Building These Dark Satanic Mills

This has been an interesting morning so far, mostly because I’ve know what I wanted to write about since before crawling out of bed, and with coffee in hand I’ve been getting myself worked up towards said writing of post by tuning into the Brain Salad Surgery, more specifically track one of this recording, which is Jerusalem.  In case you’re not aware of that song, it was originally a poem written by William Blake in 1804, and later turned into a song by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.  And when you’re recording one of the seminal albums of the 1970s, why not open with your own version of an English hymn?

It’s from this song that the expression “Chariot of Fire” comes, and I’m certain you’ve all heard that one at some point, usually with Vangelis playing in the background.  It’s also where I get the title of today’s post, which has nothing to do with darkness, mills, or even Satan.  No, it has to do with a reader question, and this comes from one of my Facebook Hodgepodge Crochet buddies, Debbie Wisely, who asked the following:


Do you have characters in mind and then build a story around them or do you have a story in mind first and fit your characters to the story? How do you pick what city/state or country they reside in? Do you write or type the original work?


This is sort of a crazy question, and I’m going to answer the last question first, because it’s the easiest.  No, I don’t write by hand:  I type everything,  If I didn’t type I’d still be working on my first novel from over twenty years ago, because my handwriting is Teh Sux.  I can also type a lot faster than I can write by hand, and given I can’t spell worth a damn, or that I’m always making mistake when I’m writing, I’d be lucky to churn out a few hundred handwritten words a day.  So typing it is.  There you have it.

As for the other two–oh, boy.  Those are good.  So let’s talk about one of  my other novels that some of you might remember me writing, but which hasn’t seen the light of day.

I’m talkin’ Suggestive Amusements.

This was written from 31 December, 2012, to 26 March, 2013, while I was in the process of doing something before publishing Her Demonic Majesty.  I blogged about the writing of this novel back in the day, and I remember the finishing of the novel was memorable because of a dream I had when it was all over, a dream I can still remember today–but that’s not why we’re here, yeah?

How did this start?  Well, I had time on my hands because I’d just finished NaNoWriMo 2012, which I’d won by writing Kolor Ijo.  I was thinking of things to do, and if you want to know how I got this story going, it was with a vision of two people, a man and a woman, sitting in a living room.  The man was on a computer writing, and the woman was on a sofa looking at the guy while she was crocheting.  Seriously.  That’s the genesis of Suggestive Amusements:  guy writing, woman crocheting.

But who were they?  They guy writing–that’s pretty simple.  Or is it?  There’s more to his story, sure, there has to be, just like how at that time there was more to my story.  I drew on my own experience as a programmer/writer and sorta made the male character in question the same kind of people, only single, untroubled by gender issues, and a huge-ass slacker.  There you have him:  Keith.

Who’s the woman then?  Ah, well, that’s easy:  she’s there to inspire him.  She’s . . . I know!  She’s a muse, a real muse, like thousands of years old, creature without a real beginning, being that’s there to bring you inspiration muse.  That’s Erin.  Not her real name, of course, just like her sister’s name–Talia, who you get to meet in the story–isn’t her real name.  but do you want to call them by the Greek names by which they’re remembered?  Nope, it’s too much of a mouthful.  So Erin it is.

Something else was needed, however.  I mean, come on, we know what’s needed:  a love triangle!  I need another woman, and she shall be called Elektra, because I like the name.  And since we’re dealing with these ancient muses who are known mostly through Greek Mythology, why not stay with that Grecian naming motif?  So there you are, Elektra.

With this novel–with most of my novels–I have the characters in place first.  I get to know them, who they are, what they need, what they’re looking for, and once I know that I start building the story around them.  I have the basic idea of what’s going on with the characters, so it’s now a matter of building the plot–

But as the second part of the question indicates, how do I know where the story takes place?

And the answer there is whatever strikes my fancy.  In this case I wanted a place that I knew something about, but not a great deal.  And that place was Las Vegas, because what hit me was, “I’ve never written about the desert area, and just about all the stories of Vegas revolve around casinos, gamblers, the mob, and Nic Cage drinking himself to death with help from a friendly whore.  Why not build a fantasy there?”

