Lunchtime Ceridwen Bound

No mean witches today, though last night I was certainly ready to cut a bitch.  The night didn’t start that way:  I was out for a good dinner and a few drinks–I won’t show the picture I took of me holding up a pint of stout because you’ll get the wrong ideas–and then I walked the mile through the city back to my apartment, warm and comfortable in my new winter coat and mukluks.

I even took the time to get a picture before heading in to relax for the night.

I even took the time to get a picture before heading in to relax for the night.

No, it was around eleven PM, about the time I was getting ready for bed, when some moron set off the fire alarm, and the entire building was filled with the sound of Wee-ho, wee-ho, for about twenty-five minutes.  Whenever this happens the elevators lock down and the fire trucks come running, and every single time its discovered that someone was cooking and filled up their apartment with so much smoke that it drifted out into the hallway.  I’m not saying this is due to the moron in question being a little high, but . . . yeah.  They’re always found to be a little high.  Or a lot high.

Needless to say I didn’t get to bed until about midnight, and because this cold is being a pain in the butt, I was tossing and turning most of the evening.  I was so out of it that I didn’t even head out to Panera this morning, choosing to stay home and have coffee and write nearly seven hundred words while going through a selection of tunes–one of which will be the song Annie is going to use as her Samhain dance dedication during her D Levels.  All I will say is that I worked out the scene last night, and it is the damnedest thing I’ve developed for these two.  It’ll also show that my Bulgarian Pop Prince has a real playful sense of humor . . .

Back to the story, already in progress–

Erywin said she was gonna speak with Jessica, and that’s what this scene is all about.  And it takes place a few days after the meeting between the three counselors:

 

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

With morning classes over, all that remained for Jessica was to sweep up her tablet and jaunt over to her office in Ceridwen Cover tower for lunch and to conduct a bit of coven business. While they were always available for problems, it was common for all the coven leaders to take the time during midday to handle any issues that had come up with their students, or with members from other covens.

Jessica didn’t mind this time alone. Instructors were a busy lot, and with today being Tuesday, Jessica had Advanced Transformations after dinner, and that meant being in class until twenty-two tonight. She shrugged it off: it was the life she chose, and after nearly twenty years of instructing at Salem, it was a little too late to complain of her lot in life.

A knock on the door turned her away from her desk. She grinned the moment she saw her visitor. “Well hello, stranger.”

Erywin slid into the Mistress of Transformation’s office. “I know, right? Here I am, just across the courtyard, and I may as well be on the other side of The Pentagram from you.”

“Which you normally are this time of day.” Jessica waved the door closed the moment Erywin was inside. “What brings you to my end of the magical world? Business or pleasure?”

“Oh, a little of both.” Erywin calmly glanced about the room. “You heading over to Ceridwen?”

“Was about to, yeah.”

Erywin held out a hand. “Mind if I tag along?”

Jessica took her hand. “I don’t mind at all.” She jaunted them both to the coven office a second later. The office wasn’t in complete darkness; enchantments checked the room at eleven and if the room was found empty, the lighting was adjusted to a low level to prepare for entry. Jessica released Erywin’s hand, brought the lights to full illumination, and moved towards her desk.

Erywin looked about the room, which was nearly a duplicate of her own office in Mórrígan Coven: about fifty percent larger than her office in Chemistry Hall done up in several shades of dark crimson, which Jessica said suited her far better than yellow, the official coven color. Normally there was a storage room across from the entrance, but Jessica had hers removed years before, leaving her with additional open space with a slight curving wall that she filled with a sofa, a coffee table, and two chairs.

 

Now here comes something I’ve never presented here before . . .  I’ve mentioned, many times, that this story originated out of a role play, and  part of that play required creating the world that eventually became this witching little worlds behind fifteen meter high walls.

One of the things I needed to create were the layouts for the coven towers, just as I’d created the layouts for so much more.  Which means that way back in the summer of 2011 I worked on a design for the five towers that would make up the points of The Pentagram, and be where all my little witches would live while leaning the magical trade.  That means when I describe the coven layout, I know that it’s accurate because I more or less locked it down years before.

So here you go:  the floor plan for the coven tower’s ground floor.

In all its stunning graphic glory.

In all its stunning graphic glory.

Pay no attention to that “Stairs to Dungeon” description, because this was developed back in the day when Salem was just a tad different than today’s incarnation.  Needless to say, if this were Cernunnos Coven, the kids enter and leave by the door on the left if they’re going to the Great Hall, and by the door on the right if they’re headed out for Formulistic Magic or Transformation classes.  And were they to take the door at the bottom, that would let them wall down the inside of the Pentagram Wall towards Åsgårdsreia Coven.

Yes, it's all upside down, but you get the idea.

Yes, it’s all upside down, but you get the idea.

