Enter Samhain

You know the hardest part of doing today’s post?  Trying to find pictures of witches that are, you know, sexy, or taken from movies where the witches are, you know, sexy.  And not named Hermione.  It’s a pain, I tell you.

Like this. Annie could kick the asses of all these poseurs now.

Annie could kick the asses of all these poseurs right now.

One of the interesting things about writing up a scene at a Samhain dance is figuring just how crazy you can get.  You’ve got your normal witches, you have people with “super powers”–haven’t seen many of them, but there are a few, like Isis, who can fly without invoking magic to do so–you’re got a fair number of great sorceresses . . . and then you have the transformation experts who are making the costumes and changing the bodies.  If you’re a master transformationest, like Jessica, you’ll find yourself pretty busy for the few days leading up to the dance.  At Salem, when you say you want a makeover, you’re liable to come out the other end a whole new person.

And it’s not just the dance, but a busy day all around . . .

 

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

Growing up Annie had heard many stories about Salem’s Samhain celebrations. She heard about how all the students participated in a fall cleaning of their rooms, which involved dusting, sweeping, and changing of their bed sheets, which was something usually left to housekeeping. As much of the dirt and dust was bagged, and the students were required to take the small bags and leave them outside the coven tower entrances, where they were collected and sent off to be consumed in the two huge bonfires in Selena’s Meadow.

Breakfast and lunch were turned into a brunch starting at seven-thirty and lasting until ten-thirty. This was due to the Samhain Races, which started at noon and usually went on for three hours. Unlike other race days, all coven teams paired off to race each other for five lap heats on the Blue Line. Since there were five covens, most of the races were elimination heats that continued until the two teams that had won the most heats finished with a ten lap race alternating between the Green and Blue Lines. Not only was it a huge day for compiling team points, but many pilots saw their individual point standing change for the better—or worse.

The Samhain Feast began at sixteen sharp and went on until seventeen-thirty. After that the students hurried back to their towers and prepared their costumes for the Samhain Dance, which many saw as a glorified Halloween dance, but as the tradition had been in place since the nineteen-thirties—when the dance was then known as the “Guiser’s Celebration”—it was felt there was little need to change things now.

 

No trick or treating here; it’s all serious business, and probably a lot of quick healing at the hospital when someone crashes and burns, which tends to happen when you’re racing Class 1, 2, and 3 PAVs and a racin’ deal goes bad.

Though I managed almost seven hundred an fifty words I didn’t get into the dance proper.  That’ll start happening tonight.  I did get as far as this:

 

They stepped into the room and were greeted by Head Chef Agnes Piña, who’d transformed herself into a beautiful silver android. She turned to the assembled crowd and made the announcement that Kerry had emailed into the staff earlier in the evening. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Annie Kirilova and her escort, Kerry Malibey.” She nodded at Kerry. “Mr. Malibey, I need you to surrender your weapon.”

Annie watched Kerry undo the heavy belt around his waist and hand it over with the authentic looking pistol still in the holster. “I’ll need a receipt for that.”

 

Kerry with a pistol:  that’s a dangerous situation.  At least he checked it at the door . . .

No matter how crazy you think you can get things, a lot will be left to the imagination.  I’ll do my best to channel the madness, but the real focus is on my two main characters, and a few interlopers here and there.

There’s a lot more magic going on here than meets the eye.

Long Journey Starting

Blessed Samhain, or Happy Halloween if you prefer–the time of holiday is upon us today.  As was said on American Horror Story last night, Halloween is the one day when you can always be yourself–though if they are really descended from Salem witches, they should be talking Samhain, but I won’t quibble.

Lets move on to the main story . . .

It was just after six PM.  The soundtrack was Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derick and the Dominoes, followed by the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet.  It was scene one of the prologue.  It was writing time.  I was on it, baby.

Though I said last night I would go distraction free while writing, I lied.  One one hand I was checking out the TV every so often, and on the other hand I was “conversing” with someone in a way that was really more like an argument, and one not leaving me in a good, happy place.  Enough of that:  I got writing to do.

I’ve said before that as I grow as a writer, it takes longer to get the words out in a form I like.  I caught myself making mistakes here and there, probably because of distractions, though I did catch them and get them fixed right up.  I tried something in this scene that I’ve never tried before:  removed the “said” and “asked” parts of a conversation.  Instead of writing something like, ‘”Are you?’ asked Annie,” or “‘Of course I’m ready,’ said Annie,” I went another direction, setting up a descriptive moment before words were spoken:

She threw a hard stare at her father.  “Are you?”

and

As she passed through the doorway Annie glanced back over her shoulder.  “Of course I’m ready.”