That’s how Las Vegas and the areas surrounding the city became the setting for the novel.  But wait!  While writing the story, I started to think about Elektra’s backstory, and realized she was like a lot of people in the city, she came from somewhere else, and she blew into town with a lot of baggage.  After a lot of thought and consultation with Google Maps, I decided that Elektra was a New Mexican woman from the Alamogordo, a place known as “The Friendliest Place On Earth” and the home of a whole lot of giant ants.  And in that process of knowing where she was from–and trust me, I knew–I set up an adventure for her, traveling from one end of New Mexico to another, before eventually heading into Arizona and onward into Nevada and my main setting.

I came about all these places because I just felt it was right.  I knew, because by that point I knew my characters, that this is where they were from, and why they were here.  I do this with everything:  when I’m setting up places for my characters I start looking at maps and I wonder, “Where would these people live?  Where would they work?  Why are they here?”  And little by little I start putting it together until my thoughts reach a critical mass and it becomes real.  Just like I did with my current story:  why did the Salem Institute for Greater Education and Learning end up where it did?  Because it is supposed to be there.  I know this because I know this.

And now you know how I usually start putting my stories together.  Maybe not the same way every time, but close enough that if you wanted to know how I get the writing party started, you now know.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

One last thing, however:  while I was working on Suggestive Amusements, a slight break in the action occurred in the 1 March, 2013 post titled The Sofa by the Hearth.  And there you’ll find mention that I was missing a couple of characters from my life, and I was thinking about an event that happened to them every weekend, and, well, maybe it was time I started writing about them–something I’d start doing in earnest eight months later.

That was truly the moment, almost two years ago, that I’d decided to begin work on their story.

If I’d only known then how that was going to turn out . . .

Nights of Sorrow and Confession

One of the themes I tend to follow in my stories that is no one is perfect.  It doesn’t matter if you’re human, non-human, or something a little special:  every now and then you’re gonna screw up.  If you’re human and you mess up, you might be out of some time and a few hundred bucks.  If you something non-human, your screw up might cost someone their life.

Such as it is with my muse, Erin.  She did something bad, and now her charge is paying for that screw up.  At least she feels bad about what happened.

The novel is moving into some dark territory before it climbs out into the light.  It’s night time, Erin is upset, and she’s got a senior goddess breathing down her neck.  Are there senior goddesses?  Of course there are:  someone’s gotta run those people.  You even find out that Erin has a boss, and it’s probably not who you think it is, because these guys don’t hang out with their own mythological neighbors.  No, these people have the run of whatever world they run, and they don’t give a shit about the ethic lines that worshiped them.

Unlike the last few chapters, where I struggled to get my feeling out on the page, time time I’m kinda zoomin’ the chapter.  I’ve written nearly twenty-five hundred words in the last two days, and were it not for an important Skype meeting tonight, I might have actually finished the chapter.  I’ll still get in some words tonight, but it looks as if the finishing of the chapter comes tomorrow–and the finishing of the story may happen on Sunday.  Maybe Monday, Tuesday at the outside.  But I see the end coming, it’s just around the bend.

Maybe this chapter is going so well because I’m feeling the sorrow these days, just like Erin.  Things are happening around me, a little to me, a little to people I know, and it’s weighing on my mind.  That’s probably why I was up at four AM again today, with my brain playing its little games of, “Hey, listen!” and keeping me up when I should be catching the snooze instead.  It has done this to me for the better part of a week now, and the early morning chicanery is getting old.  I need sleep, and I need it soon, because the drive home is killing me.

It also doesn’t help with the creative process.  The ideas seem slow these days, as if all the befuddlement I’m feeling from getting up so early every day is whacking my imaginative juices.  I will say this about hanging at The Undisclosed Location:  I always seemed to have something bouncing about in my brain.  These days, I seem to have . . . emptiness.  Or, at the least, a bit of fogginess, because things never seem as clear as they once were.

It’s time to get past these blocks.  Perhaps after I do my next edit the brain will open up.  Or maybe that’ll happen after I get some sleep.  Though I ended up not getting a lot of sleep last year–

And writing wise, that didn’t turn out all that bad.

