Out of Geekdom

Nothing about writing today, because I didn’t work on anything writing related last night.  It was a time to relax and recharge, and I’ll get into things a little tonight after I return from getting my nails done and grabbing something to eat.  No, I needed a nap and the need to sit and watch some TV last night, all the while thinking about something that’s been on my mind for a while.

It has to do with geekdom.  If you’ve followed the blog for a while you’ve seen some of my posts about my various steps into things geeky.  I’ve been into a lot of different things over the years, and I suppose I could say that I’ve tempered that love with a sense of reality, turning my love of various fandoms into a thing that I nurtured and cherished.

However . . . this year I’ve stepped into a “geeky gift exchange” that was limited to a small number of people, and since joining I’ve been going nuts.  No, really:  I’ve been really beating myself up the last couple of weeks over being in this group.  I should point out that I get like this with any gift exchange, because I’m fairly particular about giving gifts.  It’s not the value that I want someone to remember, but rather, I want them to have something that comes from my heart and speaks to them.

And then I begin reading what people in the group already own, what they’ve collected–and I began feeling bad.  Not for them, but rather, for me.

To paraphrase Karen Blixen, I had a collection in geeky things in my library in my home.  It wasn’t big, but it was growing, and it covered a lot of different things.

My first love had always been book–science fiction to be exact.  I was a space travel junkie, but there were a few other stories that I loved just as well, and in the 1960s and 70s I spent hours reading and trying to find stories relating to my favorite authors.  I collected Omni and Twilight Zone magazines, both sadly gone these days, and both of which offered fantastic stories and information while they were out.  I had nearly every issues of the first and all the issues produced during the Twilight Zone‘s short, two year run.  Twilight Zone was famous for first-run printings of Harlan Ellison’s Grail and Paladin of the Last Hour, among his best writing and my favorite stories, as well as Steven King’s The Jaunt and his now-famous review of The Evil Dead where Steven pretty much lost his shit and gushed out his love for the picture.

Then it was Doctor Who, which I started watching in PBS in Chicago about 1980.  Yes, twenty-five years before all the fans who today talk about how they’ve seen ALL THE EPISODES of the show, starting with Rose in 2005.  Uh, huh, sure you have.  I was fortunate to be able to watch the show on one of only two networks in North America that ran it at that time.  (The other network was a station in Toronto, Canada.)  After a while I began taping the show so I could go back and watch episodes when the mood struck, and when our local station finally managed to get access to the then full catalog of existing episodes (just under a hundred are missing, having been destroyed during various BBC vault purges), I was kept busy buying VHS tapes in bulk.

Then I asked for a scarf.

The Forth Doctor was my first Doctor, and he was known for, among other things, his long scarves.  My first wife, pregnant with our son, felt like she needed something to do, so she found a pattern for the multi-colored, eighteen foot scarf, and made it for me.  It was big and heavy, but it was also glorious.  I would actually wear it out and to work, and I didn’t mind the stares shot my way by people who wondered what in the hell I had wrapped around my body.

I few years later I wore that scarf to a huge convention where I met several of the actors, watched the first North American viewing of the Doctor Who episodes The War Games and The Caves of Androzani, and eventually had my picture taken standing alongside a full-sized Dalek that two guys had made in their auto body shop in high school.

This is not that Dalek:  back in my day Daleks didn't sport v-neck armor.

This is not that Dalek: back in my day Daleks didn’t sport v-neck armor.

I went to several DW cons over the next few years, cosplayed a few more times (we just called it “dressing up in costume” because we didn’t know what I was going to get labeled in the future), and met more actors.  At one con I managed to spend nearly forty minutes chatting with Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, and we just talked about things–not always about the show, but stuff about what it was like to act, what it was like to be in other shows, what it was like to live in England and have to hop a flight to Chicago where he’d find himself talking to people like me.  We did get to talking about his not being allowed to have a Regeneration Episode, and he had a . . . few . . . choice . . . words on that matter.  Still and all, Colin was an extremely nice guy and a lot of fun.

Again, not Colin, but I am digging the blond, Helena-like blond hair that I'd like for my own.

Again, not Colin, but I am digging the blond, Helena-like blond hair that I’d like for my own.

There were several other things I got into over the year.  Role Playing Games, of which I have dozens, and some of the games I ran during the 1990s were, in a way, legendary.  I collected Battletech miniatures, some of which are impossible to find.  I’d have people paint them and put them on display around the home.  During the period I was between my first and second marriages I began collecting anime:  some movies, some OVAs, a few wall scrolls, more than a couple of figurines that could only be bought in Japan–which, thanks to the Internet, was doable.  I also began collecting animation cells from various productions.  Of these I don’t have many:  maybe a dozen.  The majority are from the original Sailor Moon and Urusei Yatsura, with a couple coming from Song of Escaflowne and Silent Mobius.

All old school stuff, but as they are the original, hand-painted cells, they were and are worth a big of cash.  I know a couple ran about $200 in late 1990s money, and I believe the head shot I have of Lum set me back about $300.  The one I really wanted, the one I got into a bidding war with two other collectors, was for a full-body portrait of Sailor Saturn and her Silence Glaive, which was about as rare a cell as they came.  I stopped when my $850 bid was passed, and I later learned from the seller that the winning bid was $1,100.  Yeah, the things we did twenty years ago when we had money.

