentive students who had to walk out to The Witch House at seven-thirty. “Smiling faces this morning. It’s also good to see you here once again, because this means you’re with our happy little family for another year.” The right corner of her mouth twitched up. “At least another year.”

Helena started her slow pacing along the front of this new room, the B Level Classroom in the west wing of the building. She rarely changed her procedure on the first day of class: she came dressed in a dark top and pants, her boots with the thick, clunky heels, and her leather duster, and while talking about what she expected during the coming year, she began pacing. It helped gather her thoughts and focus them into the words she needed to say.

“Last year I pushed the hell out of you kids. I know because I heard the complaints.” She slid her hands into the pockets of her duster, now aware she had the full attention of her students. “But that’s the way it is here at Salem: we make you find your limits and then push you beyond them. Most of you did satisfactorily; some of you succeeded.” Helena momentarily glanced at the couple sitting on the right side of the classroom and smiled. “And a few exceeded my greatest expectations.

 

A couple?  Sitting in sorcery class?  Who could that be?  And where would this classroom be?

Right in front of us, in the center of the picture.  I think I can see that couple if I look hard enough . . .

Right in front of us, in the center of the picture. I think I can see that couple if I look hard enough . . .

It’s right after this class that Helena has the A Levels, so it’s like jaunt out for class, jaunt back for lunch, jaunt out for class, jaunt back for dinner, kick back and relax.  Everyone else walks.  But, as Helena points out, maybe not for much longer . . .

 

“I’m going to do the same thing this year. I’m going to toss assignments at you that will force you into the greatest crafting you’ve ever tried. I’m doing that because there’s something you need to know about this year—” She stopped her pacing and faced the students. “This is the last mandatory sorcery class.

“I don’t have an advanced class like other instructors have for their magic—” Once again she glanced at the two students on her right, who were doing their best not to act as if they were being singled out. “When it comes to sorcery, either you can do this, or you can’t. And after this level, if you can’t, you don’t make the cut to the next level.” Her vision flickered from one child to another. “You get to do something else; you get to concentrate on something else; you get a free period at this time.” Her tone turned serious. “What you don’t get to do is be a sorceress. Not ever. That door, once closed, stays closed forever.”

Helena turned to her left and began pacing once more. “And who gets to decide this matter? Part of it is you, because if you can’t do the spells, you certainly can’t move on. But it’s also my decision, and if I feel you can’t handle the magic, if you seem to craft more through luck than skill, if you are stressed out by crap I’m going to give you—I don’t want you.” She slowly half-turned and glanced at the class out of the corner of her eye. “You can’t be my dark witches.”

 

Is someone listening in on your conversations, Annie?  That’s very possible, and it’s likely that at one point Helena has heard the “dark witch” remark, which will get a conformation later on.  But Helena’s really pimping out her special kids–is there a reason for that?

You’ll see.  Maybe tomorrow.  Depends on how much tonight’s face burning hurts.

Tales of Writing For Tanya

Here I am, once again, with questions about writing, and I saved some of the best–and longest–for last, all from my friend Tanya, she of the video I released just the other day.  If there is anyone who knows me as a writer it’s her, because she’s been with me from the start of when I began writing once again.  That means she also knows what questions to ask.

And those questions are:

 

What does your writing process look like? Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual? Just how important are names in your books? What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process? Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others? Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about? Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

A lot of questions, so let me address them one at a time.

 

What does your writing process look like?

 

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to write, then I start gathering data for my story–if it’s necessary–and once that’s all finished, I plot things out and start writing.  While I’m writing I’m constantly thinking about what’s just around the corner in the story, and I’m working out future scenes in my head as I going through whatever I’m working on currently.  I also do that because with a large enough work–like this last novel–you find that some things didn’t work, some things need more explanation, and sometimes you just gotta add or remove scenes to have the story work.  I try to write every night, and I try to get in between five hundred and a thousand words a night.  Five hundred words doesn’t sound like much, but if you keep at it every day, it adds up.

 

Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual?

 

Other that monthly sacrifices to Cthulhu, no.  I enjoy listening to music when I’m writing (as I’m doing right now, listing to a Genesis concert from Zurich, Switzerland, recorded during their Wind and Wuthering tour in 1977), but there aren’t any other unusual habits I have when I’m working on a story.  Though I suppose one could say that once I start a story I dedicate myself to finishing it and not working on or getting sidetracked by other stories that may pop into my head.  If that happens they go into the idea file and I move on.  Remember, kids:  stay focused on what’s before you, and stop with the “But this other story came up and I just had to work on it!”  If that’s the case, then the first story was never meant to be.  And if you get distracted by a third story after you start that second, don’t quit your day job.