Trauma Night Confessions

It’s fuzzy head time, brought about by getting up about two AM and not being able to do anything but drift in and out of something that felt like napping, but wasn’t.  There was a bit of pain in my legs and some churning in my tummy, but mostly what I have is a lack of sleep brought on by too many things going on in my brain.

I know there were dreams, but all I remember of them was being in an open area where I had to rate people who looked suspiciously like the Mother of Dragons, only a lot more jail-baity like she is in the novels rather than the more grown woman in the television series.  Why was I rating people like it was a wet tee shirt contest?  I have no idea.  My dreams don’t often tell me what they have in mind; I just roll with the madness.

Perhaps it’s a combination of things.  I have things on my mind that are keeping me . . . not troubled, but worried.  I also finished Chapter Sixteen of my novel last night, and with it ending on a downbeat, that means Chapter Seventeen, the penultimate chapter, is going to start on a downbeat.  The last chapter promises to be better, but this new chapter is going to be somewhat depressing, as well as somewhat confessional.

You bring together the three main character of my story, add in a little something I picked up from Chapter Fifteen, and you have a bit of a mess–one that I created because, hey, it’s how I roll.  Conflict is easy if you remember to follow The Manga Rule, and set up the dynamic of one guy, two women.  Dance them all around a bit, and before you know it something’s going to break . . .

Probably someone’s neck.

So I picked up in a place where the lights are down and there are pools of darkness, and Erin isn’t feeling all that chipper because of something she did.  And that’s where she gets a visit from–lets call her one of the bosses, a top goddess that comes to hold her hand while they work out what’s going on.  It’s this character, the one who is stepping onto the stage for a bit of limelight, that really gave me the idea for this story, because this new character was the subject of an erotica story I wrote for the hell of it maybe ten years ago.  It ended up on a website for a short time, and may still be out there somewhere, because nothing on the Internet ever dies.

There will be talking; there will be sadness.  There won’t be blood, because I can’t see someone getting their brains bashed out with a bowling pin, and I’m not serving milkshakes.  But there will be a bit of hand wringing, because guilt tends to do that to people, even if they are eight thousand years old.

Another six thousand words, maybe more, maybe less.  That’s all that remains for Suggestive Amusements.  Good or bad, it’ll be over, and I’ll move on to the next project.

We’ll see where my muse takes me.

I just hope it isn’t to the place I’m writing about.


Revenge Served Lukewarm

Last night was Hack and Slash writing time:  the cold was there in strength  and I was hacking like crazy, trying to get whatever had taken up residency in my chest the hell out.  It left the throat raw, but it did help clear the lungs–much in the same way a barium enema will eventually clear up that bloated feeling you’re experiencing.

I decided to go old school for writing last night, doing something I did when I started my story Kuntilanak almost a year and a half ago:  I cued up Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Pictures at an Exhibition, knew I had forty-four minutes to crank out some wordage, and went to town.

The story is picking up about a week and a half after the events of Chapter Eleven, and Keith is feeling somewhat–lets say different.  He’s in tune to the story; he knows what he wants to say, and he’s getting it all down in the written form.  Erin the Muse is busy with other things–things that got me a stuck-out tongue when I posted a few short paragraphs of the story after I was finished–and Keith is wondering hard if maybe something changed because they hooked up.  Anything is possible, because I’m Erin’s boss, and what I say goes, right?

Something is about to happen in Keith’s life, and I’d be lying if I said not only has this happened to me, but what follow is probably something I would loved to have done, but never did.  Call it Revenge Fantasy, which for me is petty mild, because the days where I’d plot and plot and plot some devious shit to those who’d wronged me are well in the past.  See, this is why you should go into therapy.  It does work.

I had some qualms about putting this chapter in the novel, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense.  Keith is at a turning point in his life, and just as Erin kicked his butt to get him going on this story, he needs another kick to remind him that he shouldn’t live today for tomorrow like he was immortal, the only survivors on this world of ours are the warming sun, the cooling rain,
the snowflake drifting on the breath of the breeze . . . oh, wait:  I’ve been listening to too much Burning Rope.

But it’s true:  we don’t get the dreams we want, we have to go after them.  No one has ever walked into a place where I’ve worked, pointed at me, and said, “Cassie!  I need you to write a novel that’s going to be big!  Come on, girl, lets go!”  No, it’s always been something short of an eye roll whenever I’ve mentioned that I’m trying to become a full-time writer, like I should be happy cleaning up after ever mess ever left by an egotistical manager.  Don’t reach for dreams, they’re saying.  You’re crazy to think you can do something that you’re not suppose to do . . .