A figurine of what the cell would have sort of looked like.  Yeah, I just loved some World Destroying Firefly . . .

A figurine of what the cell would have sort of looked like. Yeah, I just loved some World Destroying Firefly . . .

So what happened to all this stuff?  Well . . .

You see, while I was happy in my geekdom, and wanted to continue adding to the collection, others close to me–otherwise known as First and Second Wives–had other ideas.  My first wife grew bored with my geekness–as she did with just about everything else pertaining to me–and began getting pissy with my collections and my interest.  When I got to where everything I did turned into a big argument, I stopped the pursuit of all things geek, though I didn’t actually curtail my gaming on the weekends.  It was during the time just after I moved out that I lost my Omni and Twilight Zone magazine collections:  my ex told me she sold them at a garage sale, but I’m more of a mind that she tossed them in the bin.  I later lost my Doctor Who VHS collection to my stepson, who my second wife allowed to make off with my boxes of tapes.  I was also “convinced” by my second wife to give him my scarf, because there wasn’t any need to keep it, right?

Some of the other things that happened during my current marriage has been the boxing of my figurines and the removal of my wall posters.  Some of them went to my daughter, but most of them have gone into garage storage.  I was told having them around the house looked–well, not good, right?  My Battletech miniatures are boxed up as well, since I was informed that it wouldn’t be a good thing to put them on display.  I never managed to frame my animation cells, either, and right now they’re sitting in my closet back in Indiana, still in their shipping sleeves.  I’m heading Back to Indiana in a week, and I promise to get a few photos of these and put them up for you to see.  One day my daughter will get them if she really wants them; if not, I’ll probably give them away to someone who’d love a pissed-off looking Sailor Mars about to fireball someone’s ass.

I really have no one to blame for my current geeky apathy other than myself.  Yes, I received little to no support in my pursuits, and in so many instances I felt as if I was working in a vacuum with my fandom, because the only one who felt an interest in these things was me.  Just like with my gaming–which I eventually stopped because I was told by someone that they didn’t understand why I gamed, and kept wanting me to scale back my weekend endeavors in that area–I agreed to curtail these activities, and ultimately I lost interest in the act of surrounding myself with things that reminded me of those interests I loved.

These days I keep my geekness to the area of intellectual endeavor, because I can always look something up and memorize facts and use that knowledge to kinda keep me warm a cozy.  It’s not always comforting, however:  it’s like the difference between having a sweater that keeps the chill away, and curling up under a comforter with someone you love who’s going to whisper in your ear, “I’d blow up a star to be able to speak to you one last time.”  No, not nearly the same.

Which is why I see what others I know have and love, and brings on the tears because it reminds me of what I once had–

And what, over the decades, I’ve lost because I didn’t want to upset people who didn’t support me.

Hey, it’s never too late to turn that around, is it?

Aid Time, Emma and Annie’s Quiet Moment

Finally, a pretty good night of wirting, even if there were more than a few distractions happening.  But I’m used to that these days; it seems to be the way of a writer’s life.  You work your way through them, adjust, and keep moving.  As it was I managed about eight hundred words last night, but more importantly, I inched closer to the end of Chapter Twenty-Two.

This is the penultimate scene, and if you can’t tell by the title of the post, Emma and Annie meet.  How do they meet?  Like this:

 

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

18:32 to 1838

The warning alarm wasn’t loud, but the beep-beep-beepbeep-beeeeeeep was easily designed so as not to be mistaken as something other than an incoming teleport. The moment it started Coraline turned to the location about two-thirds of the way towards the center of the Rotunda and made her announcement. “We have incoming, people. Time to do our jobs.”

Annie got into position. Her instructions were simple: if anyone permitted to teleport through The Pentagram screen wasn’t who they were supposed to be, the Annie was to launch death spells on them without hesitation. She did so with the understanding that if any Deconstructors made it through the minute opening in the screens the Security Center allowed for emergency teleportation of the wounded, and they saw her standing off to one side watching everyone coming into the building, they might decide to launch a death spell her way first.

It was a calculated risk, and one she accepted ever since letting Coraline know that she could do the killing for them were it necessary. If you’re going to be a sorceress, you have to accept the life they lead. And it’s not always a safe one

An eerie silence filled the Rotunda right before the pop that came with the arrival of someone teleporting. Annie wasn’t certain who the person was, but Coraline rushed up to her, so she obviously knew the person. Addressing them by name helped as well . . .

“What do you have, Suhaila?” Coraline checked the person that Annie now saw this Suhaila cradled effortlessly in her arms. The Chief Medical Officer for the school motioned for the other woman to follow her to the triage area.

“Flier trying to get back in.” Suhaila didn’t have an issues with the person in their arms, which led Annie to believe she was an AP like all of Coraline’s staff. “Found her outside The Diamond; her wingmate and her reported in as soon as the comms were back on-line, and it was thought best to bring them in through there.” She laid the girl in on of the reclining chairs instead of on a stretcher. “She’s in shock: I think she was attacked by an Abomination.”

It was only when Coraline pulled the flier’s helmet off that Annie saw the cascading red hair that had been hidden there moments before she heard the question. “She got a name?”

Suhaila nodded. “Emma Neilson.”

 

Now we know who was supposed to go pick up the kids, and if there hadn’t been some Anime Wannabe hanging out and spoiling the night, Annie would be back with her Kerry.  Instead she gets the wingmate and some bad news . . .