Now you know what the ground floor commons looks like, and you know where that sofa is that Annie and Kerry just happen to sack out on when they’re too tired to walk up the stairs to their dorm rooms.  Yeah, that’s it:  they’re too tired.  I’m going with that.

Erywin’s there for business, and it doesn’t take her long to get to it–

 

Erywin smirked as she pointed at the ensemble. “Anyone getting detention?”

Jessica sat in the high back leather chair behind her mahogany desk. “No. But the weekend’s coming up and there’s a couple of students inching their way on to my shit list.” It was a well-known fact around the school that the Mistress of Transformation’s idea of detention involved turning students into inanimate objects like chairs, sofas, and statues, and leaving them in her coven office for the weekend. “I might have to swap out the chairs Friday afternoon.” She set her tablet upon her desk and got comfortable. “What’s up?”

Erywin got right into matters. “Advanced Transformation: are you teaching the gender swap spells at the normal time?”

Jessica nodded. “Yes, Tuesday before Ostara, as always. Spend the prior two Tuesday nights working on the spell, then doing the spell that night. Ostara is a time of change and transformation, so those spells are perfect for them.” She turned her head slightly to the right. “Why do you want to know?”

“I was requested to perform due diligence on a student who may have GID.” Erywin slowly sank back into the entirely too comfortable chair. “The student in question is in Advanced Transformation, and those particular spells, well—” A grin slowly appeared. “They could act as a trigger for someone with GID, no?”

“I see how that could happen.” She lightly tossed her head to the left. “Anything you want me to do prior to that particular class?”

Erywin kept her tone light. “No, just conduct things as you always do.”

“So you don’t want me keeping an eye on Kerry?”

 

And BOOM!  Just as Erywin called it:  she’s figured out just who the mystery student is.  Of course I haven’t written that part yet, but I will this afternoon, which means you’ll see the rest of this scene tomorrow morning.  I promise.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get my nose pierced again . . .

A Samhain Coming

Welcome to Act Two!  Yes, it’s true:  I started last night.  Not in a big way, but the ball is rolling.

Before I start I should tell you I went out last night and had dinner to celebrate one year of hormone replacement therapy, and enjoyed a beverage at the same time.

As you can see, it's not a Frappuccino.

As you can see, it’s not a Frappuccino.

That’s a year down and a year to go, but I only need see my doctor three more times before she’s finished with me.  In fact, I’ll see her the Monday after I return from my little side trip to Indiana next week, then not again until January, and then not again until next July.  After that I’m considered a “graduate” of Transition University, I believe, and all that remains from that point on is surgery.

Let’s talk about the story, however.

It’s Samhain, as I mention in the novel.  Actually, it’s the Samhain celebration, because the real Samhain isn’t for a few days.  We already know there’s a costume dance in the evening, an bonfires down in the meadow, but the biggest event going on that day is the racing.  It’s one of the few times when all five covens get a chance to run wild in the streets and go at each other as much as possible.

As I’d mentioned, there was a bit of set up work I needed to finished, and that involved getting the Cernunnos Race team finished, and laying out how the competition would work out.  That took a few hundred words and a bit of brain power, but I got it finished.

Can't tell your covens without a scorecard.

Can’t tell your covens without a scorecard.

What I have here is my binder on the left, the scene next to that on the right, my racing grid layout to the right of the scene, and on the very right my notes on the scene.  You see both the A and B Teams, and if they seem a little boy heavy, you’re not wrong:  in this world Cernunnos is the one coven that fields more boys than girls.  Must be that horned god thing going on .

You can see the gird I’ve laid out, with five heats total.  Most of the time the teams are running in head-to-head heats, until you get to Heat 4, and then they throw three teams on the course at once and let them race it out.  The Blackbirds of Mórrígan are the current leaders in the coven standing, so they sit out the first heat and then race one-on-one against another coven, finally getting the last race of the day.

The idea with setting up an example was to ensure that every coven got three races:  that way points aren’t all over the place, and a coven can’t say that they were screwed.  It is true that the teams who’ll get the best point advantage are the top two:  the three who race in Heat 4 have to fight harder to get a similar allocation–more teams, same number of positions for points–so they get screwed just a little.

And the scoring system used for normal racing is the same as the one used by Formula One during the years 1991 to 2002:

1st: 10
2nd: 6
3rd: 4
4th: 3
5th: 2
6th: 1

The only actual change in the scoring is during Heat 4–or whenever there are more than two covens on the course–and that’s when they use the Formula One scoring system used from 2003 to 2009:

1st: 10
2nd: 8
3rd: 6
4th: 5
5th: 4
6th: 3
7th: 2
8th: 1

There you go:  my racing setup.  It’s all set, just like the novel–

To do and not to do:  that is the question.

To do and not to do: that is the question.