I’m going to do this for the whole novel.  I’m reminding myself not to use any sort of word that indicates a person is speaking, but rather set up the scene and let them speak.  Make it natural.  Make it seem the way it should seem.

Still, it was hard work.  I feel that the better I become as a writer, the harder writing becomes.  It’s because you know all these things that you don’t want to do, while at the same time you want to tell the story.  I know the “rule” about NaNo:  no editing as you write.  I don’t believe your rules–I know how I am when I write, and I want to get things as right as possible when creating my first draft.  So I watch what I’m writing, and fix things when needed.

But when I was trying to describe a lake–man, what a pain in the ass.  No matter how easy you think it’ll be, it isn’t.

I didn’t do everything I wanted to do last night.  I didn’t finish the first scene, but rather I’m probably a couple of hundred words from the end.  Not a problem:  I’ll finish that up tonight, then bring my other main character on stage.

In the end, however, I made my count for the night:  1,864 words.  It’s been a while since I’ve written that much, and tonight I hope to do better.

I’m on my way, kiddies.  NaNo has come early for some of us.

 

Walking with Witchy Poo

Today already feels like a bit of a grind.  The fire alarm went off in my complex at three AM, and I’ve been trying to wake up from a perpetual doze since everything quieted down an hour later.  It’s never a good thing to start the week with your head in a fog after a few hours of sleep.  I’ll manage, but I’ll be a wreck tonight.

Eventual it was time to crawl out of bed, get ready, and walk across town to my job.  Yes, walk.  I live about three-quarters of a mile from my office, so rather than drive in, I walk it.  It’s good exercise, and a great time to be alone with your thoughts.  And since there aren’t a lot of people out and about at six-thirty in The Burg, you can work out scenes aloud if you are of a mind–

Which I usually am.

A favorite question to ask is, “Where do you get your ideas?”  I think it was Robert Silverberg who said he had a service in Schenectady, New York, who mailed him new ideas every Tuesday, but I could be wrong.  That’s a good comeback, though, because ideas generally just come to people.  Something hits you, and there you have it:  idea.

While walking across The Burg I was thinking out a scene between one of my main characters and the school’s flying, levitation, and teleportation instructor.  In the mater of a few blocks I established that one, the current batch of A Level students don’t seem all that interested in flying PAVs; two, that a couple of A Levels appeared the day before asking if they could fly; and three, managed to establish that the instructor is Jewish.  The last I already knew, but the other two came to me . . . Oh, and also established that the instructor likes metric, because screw that goofy Imperial system.

But then it was time to talk about different Class 1 PAVs, and I needed names.  Easy enough:  just like cars, name them after people who developed them.  So you have Covington Trainers, and Espinoza 6000s, and the Higoshi Rally–

Lastly, about the time I was standing in front of the Capitol, came the Wilhelmina A’s through D’s.

Who was Wilhelmina?  A student from the 1960’s whose mother was a practicing Wican before her little girl–who was also a witch–went off to school to become a real real witch.  Then she discovered science, figured out how to work both together, and went on to greater glory.  But while she loved flying she hated the training brooms, so during her E Levels she built the prototype of the Wilhelmina A in Practical Science and Magic class.  Because she could.

No one at school called her Wilhelmina, however:  it was too much of a mouth full.  Because of her background–and because kids be kids–her nickname was Witchy Poo.  Which is what everyone calls her brooms.  Which is why my instructors says, “This is a good broom:  it’s a Witchy Poo B.”

Just like that, I had my scene in ten minutes time.

And added just a little more realism to my world.

The Campsite Beyond the Woods

Last night was Orchestra School Night, and that means it was busy, busy, busy.  Just an hour or so after getting home to write, and an hour or so after getting back from the school to write.  Did I write?  You know I did.  It wasn’t a thousand, but eight hundred and eighty-five is a number that made me happy, and given that I was chatting with someone at the time I was writing–yeah, multitasking again.  I should know better.

I was chatting it up with another writer friend of mine, and the discussion focused on several things:  work, idiot co-workers, and writing.  While I usually bring up the matter of why we aren’t writing centaur porn for fast money, she wondered if she was going to Camp NaNo.  For those who don’t know about Camp NaNo, it’s like NaNoWriMo, only more relaxing and with fewer mosquitoes.  You have a cabin, you have people who you bunk with, and you write without fear of having sex with any of your roomies and then being murdered by a guy in a hockey mask.

It’s another way to go off and work on something, and not have distractions.  At least that’s the idea, but we all know how real life tends to make things crazy for you, even when you’re off to camp with the rest of the girls, sitting around in your shorts and baby doll night gown, eating smores and talking about your next big novel.