 

Annie froze in mid-step as she listened to the conversation—

Coraline conjured the orange glow in her hand while looked at the monitor over the head of the chair. “Yeah, she’s in deep shock.” She nodded at Gretchen. “Okay, let’s bring her out.”

“Yes, Coraline.” She pulled a slap patch from her jacket and gently applied it to the right side of Emma’s neck. “That should do it.”

Coraline checked the monitor. “And three, two, one . . .” She placed her hands upon Emma’s shoulders as the near-catatonic girl gasped for air as she convulsed. The head nurse leaned in close to the girl’s head. “It’s okay, Emma; it’s okay. You’re in the hospital; you’re safe now.” As Emma stopped shaking and started to calm down Coraline turned to Suhaila. “You said you were out there to pick up two?”

“Yes.” She nodded slowly. “The other flier wasn’t there.”

“What’s their name?”

Annie shook her head slowly; she didn’t want to hear the name of Emma’s wingmate. Don’t say it; don’t say it. Please don’t say

“Kerry Malibey.”

 

No, not what Annie wants to hear.  Also, she didn’t want to hear an Abomination was there, so things aren’t looking up for her.  Even Coraline is a little worried–

 

Coraline shot a look in Annie’s direction, then quickly turned back to Suhaila. “Okay, we can take it from here. You need anything from us?”

“No.”

“Good, then.” She patted the security woman on the shoulder; as soon as she teleported out, Coraline turned back to the now fairly serene student in the examination chair. “Emma, I’m Nurse Coraline. You know me?”

Emma nodded slowly. “Yes.”

“Were you attacked outside The Diamond?”

Her eyes opened wide and she shook slightly. “I was. I—”

“It’s okay; you’re safe.” Coraline looked up at Gretchen. “There’s no injuries other than bruises and contusions.” She stepped away from the examination chair and led Gretchen away for consultation. “We can get her up to the ward—”

Annie wasn’t listening to their conversation: she had instead moved next to the examination chair and was now standing over Emma. She calmly looked over the girl before speaking. “Emma.”

Emma slowly looked up. “Oh, hi, Annie.”

 

I look at that last line and so want to write, “Oh hai!”–it’s so hard not to put that in.  Who’s the last person you expect to see after being attacked by a monster?  The girlfriend of your wingmate–I’m sorry, I mean, Soul Mate.  And, from the looks of it, a not so happy one . . .

 

She wasn’t in the mood for an “Oh, hi,” however. She wanted answers. “Where’s Kerry?”

Emma managed a weak smile. “He saved me.”

“What were you doing out in the open?” Annie moved so she was standing next to Emma’s raised torso. “Why weren’t you somewhere safe?”

“We couldn’t; we almost crashed.” Emma slowly licked her dry lips. “We were in the woods and Kerry got me to find a place to hide.” Her eyes rolled for a second. “It was nice, too.”

“What were you doing at The Diamond, then?” Annie’s voice remained steady and level, but a dangerous tone began creeping into her words. “Why weren’t you hiding?”

“I wanted to get underground.” Emma’s voice was growing distant as the medication she was given was removing all the effects of her shock. “I thought we’d be safer. Even Kerry thought the plan wasn’t bad.” She chuckled. “We were almost all the way there when Nightwitch told us to go there and we’d get picked up.” She nodded. “See? It was good.”

Annie leaned over Emma, the distance between their faces closing. “Emma, what happened to Kerry?”

Her voice was weak and far off. “He saved me.”

She grabbed Emma by the front of her flight jacket. “How did he save you?”

“He attacked the monster.”

Annie’s eyes turned cold as she calmly pulled Emma towards her. “He attacked an Abomination?”

Emma chuckled once more. “I heard him screaming at it, and then it screamed at him, and there was more screaming . . .” She gulped as her breathing turned ragged. “There was a lot of screaming.”

As her hands slipped up to the collar of Emma’s flight jacket, Annie fought to keep her anger under control. She was loath to show her feelings to others, but this very moment she felt as if she were about to go off on this stupid girl. “Mozhete glupavo malka kuchka . . .” She pulled the jacket tight around Emma’s neck. “What happened to Kerry? Where is he?”

“He flew off.” Emma continued speaking calmly, as though nothing out of the ordinary were happening. “He flew off and the monster went after him.”

Kerry’s out there with an Abomination after him—” Annie pulled Emma to within a few centimeters of her face.

Emma stared back at Annie as if dumbfounded. “He saved me—” She slowly blinked twice before chuckling. “You’re so lucky.”

 

Yeah, that little bit of Bulgarian there . . . Annie’s not happy.  And the “You’re so lucky” line . . .  Full disclosure here:  as I’ve stated a few times before, Annie and Kerry came out of a role play that me and another person did for most of a year.  This actual scene was more or less played out, with my friend playing Annie, and me playing Emma.  Some of what happened in this scene is as presented–I’ve had to change a few things, and our role playing scene was shorter–but what Annie does to Emma here is what my friend did with Annie.

And when I laid the “You’re so lucky” line on her, she lost it.  Annie literally went all murder time on the girl.  I was actually a bit shocked at how she went at Emma, but now I understand her motivation.  I understand that you don’t mess with her soul mate, and if you did something stupid that might have gotten him killed . . .

You’re gonna suffer, honey.