I’ve chided other people for buying into the revenge fantasy memes that pop up on Facebook almost every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments when I think I should have done something like flip over a table and run out of a room laughing like a loon.  I once did tell a room full of people, after being told I was being laid off, that it was a good think I was on meds, otherwise my departure might go a little differently–and that day I had someone watching me like a hawk the entire time until I was in my car and out the company parking lot.  Not that I would have done anything, but it’s always good to keep the suckers guessing . . .

I’ll give Keith a little room to move, to express some opinions that I should have, but didn’t.  Maybe he’ll even have a parting shot as he leaves the building–

Sometimes I just can’t help be a wise ass when the need arises.


Peeking Over the Shoulder of History

There was no second boom yesterday, which is probably good because I wouldn’t be able to get this post out today if there were.  DA14 is back in the black, and won’t be back around for a while, so we’ll have to wait a while for another rock to get close and get people talking about how this could be “it”.  Oh, sure, Apophis is out there, but NASA is now saying people should cool their jets on impact talk–which is a good thing, because I don’t think I could take all the bad Stargate SG-1 jokes.

On the Cold Front thing are better.  Not much better, but better.  I managed to get some sleep, but woke up in the middle of the night gasping for breath because there was fluid in my lungs that needed hacking.  This morning there have been a session or two of tremendous coughing, but my head is clear and my throat isn’t sore.  It’s progress, so I’ll stick with medication and hot fluids, and hope for the best on Monday, when . . . well, when things are suppose to be back to work normal.

The thing the cold hasn’t stopped is my writing.  Other than Tuesday night–which was Fever City and a lot of inactivity–I’ve been right at the story, getting in my thousand or so a night.  Last night I started early, because I wanted to watch Real Time at nine PM, and it was a good thing that I had, because Chapter Eleven of Suggestive Amusements has turned into a bit of a history lesson.

I’m recounting the first known moments of my muse Erin, and since she’s stating that she’s eight thousand years old, it behooves her to talk about her first charge.  Since she’s talking about the far past, that means I need to start looking around for a place where she can do her first crash, and that leads me to Mesopotamia . . .

Ah, Cradle of Civilization, why did I not pay more attention in high school.  That’s an easy one:  because the shitburg I grew up in didn’t really care much for thinking like “science” and “history”, so we were taught the basics and little else.

As I’m writing, then, I’m looking up everything I can on the civilizations that called Mesopotamia home, in particular those places that were around about 6,000 BCE.  It was a strange process, because I’ll look something up, think it looked good, start writing a bit more of Erin’s tale, then return to the research to pulled down Google Maps to find out where this site she remembered would be located were it around today.  My luck was with me, for the location of the village fit perfectly with a modern day location, so back to the story to put that little tidbit in . . .

That not only went on for about eight hundred pages, but the night before, when I was writing about Erin’s encounter with Hypatia, and her time at the Library of Alexandria, I was doing the same:  research on the fly, write with the information fresh in my brain.  It seems I’ve written much of the story this way, because when I was recounting Elektra’s life, I was hot on the maps getting a feel for the places she’d lived, schooled, and worked, before coming to Lost Wages.

Perhaps this is why the novel doesn’t feel as solid to me, because in the past I’ve performed so much of my research up front before getting into the story–but that’s not completely true, because there’s always things you go back to for reference to see if you’re doing something right.  I knew about this part of Erin’s story from long before, but never had the time to look up anything, so I’m looking up as I write.

Not exactly the sort of thing a sprinter would do:  but then, I’m not a sprinter–

I’m a writer.  And we do what we must to get the story out.

Misery Loves Immortality

There was a moment during the writing of Chapter Nine of Suggestive Amusements when I started feeling sorry for my muses.  Oh, sure:  they’re goddess-like creatures who’ve been around for a very long time, thousands of years, bringing inspiration to the masses, and they are legends in their own rights.

But they have to be miserable as hell.  And you wouldn’t want to piss them off.