I was asked if I was going, since my friend is considering it.  I mentioned I didn’t think so; she mentioned peer pressure; I mentioned that I already had plans.  I mentioned that I had a goal to get four things published this year, and she was pretty . . . well, lets say my comment was well meet.  Yes, we’re probably talking self-publishing, and we’re talking a lot of work–

Are we?

Since Her Demonic Majesty came back from Harper Voyager, I haven’t exactly been sitting on my hands singing the “Woe is Me” tune.  I’ve lined up someone to do a cover, and all I need to do is get them a synopsis and some ideas, and they’ll get to work.  If that doesn’t turn out as planed, I’ll find someone else.  But before the NaNo Circus 2013 rolls into town, I’ll have that novel published.

While I’m getting the cover, I have Replacements to look at again.  There is one more chapter that needs writing, maybe two or three thousand words total, and then I can do another pass through the story while I round up a cover for this.  I see this story not taking long to get into shape:  maybe a month total.

There is also the Halloween story I did on another blog last year.  It’s sat there, doing nothing, just waiting for me to pick it up and hold it tight.  I’m looking at this as a third story for publication, since it was pretty clean from the beginning, and I don’t believe it would take a lot of work to get it edited and formatted.  It’s a cute story, I like it, and would make a good addition to my catalog.

But for a fourth?  Hummm . . . let me think . . .

The thing with Camp NaNo is there are two events:  one in April and one in June.  I can set my own word count, so maybe something in the ten thousand range would be a good story.  Maybe, just maybe . . . one of the ideas that I’ve got floating about in my head could get knocked out in a week or two, then do an edit on that, then polish it up, and . . . story number four.

Maybe the girlfriends and I can sit in the cabin in our baby dolls and talk about romance and clothes and makeup–

Or we can write porn.

I’m thinking the later.

Bring the Witching Magic

The weekend is over, a last full week awaits, and then the last few days of The Witching Month are upon us.  October has been pretty good, pretty bad, pretty sad . . . but there has been lots of energy flowing, and change certainly is in the air.

The last few days have seen about every up and down that comes from writing.  Lots of editing, lots of blogging, a review, and then finished off Sunday night with a full-on burst of creativity by finishing the last chapter of my Halloween story with a thirty-one hundred word bust of energy that was fueled by Swedish gold.

Though that last chapter was slightly broken by a conversation I had with my daughter, who is looking to do some writing, and wanted to see what Scrivener could do for her.  I showed her Scrivener, I showed her a few of the other programs I use when I’m both writing, and getting my work prepped.  It surprised me a bit, because I didn’t realize she curious about how I write.  Then she told me, “I’ve got a project coming up, and I thought Scrivener would help me keep it organized.”

I believe I know of the project of which she refers, and for a burgeoning teen to look to ways to make her writing a bit more organized . . . yes, it made me proud.  So one of the things I need to do is get her computer set up with the same tools I use, just so I set her on the path of writing greatness–or, at the least, give her the chance to make things easier.

So lots of writing behind me, but not so much ahead.  The story for Halloween is done, complete.  It came to me Saturday morning as to how I wanted it to end, and that’s how I rolled it out.  For anyone who’s followed the late three chapters, the last might come off as a bit of a surprise, but it all comes together.  I’m pleased with how it turned out, and for a story that I was pretty much planning as I went along, I’m also a bit surprised.

Oh, and it ended up a few hundred words below ten thousand, so I can say, yes:  it’s a short story.  More or less.  I’ll call it one for now, though that’s not to say if I ever decide to edit the story, it won’t grow.

But I felt the writing magic flowing last night.  The music was ringing out, and my idea was set inside my imagination.  I typed on, and the words entered my program effortlessly.  And before I knew it, the story reached the end, and I looked down at what I complete . . . 3,139 words.

Yep, just like in the old days.  Give me about two hours, and a good frame of mind, and a great idea, and a story is going to appear.

Last night was the vibe I felt when I did NaNoWriMo 2011.  When I was pumping out three thousand words a day without issue.  My word count for last night’s story was close to two day’s work on the NaNo Crazy Train, and if I do that starting 1 November, I’m going to “win” somewhere in the middle of the month.

As before, though, there is no win unless there’s a “The End” on the last page of that manuscript.  But I’m setting my goals higher this year, ’cause the real win comes when I find an email in my inbox that tells me my novel is just too damn good not to publish, and he’s a contract for your consideration . . .

That’s the real magic.  That’s what I’m working towards.  There is no Zuul, there is only acceptance.

And I have studied.

Midnight in Rhandirmwyn

It wasn’t my intention to write last night.  I just sort of happened.