A couple of days ago I saw my friend who played Annie on-line, and I told her I was getting ready to write this scene, and after I said, “You’re so lucky”, she tells me–and here is the exact quote:  “And the lucky thing . . . honestly . . . If I could have gotten away with it, I would have pulled her lungs out of her body and squeezed them.”

No, she wasn’t bothered at all by what Emma did.

What does Annie do?

Well . . . I’ll write that up tonight.  Considering Annie’s the Dark Witch–what do you think?

And here Emma thought she left the horror outside . . .

And here Emma thought she left the horror outside . . .

Make Believe Faces in Make Believe Places

When I was first designing my Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning–under a different name, mind you–I had maps drawn and things labeled.  I had a location in the middle of Maine for the school, towns that the students could visit, and interesting things that could be done in and around the area–which, to be honest, was pretty much all wilderness.

During the process of transplanting my Salem school into another world, I started thinking, “Having it in Maine makes no sense.  But where can I put it so it’s close to Salem?”  Fortunately for me Goggle Maps exist, and I found the perfect place:  the middle of Cape Ann, a small island where the town of Gloucester is located.  I could come up with all sorts of interesting ways to keep the school hidden–after all, what’s the point of writing about a huge, world-encompassing organization if they can’t hide a large group of buildings in plain sight?–and, if I set my mind to it, I could make the school bigger.  Much bigger.

That’s where I got into Blender and began doing a little three dimensional modeling.  I came up with a whole new layout for the school, while keeping the central area–The Pentagram, the Coven Towers, and the Great Hall–all right where they belonged.  So I started thinking big–really big.  And a whole new school was created out of the old.

It's real enough--you just have to look hard and think of it that way.

It’s real enough–you just have to look hard and think of it that way.

Constructing a model of the school and the tunnels that run under the school took weeks.  In actuality, I probably tweaked this model for a few months–in fact, the labels you see in the picture above were put there last month, and this included labels I put on one of the cross-country race tracks–the Green Line–so when people say, “He lost it in the Northwest Passage”, I know where it’s at.

How big is the school  The Great Hall is 175 meters from the north end of the library to the main entrance at the south.  That’s 574 feet if you don’t do the whole metric thing.  That means The Pentagram is much larger–each of the walls between the towers are between 220 meters (722 feet) to 240 meters (787 feet).  And yet when you look at this structure, it fits nicely inside the walls.  From the north Polar Tower to the southern wall next the Gloucester Entrance it’s about 5.5 kilometers (or 3.4 miles), and a good part of the school is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) across.  Like I said, it’s a big place with room to move.

Now that I had a place, I was almost ready to start writing the pre-novel, The Scouring.  I just needed to do a little modifying of some of the characters . . .

All of the characters were developed around a starting 2011 time frame, but a lot of them were teaching back in the year 2000, the time of The Scouring.  Not only there, but a few of the current teachers in the work in progress were students.  So you know what was needed?  Time lines.

Ask and you shall have to make your own.

Ask and you shall have to make your own.

As you can see, I know that Erywin, Jessica, Madeline, and Ramona were teaching in 2000, and that Isis, Deanna, and Wednesday–who work at the school in the current novel–were students then.  I also see that Coraline came in as the school doctor on 30 April, 2000–the day after the time of the Scouring.  This is where a time line comes in handy:  it lets you know what people did went, particularly if you’re working on multiple story arcs.  And you also see just about when all the main characters–and a few side characters–were students.  The nice thing here is that Aeon Timeline allows you to export part or all of a time line as an image, and then you can insert that image into a Scrivener file.  So if you don’t want to have two programs up at the same time, just bring in your time line and view it when you feel it’s needed.

Now, one last thing, and it’s about my characters.  I’m an old role playing gamer and GM, or Game Master.  I love making characters, and I like to make them as real as I can.  When I started putting the characters for these stories together, I not only did a little bit of history on each, but I assigned a “face” to them, something that, when I’m first starting out with the character development, I get an idea of how they looked.  Sometimes–like I did for Her Demonic Majesty–the faces are of people whose pictures I just find.  And then there are times, like with the character in The Foundation Chronicles, that they sort of become celebrities in their own right.

Here are the people I picked for each of my characters for The Scouring, and I’ll show you were I altered them.

Instructors:

Jessica Kishna, Mistress of Transformation.  She came from a picture I found of an African-American runway model, with a big helping of the wonderful Angela Basset.

Ramona Chai, Self Defense and Weapons.  Ziyi Zhang.

Matthias Ellison, Music and Arts Director.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Madeline Palmescoff, History.  Mary-Louise Parker.

Erywin Sladen, Formulistic Magic.  Joanna Lumley.

Students:

Isis Mossman.  Chloë Sevigny, but with changes.  Since it was stated in The Scouring that her mother was Egyptian, that meant altering her features and complexion slightly.

Deanna Arrakis.  Deanna was difficult because she’s Iraqi, and it took some time to find good pictures of women from Iraq.  Eventually I settled on a combination so that she has a slightly large nose, a strong chin, large brown eyes, black hair, and a slightly tanned complexion.

Wednesday Douglas.  Here I went totally meta, because I literally came up with the actress first.  That actress is . . . Christina Ricci.  And who is Christina known for playing?

"Why am I dressed like someone's going to die?"  "Wait."

“Why am I dressed like someone’s going to die?”  “Wait.”