 

Just how important are names in your books?

 

They’re important.  As I’ve pointed out in another post, I work on my names until I get them right, and I’ve worked on stories before (Her Demonic Majesty being one) where I had a character and I just had the hardest time writing about that person because I wasn’t diggin’ the name.  But once I know who “they” are, then I’m good to go and I get into them greatly.  Sometimes I get into a character’s name so much that whenever I hear it outside the story, I sort of flash on my character and wonder what they should do next.

 

What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process?

 

Promotion is, for me, the worse.  That’s because I’m really not good at selling myself, and I always feel like I’m pushing my crap onto other people if I’m trying to get them interested in my stories.  Even though it’s the only way to get any exposure in these days of self publishing, I hate it.  And once you’ve seen another writer spamming every thread they can access with invitations to read their story, you feel like you don’t want to bother people with your requests.  Truly, I suck at this.

 

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others?

 

A lot of people would imagine romance scenes are hard to write, but I’m actually go with those–I enjoy writing them, because if handled right, romantic scenes are great for character building.  Just look at Annie and Kerry and see how they grew in their romance.  (And, no, That Girl does not exist here.  Nope.  Not at all.  Move along.)

The scenes I have the most difficulty writing are action scenes, and here’s the reason why.  These days, action has become associated with visual presentations seen on movies and television.  We now have an expectation of how action is suppose to play out, and directors and special effects people know exactly how those are to look.

The only thing is, action on the screen is difficult to play out on the written page.  There are only so many adjectives one can apply to action before you start repeating yourself, or end up looking ridiculous.  And if you watch closely, some action scenes in movies play out forever:  it’s like they slipped into a Whovian Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey ball of stuff, and what should be over in two minutes gone on for twenty.

My action scenes tend to be short and quick, because if you were paying attention, the three main action scenes that were in The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced–Kerry fighting the Abomination; Annie and Kerry against the homunculi in Self Defense class; and the Battle of Link Bridge–went fairly fast.  Well, two of the three, but we’ll get to that . . .  The reason they went fast is either due to some heavy-ass magic flying about–the Link Bridge battle–or one opponent was outclassed by the other–Kerry and the Abomination.  In the second example Kerry quickly came to the conclusion that if he hung around trying to fight this thing he was gonna die, and did what he could to get the creature off Emma and to come after him thinking he could somehow outrun the beast.  In the first example you saw that magic fights were a little like modern day aircraft or submarine battles:  if you get through the defenses and hit, you’ll score a kill.  As I showed, the Link Bridge Battle was over in forty seconds, and most everyone was in bad shape after that little soiree–even the winners needed a quick evac.

The exception to this rule was Annie and Kerry fighting the homunculi scene–or as I lovingly titled it, The Walking Tests.  That went on for about nine thousand words, due to the set up, the preamble of one coven getting their butts kicked, and after the fight hearing about how the test may have been set up, and our two combatants wandering off to clean up.  The actually battle seemed to take some time, only because there was some butt saving, and some talking, and most talking, and finally–well, once the kids figured out how to dust those loser homunculi walkers, it was over quickly.  If I had to put a timer on the action, I’d say Annie and Kerry were on the mat no more than a couple of minutes at most–and that took four thousand words.

Though I have to admit that scene was one of my favorites to write, even if it did take me almost a week . . .

 

Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about?

 

While I like telling stories, I can’t say I’ve always enjoyed writing.  Mostly because, at least in the beginning, one, I have horrible handwriting; two, I can’t spell worth a damn; and three, I couldn’t type.  Once I learned to type I only had Point Two holding me back, and spell checkers help out there greatly.

The first story I remember completing was a horror tale that was really about as amateur as they get, complete with creepy, unknown things going bump in the night, and the overused trope of the author (the story was told in first person point of view) continuing to write as the Horror Outta The Basement came to eat his ass–otherwise known as the Apocalyptic Log with the writing making sure everyone read The Last Entry.

At the time I thought I was doing something great, but now it’s not hard to see it was complete crap.  I really had no idea what I was doing, and I was totally coping the style of a write whose work I enjoyed.  All writers do this (well, almost all), and I learned from that work, because my next two were much better.  The second story I wrote was done with original characters, and involved a trio of time travelers realizing the part they had to play in the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.  It was the first time I worked with original characters who weren’t just there as part of the scenery, and there was the first inkling of a story starting to play out.  (True story:  this was written as an assignment for an adult writing night course I was taking.  The instructor had wanted something along the lines of four to five pages; I turned in twenty-eight.  She made certain to tell the whole class that I’d actually turned in a story, which I found a little embarrassing.)