First off, I was really in information gathering mode last night.  I was very tired when I arrived home after work–I’m sorry, I meant this vampiric entity that gifts me with money in return for sucking at my soul for nine hours.  I was burnt out, and didn’t feel like doing a hell of a lot.  So I slapped on some tunes and began looking at things.

By “things”, I mean I’m getting things together for my NaNoWriMo novel.  I finally figured out a local, the basic plot, and what sort of creature I’ll write about.  Yeah, I said creature.  As in things that go bump in the night.  Only these things will do more than bump; they’re probably going to do their best to raise a little hell.

So I was on Wikipedia and Google Maps, when I was seized by the desire to have some ice cream.  As there is a Dairy Queen just down the road, I dressed, got in my car, and picked up a sundae.  So it was when I returned that I slapped in some new songs, then found myself moving the Google Maps to another part of the world.

I needed a location in Wales for my Halloween story, which will see Part Three being published this coming Monday.  I looked about, and pulled up a small town, situated in the rolling hills, named Rhandirmwyn.  Street view showed me what things looked like, and it reminded me of the times I visited my relatives in Tennessee.  There were hills and rivers and trees . . .

The perfect place for a Halloween/Samhain bonfire, or two.

Well, not right there, but once I looked around–yeah, I found the place that would be perfect.  So I looked at the satellite view.  I switched over to the map view, and triggered the terrain feature.  I looked north, closer to Llyn Brianne reservoir, and there it was:  a nice spot on a hill, about 420 meters above sea level.

I imagined the scene.  My characters appearing at a spot just to the east of Rhandirmwyn.  I pulled up the Sky View Cafe webpage and found the sky for that location at ten minutes before midnight, the time of their arrival.  I saw all this in my mind . . . and since I had Scrivener up, typing up the name of the town and the time, I figured, what the hell?  Start the conversation.

Ten minutes later I had just three hundred fourteen words, but it was a start, and it got the exposition of where they were out of the way.  And it set up the start of their journey . . .

I loved how it all came together, how it seemed to burst out from the middle of nowhere.  How it felt natural; how it felt to just sling words out there with no plan save to open the scene.

That’s the brain getting ready for NaNo.  That’s how you do it:  you get your things together, and you go.

I even have the opening scene for my NaNo Novel.  It’s not much, but it’s gonna set the tone.

It’s gonna be hard to make it to midnight on Halloween, and not write a little something.

The Rhythm of Words

Here is something that’s happened to me sometimes.  I have found myself working on a story, and it doesn’t seem to want to move forward.  It stalls; it digs in like a rented mule.  You go in little lurches until you reach the point where you likely give up, thinking you’ll pick up the story later.

I couldn’t do that, however, because I was working on a chapter that I needed to post today.  Like it or not, I needed to get through this sucker and finish it up.

But something else tends to happen as well.  Maybe it’s a lack of distractions, or I’m comfortable with knowing where the story goes, or perhaps I get into the music I’m playing as I write, but I found my rhythm last night.  I found something, because, just like magic, I headed off into Storyland and wrote like mad.

Originally I thought that I might end up with about twelve hundred to fourteen hundred words total.  By the time I was through, I ended up just short of twenty-four hundred words–about double what I expected.  And those last fourteen hundred words came forth like water bursting from a fire hose.

I’ve had this happen plenty of times before.  It happened with my first published story, and it happened at times when I was writing my NaNo novel.  Maybe it’s the music I play:  I’ve had times when the music seems wrong for what I’m doing, and I can’t plow onward.  Other times the music comes across so uplifting, that I can rip out fifteen to eighteen hundred words in an hour.

Maybe it was the fact that I knew what I wanted to do in the story, and like that–Zoom!  I was off and writing.

I’m a great believer that there should be routines you have for your writing, that if you feel comfortable with the door locked and absolute silence, go with that; or if you need death metal blasting from your speakers so you can come up with something sweet and romantic, then let that be your muse.

I’ve changed my routines a few times, but I do prefer writing early in the morning, recharging, then writing late at night, say from 7 to 10:30 PM.  Don’t know why, but working right up until I’m ready for bed works well for me.  Maybe it’s because I have a “day job”, and the only real time I have for writing are during those hours.

This will be my time for NaNo, and I don’t see myself as doing three thousand words a day like I did last year.  I’m probably going to have moments where I hit the minimum, maybe get two thousand a night, and maybe get three thousand during the weekends, but I would be very surprised if I do better than that.

Now that the Harper Voyager deal is out of the way, I can get to work on plotting for NaNo, and writing the last couple of chapters of my Halloween story (you can find the first chapter here, and the second here), and get a book review finished.

Yeah, yeah, I know:  this is what writers do.

So get busy writing.