There you have it:  Wednesday Douglas, who will have a daughter named Tuesday and a granddaughter named Friday.  And who is one of the best little witches to come out of Salem in a long time.  She doesn’t have pigtails, though.  She hates them.  Now you know why.

And lastly, Supporting Characters:

Helena Lovecraft.  She’s a Kiwi, so I wanted a Kiwi as her “face”, which means I picked Lucy Lawless.  she’s gone through a lot of changes, however:  I kept the body and her intense look, made her half-Māori, darkened her hair and complexion, and gave her “black shark’s eyes”.  All and all, I have always loved Helana, and I have her back story with Erywin, her partner and companion, thought out and down pat.  One day Erywin will even tell Kerry about how she met her “pretty girl”.

Coraline Gallagher, the new School “Nurse”.  Coraline is modeled after Christina Hendricks, thought the young character that Wednesday meets is more like Yo-Saf-Bridge from Firefly (with red hair, naturally) and not Joan Holloway from Mad Men, the person Annie and Kerry meet.  This is also why when “Red” meets Coraline–as she likes to call him–for the first time he doesn’t know how to describe her except as “curvy”, which is his way of being polite.  Coraline is a huge romantic and a hell of a fighter–I still have to publish that except of her and Madam Chai going at it–and Kerry doesn’t know it yet, but he and Nurse Coraline share a birthday.  There is a reason for that . . .

Now that we have all that out of the way, tomorrow I can get into outlining a small novel.

The big one comes after that.

Back to the Beginning of the Beginning

How did I start writing my current work in progress, The Foundation Chronicles?  It started with designing buildings.

The main characters in the story, Kerry and Annie, were originally created for an online role play.  I made Kerry, and a good friend of mine created Annie.  We played these characters for a few months, but with most good things the role play came to an end and the characters were shelved.  In the process of building the game there was a great deal of material the two of us developed, both characters and world-wise–

However, I was always pushed to show the buildings, to show the grounds, the show the towers.  My partner in crime kept after me to make maps and building layouts, and being that I was the sort of person who loved doing that kind of thing, I obliged.

It was from there that the Salem Institute of Greater Learning and Education was built.  It was from there that we named our covens, and the buildings, and figured out where everything went.  It was a great learning experience for that fantastic summer of 2011.

Over the next two years I thought a great deal about writing about these character’s adventures.  Even while working on other projects, the story of Annie and Kerry was never far from my mind.  Kerry I knew, but Annie was always a problem for me, because I wanted to get her right, and she wasn’t my creation, at least not at the beginning.  So it took a lot of thinking to get where I wanted to be with her, and I probably tortured myself for a year thinking about her motivations, her feelings, what she wanted the most.

So after I’d finished publishing Her Demonic Majesty in May of 2013, I decided it was time to tackle the tales of Salem.  I didn’t want to start right in on Annie and Kerry, but rather I wanted to do something else that would help build The Foundation World, but at the same time introduce a number of characters that would end up in their world.  I decided that for Camp NaNo, July 2013, I’d write The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, a story of a traumatic event that occurred just before the end of the Twentieth Century.

While speaking to Annie’s creator about the upcoming story, we started talking about Annie’s Lake House.  This is an important location, a place that plays in a lot of scenes not only in my current book, but will have a place in the hearts of both children in their future.  And I wanted to see what it looked like, inside and out.

So it was time to get into the software and design.  I used a program that would allow me to make floor layouts and then show the building in three dimensions.  I could even place furniture inside and imagine the scenes that hadn’t been written yet.

The building that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

The house that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

And there it all was, the house that little spoiled Annie pestered her father to build.  With living room and dining table and kitchen, a library and a private bedroom, and the loft guest area overlooking the ground floor below.  And the wall of windows facing to the south, keeping the house illuminated from morning to nightfall.

I showed it to Annie’s creator and she loved it, even going so far as to say it was perfect.  To hear those words made me feel wonderful, and empowered me to prepare to get my world ready–

Because if I was going to write the story I wanted to work, I needed to build something else:  my Great Hall.  I knew it in my mind, I saw it in my imagination, so it became necessary to lay out with floor plans that would display it as I’d displayed Annie’s Lake House.

I wasn’t able to created it fully, because my computer couldn’t handle all the rendering needed.  But I did most of it, and . . . it was so worth while.

Because if you're going for "Great", you best go all the way.

Because if you’re going for “Great”, you best go all the way.

I had building all created:  I had my Atrium and Rotunda, the Library, the Security Center and the Instructor’s and Headmistress’ Offices.  There was the Clock Tower and the Transepts, the Hospital and the Dining Hall.  It took me about a week of work, but when I looked at this building, I saw my Great Hall.

I was just about ready to write.  Except–

I needed a school.

In the Glen of Semi-active Awareness

Oh, such is the aftermath of sleeping with the Luna Moth.  I make it through the night without waking at some ridiculous time of the morning, but the next day forces you to deal with the hangover for many, many hours.  It’s never fun; in fact, it can be a dangerous thing when you’re out on the highway surrounded by idiots–as I’ll be this afternoon.

At the moment I’m trying to analyze business intelligence software–always a fun thing–and write this.  I’m sort of failing at both ends, because my body is revolting against me, saying, “No, you can’t make your fingers move that way, because it feels funny to us.”  Also, these companies don’t want to give me a quote on their software:  the want me to try it first.  I don’t want to try it, I just want to know how much of my money you’re going to take.  There is no “try”, there is only, “How much, Bunky?”