And my third story was really sort of a fan fiction, as it took place inside a role playing universe that I was running at the time–however, I used all original character (save for two who were really in a position to help drive the plot along), and there was an actual history developed in the course of telling this story, where I was giving background on some of the characters, and even giving them, in the course of the story, motivation for their actions.  It was also my first really cinematic story, as I could see scenes playing out as if I was watching this play out on HBO–and given all the swearing and mayhem that occurred in the story, it would have been perfect for HBO before the coming of the show known as A Song of Breasts and Dragons.

The most important thing about the story, however, was the length:  it was about forty-five thousand words, which means long before I wrote my first novel, this was my first novel, at least according to the guild lines set down by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  And only a few friend ever heard the whole story:  I never posted it on the Internet, I never tried to get it published because I know, as a derivative entity of an existing work with a legitimate copywrite, I couldn’t do anything with the story.  I read it at writer’s meetings, and that was that.

None of these works exist any longer.  They all resided on the hard drive an old computer that eventually went belly up, and were lost to history.  I managed to find a hard copy of almost half of the third story about fifteen years ago (all these things were written in the late 1980s, early 1990s), but even that has vanished.  I could, however, rewrite the third story if I had to, because even to this day I remember it well, because, really, you never forget your first.

 

Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

And we finally come to the last question, and the crowd goes wild!  Just kidding . . .

I write everything in order, and even I find that a bit strange, because as I have my stories laid out so well, it doesn’t make sense that I start at the beginning, work my way through the middle, and work towards the end, because if I know what’s going into a scene months before I get to it, why not write said scene?  Writing software makes this possible, and with all my scenes for my last novel developed before setting down word one, then why not skip around?  Why not write about what happened to Annie and Kerry in Kansas City long before they go to the Samhain Dance, or why not write the ending–which I knew before I started writing–and then get the kids together?

Because even though I know what’s going to happen before I get to those scenes, I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get there.

Allow me to explain.

When I laid out A For Advanced I knew the kids would go to Kansas City on a field op for the good guys.  And, in a metadata view of the story, I knew certain things would happen there.  What I didn’t know were the details, and I didn’t start working on those until I was about ready to write them.  This was after I had months to think about that adventure, and even when I started writing, I only knew maybe six events in any kind of detail.

Annie and Kerry talking about France outside the school?  Came to me that day before I wrote the scene.  Same with the Dreamspace scene; had that idea the night before because I knew it made sense given what they knew.  The CDC?  Also figured out the day before I wrote the scene, based upon what I knew of the world I’d developed over the last year.  And the Magic Show the kids gave in the park only came about due to knowing what they had already done magically, and want I wanted to bring up in a later scene.

In short, I couldn’t have written any of the Kansas City scenes without knowing what my kids had been through before getting there.  I mean, I could have, but those scenes would have been completely different, and it’s very likely I may have needed to rewrite them completely to fit with what I’d written if I’d decided to work the whole field op out of order.

There are scenes I could write now for later novels because I know them well–and believe it when I say I would love to sometimes, just to write them out.  But I would probably end up rewriting them later, and I hate to do that.  It’s best to get to them in the right order so I know that my kids have advanced the way they’re supposed to advance.

Though if I did write out The Polar Express now it would answer one burning question . . .

"She finally tells us if Kerry nailed that tramp Emma and ends up cheating on Annie, who is just way too good for him!  Yay!"

“She’s finally going to tell us if Kerry nails that horrible tramp Emma and ends up breaking Annie’s heart! Yay!”

Ummm, on second thought, I’ll just keep that information to myself for a few more years.

There you have it:  twenty-five hundred words telling you a bit more about me as a writer.  I hope you found it entertaining.

Because I remembered things that I thought I’d lost.  And that’s a good thing.

Setting Up the Death Test

Even though I managed to get my lab work out of the way, get dinner, and end up back at the home by four, the exertion of the afternoon–and lack of sleep from the early morning–conspired to make me yawn and look at the screen dumbly.  It was a real, “What am I suppose to do here?” moment, and it took a couple of hours of gathering strength to get to writing before ten PM and Fargo came on.

I hit the deadline with time to spare.

So where did we leave the kids off?  Right here, ready to be thrown to the zombies:

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines--

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines–

 

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

Kerry felt his stomach drop as Annie and he stepped away from the rest of the students and onto the mat. Before heading off to look at the weapons, he turned to Professor Chai. “Professor?”

“Yes, Kerry?”