While getting deeper into some paragraphs I was writing that intended to give readers a peek at their lives, I thought of the following line from The Prophecy, which is a great little movie that pulls no punches in showing the line between ultimate good and ultimate evil is a thin one.

The line I thought of last night was this:


Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?


If you know your angelic history, you’d know that you can’t really lay eyes upon an angel, least you burst into flames.  Their current image was brought about during the Renaissance, where a bunch of white painters had to figure out how to do paintings of creatures you couldn’t lay eyes upon, and decided, fuck it, we’ll make them tall, white, and blond–with wings.

In the course of thinking about my muses, lovely ladies that they are, they had to possess abilities that would be pretty ass kicking, and overall frightening.  One of the sisters, Anna–not her real name, but you can probably figure out who she is if you look these ladies up–talks about how it’s really easy to go back to a moment just after conception, and fix it so that egg never find purchase in the rocky terrain that is the beckoning womb.  If they don’t get born, then reality gets retconned, and who’s going to give a shit about someone who never existed in the first place?

The more I wrote, the worse I actually felt about my characters.  My main muse Erin, she does something at one point in the early 19th Century, and I didn’t feel good as I wrote those few lines.  I don’t like doing bad things to my characters, but that’s life, immortal or otherwise.  But crap always happens, and you gotta write the bad with the good, like it or not.

Because if all you did was write about good things happening to your characters, they wouldn’t seem very real, would they?

There will be another chapter added to the story, because it is needed.  That’ll bring the count to eighteen chapters, which means I’m at the halfway point.  The new chapter is going to ended up between what would have been Eleven and Twelve, so time to move everything down, and put the new card in place.

Scrivener makes it so easy to restructure your novel–

If only the lives of my muses were that easy.

Brighten Up with Tea

Oi, it’s Monday.  It’s snowy.  It’s cold.  It’s a good time to work out of the house.

You know I am.

The weekend was good, and though I felt as if I didn’t want to do anything, I ended getting a lot done.  I wrote, and did research, and looked up stuff on . . . yarn.  Yeah, really.  It’s a 3D thing.  But there was writing.

Suggestive Amusements finally saw my muse getting together with her sister, another muse, another creature who’s been around for what seemed like forever, and they’re in a cafe on the west side of Las Vegas sharing cup after cup of Earl Grey tea.  Not coffee, because these ladies have tasted some of the best coffee ever made, and as sister Talia states, American coffee tastes like “dead vulture ass”.  Hey, when you’re thousands of years old, you are allowed observations that a few people might consider vulgar–and they’re not going to give a shit.

But they are together.  They are starting to talk about their latest charges.  Talia has had words about what she did, and Erin is . . .  Well, I know what she’s going to do.  I just haven’t written that part yet.

This is where I feel the story coming together.  I pushed through the work place revenge fantasy, and now it’s family time.  It’s where I start to open up a little about how my ladies work, and think, and feel.  It’s where I take a couple of creatures who aren’t human, and give them a human face–because they have feelings, they have emotions.  They are real people.

With real issues.

You’d not be able to help it if you were in their place.  The one thing all of the ancient cultures got right, I think, was that their gods were little more than humans with incredible powers.  The Greek Gods were little more than X-Men in togas, and the Hindu and Chinese pantheons are full of individuals who might be found gracing the covers of a Marvel comic.  With great power comes great responsibility?  Naw.  My gods are more like, “Shit happens, and it wasn’t that much my fault, ‘kay?”  Real people; super powers.  Something’s always going to break.

I’m back in my good place with the story.  For a few days here I’d been feeling a bit down about how the story was coming at me.  I wasn’t feeling the love, so to speak.  I wasn’t feeling like the story was coming together, even though I’d said, when I started writing, that it felt like a great story.

But then I spoke to my Muse–yes, my real muse–and their observation was that I was trying something new, that I was going somewhere I’d never been before, and that was why the story and characters were feeling disjointed.  I always listen to much Muse–because I’ve ended up getting spanked when I haven’t–and there’s much truth in what they said.  Because when you head off into new, unknown territory, you’re never going to feel comfortable.  You’re always going to have a lump in your tummy that reminds you that what you are seeing is all new, all different.

Maybe what you need is a little down time . . . and a sip of tea.