Since I didn’t write anything last night–I was on Skype with my therapist, and by the time that was through I was inching into ten PM territory–I did polish up an old game review and sent it off to the guy who’d asked me about them the other night.  Yes, I found some errors; yes, I did rewrite part of it because it felt very clumsy in some areas.  Mostly I rewrote things because I know how now to tell the same tell better, and I want to see things looking nice and shiny before I send them out into the Interwebs again.

One of the things I’ve seen over the years is how good some of the stuff I wrote three, four, five years back is today.  It’s not perfect, but it’s readable in a good way.  I still get ideas across; I still manage to make the right points; I still manage to let what passes for “my humor” present itself upon the page.

What I’m saying it the writing was good, and it was something of which I am proud.

In fact, I was just looking over another review I did in 2011, and while there are a few issues here and there, I have no problems with it.  Sure, a clean up is in order, and I might have to correct something were I to republish it because a few things have changed since the original publication, but it’s not as if I need to perform massive triage to get it presentable.  It is . . . good.

If the two reviews I sent in are deemed worthy, them I’m probably going to send a few of these other things that I penned.  I’m also looking and publishing some–wait for it–new articles, because I’d once made the promise to do so, and I should follow through, should I not?  I was even looking at some research material because that’s what I do, even if I don’t want to write.  But since I likely will, the reading came in handy.

The plan is to finish Suggestive Amusements this weekend or early next week–but that doesn’t mean I won’t write something else in the meantime.

After, every little bit helps.

Is it Gaming, or is it Storytelling?

Yesterday I mentioned that I was thinking of a character that I’d created for a role playing game, and that I’d written a few chapters around them, sort of gave them a history.  I also made a comment sort of like, “Oh, I don’t do fan fiction.”

Except for that time when I sort of did.

Allow me to explain:

Back in the dark, dim days of the early 1990’s, I used to do a lot of gaming.  In fact, I pretty much gamed non-stop from about 1989 until 2003, or there about.  Yes, there was a little bit of gaming going on from 2005 to 2010, but not like I’d done in the prior decade.

I not only gamed, but I ran them.  I was The Gamemaster, and for a few years my games of choice were MechWarrior, and Cyberpunk.  MechWarrior was your “Giant Mechanical Things You Pilot so You Can Blow Shit to Hell!” game, and we had a blast with it because people loved blowing shit up.  Save when the shit being blown up was your mech–the gigantic robot-like thing your character piloted–then it wasn’t so much fun.  For the most part, however, it was a great game, and I put in a lot of time changing the “known history” of the game, just to put a twist on the game, and so people wouldn’t be going, “Oh, I know what happens next!”

The other game was Cyberpunk.  Now, if you want to know about that, read The Sprawl Trilogy, by William Gibson, and you’ll know a little about the game.  People were cybered up, hook into The Net, and loaded down with armor, guns, and drugs–and not always in that order.  Well, my players, the armor and guns always came first, and if you weren’t careful, you might take a shotgun blast to the face–or worse, Full Auto To THE HEAD!  People were killed just going to the ATM, and not always because they were a target.

Again, there was a lot of fun to be had, and I ran one particular game for about two and a half years of weekends.  I finally brought the game to a close, ended up killing a few player characters, and gave everyone–well, almost everyone–a good resolution.

However . . .

When I was in my writer’s group, I needed something to write about.  And lo and behold:  I came up with a set of character who existed in the world laid out within the game, and its supplements.  And, once–yeah, I wrote a story for them.  Said physical story is now lost to the ages, because it ended up on a hard drive I didn’t back up, and I never recovered, but it’s still in my head, and if I ever wanted to rewrite it, I could.  If memory serves me correctly, the story was probably thirty to thirty-five thousand words long, but it could have been longer.  To be honest, I just don’t remember.

But to show you how nutty I was, I not only wrote that story, but I figured out a whole HBO-type TV series for the characters, one that was about thirteen to fifteen episodes a season, with a full eight seasons planed.  No, really, that’s how I was rolling back in the early 1990’s.  I even had titles for some of the stories:  the first one would have been, “The Great American Nightmare,” and the last three would have been based upon the titles of famous movies.

Ah, another of those crazy ideas that never went anywhere.

So let that be a lesson to you:  no matter how crazy your ideas may be, act on them.

Because what’s worse than never having them come true?

Of Late I Dream of Beta Quadrant

Today is one of those Fake Tuesdays:  the ones after a three-day weekend that pretends it’s a Monday.  And it feels that way.  It feels long, slow, and tiring.  It feels like one of those days where you want to stay in bed and sleep the day away.

It was a little like that yesterday as I returned to The Undisclosed Location.  The traffic wasn’t bad, but the time felt way off.  It was alternately sunny and gloomy, and when I stepped out of the car, it felt like I’d entered a steam bath.

Then I drifted off to sleep–and woke up at 3 AM.  Lay in bed until the alarm went off, hoping against hope that I’d doze off and get a little dream time in.  Nope, not a chance.  The motto of The Undisclosed Location is, “Never Give a Sucker An Even Break,” and guess who is playing the role of The Sucker?

Needless to say, keeping my mind focused on something for long is a bit of a struggle.  The mind feels like swiss cheese, and the body feels a little cold–probably caused by, as someone mentioned, a combination of low blood pressure and stress.  It doesn’t matter:  the brain is feeling like it needs a road trip, and the body is saying, “Wait . . . I thought you were flying?”