“Do Annie and I—” He looked at Annie, then back. “Are we really going to do this alone?”

The professor took one step towards them both. “Is there anyone else from your coven level that you can call upon for assistance?”

Annie and Kerry turned to each other and shook their heads. “No, Professor.”

“Then it’ll only be you two performing the test for your coven.” Professor Chai stepped closer to them. “Remember to play to your strengths. You both have them: don’t forget to use them.” She pointed to the far end of the room. “Go pick out your weapons.”

 

Thank, Teach!  Way to give a challenge.

But let’s not forget what Ramona said there at the end–before “Arm yourselves.”  She was giving sage advice, and Mr. Geek knew how to play to his strength with a little secret:

 

They walked back to the weapons table. All the Åsgårdsreia students had returned to the sidelines, so the area behind the red line was empty. He’d already decided upon the bokken, but didn’t pick it up right away, Instead he eased up next to Annie, who was looking over the poles. He leaned his head close to hers. “I know what these things are.”

Annie had caught his exclamation when the homunculi first exited the cabinets, and figured his comment had something to do with a story he’d read or seen. “You do?”

“Yeah. They come from a comic—”

Annie slowly half-turned her head. “These things are from a comic?”

“Okay—graphic novel.” He adjusted his glasses, pushing them up his nose. “It’s a bit more adult.”

She raise an eyebrow. I’m learning something new about him every day; I don’t ever recall him mentioning this. “How is it you managed to read these—adult novels?”

“I have an account on Amazon linked to one of my parent’s credit cards.” He looked over the weapons. “As long as I don’t get crazy with the charges every month, I can buy books and other . . . things.”

“And you’re parents know you’re buying these?”

“No. Which is probably a good thing.” He turned to Annie, grinning. “But it’s a good thing I have read this stuff, because I know how to take them out. Right?”

“Yes, we’re so fortunate . . .” Annie slowly rolled her eyes before selecting a jō. “How do we stop these homunculi then?”

 

He’s bought things and read stuff.  Sounds like someone I know.  And Annie–who seems to know just about everything concerning Kerry, didn’t know this.  You  can bet she’ll start checking into his reading habits more closely now.

He tells Annie about skull crushing (possible with wooden weapons), and decapitation (highly unlikely with wooden weapons), but still:  “Pass your test by crushing the skulls of the undead, kids!”  Well, a month in school and you gotta blow off that steam somehow . . .

As they’re preparing to meet their doom–I mean, start their test–Kerry lays out the last of their possible ways to stop their opponents:

 

They slowly walked towards the middle of the mat, giving Kerry time to finish his last thought. “The professor said we also take them out if we prevent them from taking action against us. That means there are things we can do that won’t involve crushing their skulls—”

Annie like this idea better. “Such as?”

“If we break off their lower jaws they can’t bite us.”

She curled up the right side of her mouth. “That’s not much better than crushing their skulls.”

“The other way would be to do so much damage to their torsos they can’t move.” He shook his head from side to side. “I don’t think we can do that with these. But I do have an idea . . .” As they took their place near the center of the mat Kerry quick explained his plan of attack.

Though Annie wasn’t thrilled with his idea, it at least appeared plausible. “Then we’ll try it first thing.”

“Yeah—so if it don’t work, we can fall back on our nonexistent Plan B.”

They were almost to the center of the mat when Kerry moved to Annie’s left. He smiled back at her puzzled look. “Leftie and rightie. This way we aren’t hitting each other when we swing.”

She nodded. “Good idea.” And I might have thought of it if I weren’t so nervous . . .

Once Annie and Kerry were in their place on the mat Professor Chai returned to the place where she’d stood during the Åsgårdsreia test. “Are you ready?”

Annie reached over, took Kerry’s right hand, and gave it a squeeze. “We’re ready, Professor.”

There were a couple of chuckles from the other students at the show of affection—and Lisa needed to make her comment known to everyone in the room. “Awww, that’s so cute.”

As soon as Annie released his hand Kerry slide it behind Annie’s back and shot a reverse V-sign in Lisa’s direction. He figured Lisa wouldn’t get it, but hearing a couple of guffaws come from within the crowd, a few people did. “We’re ready, Professor.”

“Very well, then—” She waved her hands. “The test begins now.”

 

Kerry flipping off people in class?  Say it ain’t so.

Where as the test before was working on one-and-a-have to one odd, Professor Chai sends out five homunculi, giving Annie a Kerry a two-and-a-half to one disadvantage.  Not cool, Professor.  Unless . . .