That said, I look at Chapter Ten and realized I need to add two more scenes . . .

Digging in the Dirt

Tunnels.  I be digging tunnels.

While working on my story yesterday, I remembered the tunnels that are all under the school I created.  In the story one of these is mentioned as a scene takes place there–a semi-argument between three instructors that will eventually lead to a climax within the next chapter I’m writing.

I’ve a layout of my environment.  I’ve even looked at the area in some detail on Google Maps (the school is really there, but you can’t see it, ’cause . . .), so when I write about a building on the grounds, I see it in my mind because I’ve placed it on a physical spot on a map.  Call it a visualization trick learned from years of gaming–or from having someone tell me, “I gotta see the inside of this tower to know it!” which lend me to start drawing–but it’s a trick that helps a hell of a lot.

However, the area is subject to seasonal changes in weather.  It’s hot in the summer, wet in the spring and fall, and snowy during the winter.  It’s also right on the ocean, so you have the occasional storm blowing in from the Atlantic.  Hence, the tunnels.  ‘Cause if you want to get around in the worst weather, go underground.

But the tunnels are good for other things beside walking from class to class when the weather sucks, and you don’t feel like getting drenched because the building where your next class is held is a half-mile away.  There are plenty of things to discover in the tunnels:  passages that seem to lead nowhere; passages that are restricted; unused and hidden rooms . . . oh, there’s plenty of things down below the ground beside people going from here to there.  Most of which will pop up in the next story . . .

What was bugging me yesterday, though, was not having a layout for those tunnels.  I wanted to see them.  I wanted to know how the kids and instructors made their way around in the basement world.  And, for an upcoming chapter, I had to chase someone in a large basement, and figure out how another person was able to make it from where they were first caught doing bad thing, to where they were going to have their final confrontation.

Ergo, tunnel maps.  You gotta have them.  Well, I do.

Now, many hours later, I have everything I need.  I see every building linked together.  I see which building have underground storage, and of those, which have a lot of underground space.  I see the spaces that will get used when I get to my novel in November.

This morning I had a short chat with someone who follows me.  One of the things they said was they were amazed by the architectural detail I put into my stories.  I’ve done this before for other stories, yeah, but never to the level I’ve done for this story.  For this story it’s as if I’ve had a Muse nagging me to get all the little details right, and even if those details aren’t seen, I need them, because the story needs them.

As usual, my Muse is right.

She’ll be the first to tell you that, too.

Storytime Metering

Three thousand words in three days.  A good start to my new story, if I may say so myself.  At this rate I could write a thirty thousand word story in a month.

That would be true if the three thousand words I wrote was spread across three chapters.  This was all in one chapter, however, and there are fifteen to go.  Which means I’m really looking at a forty-eight thousand word novel.

If I still to a rate of three thousand words per chapter.  We all know how good I am at that, right?

In my other life I program computers, or at the least design things for computers that are later used by humans to do their jobs more efficiently.  Most of the time it’s a lot of tedium; you have to analyze things very carefully, least you kluge together some System From Hell that you, the developer, has to go fix.

I don’t like fixing things that are kluged together; it drives me crazy.  I don’t like making things that are kluged together, because it means I was probably drunk when I put the system together.  Or, at the least, wished I’d been.

There is a problem with my programming work:  there’s a serious lack of creativity involved.  Oh, you might think otherwise, but after twenty-five to thirty years of doing the same shit over and over, I can say with some confidence that imagination is a very small component when it comes to designing systems for computers.

Writing is where I unleash my imagination, or at least let it run until it’s decided it needs a nap.  It’s where my creativity takes root these days, and without this outlet I’d probably sink into another morass of depression much like I suffered through for most of 2012.  Which is a frightening thing, because I wrote a hell of a lot of words, and created more than a few stories, and I found myself depressed enough that I once freaked out at work and stormed out with my brain on fire—not literally, but it felt like I was gonna go Scanners at any moment.

Even when I’m away from the analytical part of my being, it’s still there.  I can lay out a story in Scrivener and know that I’m within a chapter or two of what I’ll need to tell the story.  I can look at he layout and “guess” what it’s going to run word-wise, because my mind sees a card description and know this one will be about two thousand words, and that one will likely run about four, and that one may just hit seven thousand . . .

It’s not a gift or a curse:  it’s just the way I am.

So it’s sort of refreshing that I’m looking at my new story and I’m thinking, “Well, I may have a novel on my hands, but then . . .”  That’s because I’m only seeing the story in very broad strokes at the moment, and most of the story isn’t really coming together in a way that my others have.  It’s nebulous, the filaments floating around me, waiting for the moment when I reach out and pull them towards me so they can be twisted into a creation of my imagination.

I guess this is what happens when you decide to write about a muse:

She gets very picky about how you tell her tale.