As usually happens when I get bored or tired, my mind starts wandering to different things, different stories, different ideas.  I haven’t been all over the place as I often am, but the mind keeps slipping away to another place–

Somewhere about thirty thousand light years distant, to be exact.

For some reason, I’m going over the plight–well, sort of semi-life–of a character I once made for an aborted Star Trek role playing game–one that I’ve often referred to as the worst game I’ve ever played.  I loved the character, and the history I created for him, but if I were given the choice of going back in time and gaming with the same bunch, or having a body part gnawed off by a rabid squirrel, I’d take the latter option.

There was a time, however, when I wasn’t doing anything between sessions of dealing with idiots and munchkins, and given that time I wrote.  I don’t want to say what I was doing was fanfic, but it was.  Or maybe I was just writing history, since my fanfic didn’t involve my character getting involved with any green women.

But I’ve been drawn back to this limited story, not just yesterday, but today.  I think it was because I was looking up something that ended up in a scene, and it got me thinking about what I’d written a couple of years back.  I know that nothing I wrote back then was worth a damn, but it gave me a little bit of peace, because it helped me deal with the fact that I was gaming with hyper-spacial doucherockets.

Will I do anything with this work?  Probably not.  Maybe take it out and read it, cringing here and there when I come across a bad line or three.

Still . . . it’s on my mind.  Can’t tell you if that’s good or bad.

Conflicted

As much fun as I poke at people who are often thought of as geeks, I’m right in there with them–for the most part.  I’m a gamer, but not one of those newfangled TV or computer games.  No, sir.  I’m a table top role player, the sort of person who sits down at a table with a bag of dice, and sets about slaying the dragon, or blowing shit up.  Usually the later, as the only dragons I ever met were in Shadowrun.  Happy elves and singing dwarfs make me want to slit their throats when everyone is asleep . . .

GenCon is going on this very moment.  That’s like the Lourdes of gaming for some people, and it’s always a big deal.  I used to attend GenCon back when it was in the MECCA Complex in Milwaukee, back when us folk close to Chicago used to sing, “Hey der, Ho der, Yah, hey hey, Stay in Milwaukee and Game!”  Back then there was a sort of funky, low rent feel to everything, almost like you were gaming in your parent’s basement, but when I was there running four games, early in the morning and late at night, I couldn’t have had a better time.

That’s all in the past.  These days it’s in Indianapolis, and it holds sway over the burb for four day in August.  It’s a good time for all, though given the state of the gaming industry, it’s not quite as–well, role playing-centric as it once was.  I suppose I could bitch and grumble like some old fart who keeps finding kids on his lawn, but no:  the future is here, and why get pissed?  I’m happy people are still gaming, I’m thrilled to see how independent companies have started selling through the Internet.

I’m not at GenCon this year.  2008 saw my last appearance, and the year before that I’d had such a horrible experience at the con that I almost didn’t return in ’08.  I ran games again, I played a little . . . I had a great time.

Then I was laid off, no work, no spare income, and GenCon had to wait.

Now, here I am, working, a little extra money, and yet . . . I kept saying, “Naw, I don’t have to go.  I don’t need to go.  Hell, I don’t even want to go.”  Yep, I’d decided I didn’t need the con this year, because–well, it’s not because of science, that’s for sure.

I blew it off, and now I’m feeling a bit of regret.  Not because going gives me an excuse to spend money, but because . . . I could use the fun.

There has been a singular lack of fun in my life for a while, and just wandering the halls would brighten my spirits.  Maybe I’d see some people I know.  Maybe I’d even see something cool that I don’t need, but want.  If I’d thought ahead, I could be styling in my Ponythulhu tee shirt, letting everyone know that Friendship is, indeed, Madness, and getting my gaming grove back.

I let work get in the way of enjoying myself, and now I’m feeling bummed as hell.

Never mind.  I’ve got my mind made up . . . next year, I’m coming, project deadlines or not.

And if they think they’re gonna stop me, they best make a saving roll . . .

Playing With Shadows

This long week is almost over.  Travel Day today, and it’s looking like it’ll be a good day.  I might not even think too much about the fools on the road this afternoon when I’m making the trek back to the Real Home.

Even though I had copious amounts of fuzzy head yesterday, I got into Diners at the Memory’s End, and I kept at that sucker.  I didn’t want to stop.  Well, a couple of times, it felt like I wasn’t making any headway, but that was shaken off.  Slowly, yes, but shaken it was, yes.  I have my goals, you know?  Writer’s gotta write.

But fun was being had last night.  I’d forgotten–me?–that in the original version of the story, after the telescopes were in the process of being set up, and Albert and Meredith were waiting for the fun to happen, they were playing a game.  Of course, “playing” is a loose term, as they were virtually immersed inside a first-person shooter.  Back then I had them wearing pretty simple gear with electromagnetic shields, fighting against some alien creature I just made up on the spur of the moment.

That was twenty years gone, however, and I’ve picked up on a few things since then.  One, I made the world much bigger.  Two, I put them both in powered armor because–hey, powered armor equals big guns.  Lastly, though, I gave them Shadows to play with . . .

If you ever watched Babylon 5, you remember Shadows:  usually invisible black spider-like creatures that was four-square for chaos and death.  Sort of like head crabs in Half-Life, only these take your body as well when they attack.  Since all they want is to see you dead–or be their bitch, whichever seems like more fun to them–they make for a worthy foe to face and mow down.