And where we end is watching them steel themselves for their own undead assault:

 

“Yeah.” He nodded towards the yellow line. “They’re almost here . . .” They prepared themselves for whatever it was that had affect the Åsgårdsreia students.

The first homunculus crossed the yellow line and broke through the barrier—

A wave of putrid air rolled over the two Cernunnos coven mates.

Annie and Kerry recoiled from the stench. It was more that bad: it was the accumulation of a thousand fetid swamps broiling under summer humidity; ten thousand rotting vegetable patches cooking in the daylight; a million pig farms simmering in the noonday sun. Both children gagged and retched, fighting to control their churning stomachs in the wake of the horrific foulness.

Annie held her free hand close to her face. “That’s horrid. What’s causing that?”

“That’s—” Kerry gulped air trying to keep his breakfast down. “It’s rotting flesh.”

“What?”

He half-turned to Annie. “They’re Walkers; they’re homuncuWalkers; they’re zombies—whatever, they’re dead. They’re ambulatory corpses that are still decomposing. Slowly, but . . .” He turned away as he nearly gagged. “They never talked about this in the comic.”

She didn’t want to discuss it, least it make her more nauseous. “Have to breath through our mouths, then.”

He nodded. “All ready there, Sweetie.”

All five homunculi were pasted the yellow line and advancing up on them. Annie pointed to the one in front and on their left. “That one?”

Kerry nodded. “Yeah.”

“You ready?” She raised her pole with both hands.

He slowly exhaled. “Yeah. Let’s do this.”

 

Not only do you send out creepy walkers, but you gotta make them that real?  What’s next?  Former class mates?  Which they probably are, because it sounds like the instructor is a bit twisted.

This is where I wish I knew how to draw, because I can see how these scenes set up, and I’d love some pictures to throw into the story–pictures that didn’t consist of stick figures.  That’s one day, though:  maybe I can con my daughter into doing a few for me one day.

Thirty-three hundred words into the scene, and the good part is yet to come.

Can’t wait for tonight.

Sky Captain and the Dark Witch

Here it is, Tuesday, and by this evening I’ll have the first read-through edit of the The Foundation Chronicles finished.  There are three and a half scenes remaining, and one of those scenes is seven hundred fifty words and a no-brainer to do, so I should burn through that in no time.

The scenes I was into last night were lovely:  Kerry way, way up in the air, and Annie suffering in some deep despair.  It’s an interesting metaphor, because until last night I didn’t realize that it’s a moment where Kerry is finally learning to soar, to accept that he’s not this huge loser that he’s believed he was for so long, while at the same time Annie’s sinking, telling Deanna the Seer that she wonders if she’s dragging him off to a destination not of his choosing–and then hearing of the report The Foundation put together on Kerry–and it doesn’t give a flattering description of the ginger lad.

It’s a nice dichotomy–not Die Me, Dichotomy, mind you–but it’s strange that until last night I didn’t recognize the inferences.  And these tie in with the scenes that follow, which bring a nice resolution to the prior four scenes.  If I’d actually considered writing it that way–well, it probably wouldn’t have turned out as well . . .

"I haven't seen something this bad since the last time I visited White Castle."

“I haven’t seen a mess this bad since the last time I visited White Castle.”

I’ve already started looking ahead to the next scenes, taking what the metadata is telling me and putting the ideas in my head.  I already knew them when I laid the novel out, but now everything is starting to gel in a good way.  I mean, take a look:

It all means something--doesn't it?

It all means something–doesn’t it?

Chapter Thirteen looks pretty straight forward–spells, something at the Madness, Nurse Coraline working her magic, and–oh, look, a Genesis song and someone must be having a birthday.  Yeah, those are easy to work out.  Now Chapter Fourteen is a little more difficult–there are labs and rhymes about September, and something about confronting students–doesn’t sound good.  And The Walking Tests?  Yeah, I’m having fun with that one.

What this tells me is that my kids are gonna have a busy September, and with that they’ll get the first month of classes behind them.  They’ll be well tested by them–maybe.  Who knows what’s going to happen with this stuff, right?  I do, but that’s because I’ve been living with this in my head for a couple of years, and now it’s time to let it out and run around the yard for a while.  Otherwise it’s gonna go nuts and start tearing up the furniture.

Today or tomorrow I end one segment of this story, and next Monday night I move on to the next.  I may do some editing passes on this once I start Act Two, or I may wait until Act Two is finished and do it all from the beginning once more.  Act One will go quickly because I’ve already given it a bit of a polish, and then I can go nuts on Act Two.  And then . . .

I can’t think about Act Three right now.  That’s off in the future and I’m not Deanna Arrakis–

Or am I?