It was actually fun to write last night.  Albert in his sort of hulking Forever War-style suit, with a huge gun in one hand and twin pulse lasers on each shoulder, and Meredith in her sleeker, faster, more nimble Bubblegum Crisis-style suit–with high heels, naturally–up against the creatures that inhabit the shadows.  Throw in some crazy music I was listening to right before bed, and the slaughter of the big, black bugs becomes something of a surreal experience.

It was while I was listening to said music last night that I realized the game really sets up Meredith what comes later in the scene.  The game lets her get her inner bad ass out and on display, and that boosts her confidence, and . . . well, one thing will lead to another, you know?  She’s never been like this before, never been allowed to take the stage and shine, and with everything else she’s dealing with in her life (which comes out later in the story), this becomes her moment to take some real action.

Shadows are everywhere, sometimes making you do things you shouldn’t do.  Including  them in at this point in the story seems right, because it opens up something else that will take the story in another direction and–corrupt it?  Naw.  Maybe that’s to harsh a word.

Maybe just darken it a tiny bit . . .

Ghost Train on the Big Wheel

If you follow the rhythm of this blog, you’ll know that right around the time of full moon I’m out late, visiting a friend, and last night was no exception.  Headed on down to his place to eat pizza, drink coffee, and enjoy visual entertainment.  For the evening it was Babylon 5 and a former Prophets of Science Fiction on the life of Philip K. Dick.  Great fun, a chance to BS, reminisce, talk about my new job . . . stuff I don’t normally get to do, because I’m such a solitary creature.

(Oh, and for the guy I met online who said he couldn’t watch Babylon 5 because he just didn’t “get it”, suck it.  But I wouldn’t worry; I’m sure you’ll find something less mentally challenging to watch–notice I didn’t say, “read” . . .)

Then it was time to head home with the near-full moon keeping me company.  February’s full moon is known as that Snow Moon, but damned if we have any snow around these parts.  Which is just the way I like it, because it means I don’t have to shovel that shit.  Doesn’t matter, ’cause I’ll drive, snow or no snow.  You don’t live for over 50 years in the Lake Effect Belt and not know how to drive in snow.  Okay, some people are like that, but I ain’t one of them.

Driving along near midnight, Making Movies playing once again, my mind on a lot of things.  I thought about the game character I was creating, and how I was past all the posturing from the other night, and how I’d done something in my posted character’s history that seemed to have disturbed someone–something about a spike heel in a guy’s groin.  Yeah, that’s gonna hurt.

I thought about Couples Dance, how much I liked the story even though it’s about to take a very sick turn for the worse here, literally after I finish doing this blog post.  Since some of you (yeah, looking at you!) might be curious about what I’m writing there, here is an entry from the private journal of Frazier Byrom, 12 July, 1932:

 

G— refused to be consoled tonight. M—’s death two nights ago—just the eve of her return to Château-Thierry—is affecting her greatly. Most likely it has to do with them being together the night of M—’s death. G— told me she had kissed M— goodbye that night, before returning to her flat, and then, only a few hours later, she was discovered murdered, her body lying in the street beneath her balcony. The police say it is a suicide, that there was evidence that M— had partaken of laudanum before her body was found . . . I know M— to use the drug quite often, and she had, on occasion, turned up on my doorstep sheathed safely within its vaporous hold.

G— refuses to believe this. She knew of M—’s use of laudanum, but insists she was excited to be returning to Château-Thierry, that there was no reason for her to become so forlorn as to anesthetize herself with an overdose before flinging herself from her 5th Floor balcony. She said that it was all foul play, that someone killed her before throwing her from her balcony. She insists her head did not snap around because of the impact with the street, that it was that way before she left behind this wretched dream of life . . .

 

 

This is really nothing, ’cause I’m going to finish off the chapter today, or at least try; what I don’t do today I’ll probably finish when I arrive at The Undisclosed Location later tonight.  But Chapter 8, which is now 6,160 words long, will come to a very bloody end soon.

And then, on the very empty stretches of road leading home, my Muse showed up to ride shotgun.  And we didn’t talk current game characters; we didn’t talk Kerry and Annie; we didn’t talk Works in Progress.  We got on the ghost train and rode it along the big wheel, and returned to the past.

She told me when Couples Dance is finished, it’s time to get back into Transporting.

I’ve spoke about this a few times before, but Transporting is my very first novel, written in the dark days of the early 1990’s, when my first marriage was started to split at the seams.  It’s been a work in progress for two decades, having been through a couple of re-writes and even some added material.  I moved it all into Scrivener a few months back and began plotting out the end . . . and I need something like nine chapters to finish it.

My Muse is saying, “Enough fooling around, Mr. Writer.  Time to get to work.”

I’ve heard that voice before, and it’s a serious voice.  It’s got serious tone.  She’s telling me I should take a novel that has a lot of great concepts–at least to me–and make it so it’s publishable.  Finish it, edit it . . . get it to the public.

This doesn’t means I won’t do a new story when the urge hits, but this novel thing, it’s been waiting for a long time to see the light of day.  And now that 2012 is here, and a good 20 years have passed since I started this sucker, maybe it’s time to kick it off the computer and into the the hands of other people.

Hey, when the Muse speaks, I gotta listen.