Bechdel-Wallaceing Down Memory Lane

Ah, the sweet smell of Wednesday.  It’s hot and muggy outside, but tomorrow it’s not going to get out of the upper 60s and rain all day.  Maybe I’ll wear my purple dress tomorrow, because why not?  It’s like this when you walk to work, right?  All the time.  Best enjoy this, ’cause in a few months it’ll be snowing and cold and I’m gonna need a pair of rubber boots to wear, ’cause I damn sure don’t want to do it in flats.

Now we have writing, and a strange title for today’s post.  The title refers to the Bechdel-Wallace Test, a litmus test for female presence in fictional media. It’s named for Alison Bechdel, creator of the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, which she credits to idea first put forward by her friend Liz Wallace.  The rules are simple:

 

1.  The story includes at least two women
2.  Who have at least one conversation
3.  About something other than a man or men

 

Booyah.  Simple, right?  You’d be surprised.  This is mostly applied to movies, but it can be applied to any sort of fictional media.  And you get a lot of funny results.  Most of the Harry Potter movies/books fail this test, but Starship Troopers passes because of one conversation.  Now, I’m not gonna point out that the movie Bikini Car Wash totally passes this test, because to do so points out that you shouldn’t take stuff like this so seriously that you revolve your whole story around whether or not you can pass the test by hitting the required marks–that’s known as gaming the system, and it’s easy to do.

I don’t try to game, however.  I let my work stand on it’s own merit.  I will say, however, that I do pass the test, though the first novel has Annie talking about Kerry a lot to Deanna on  a couple of occasions, but that was because a lot of the story was about her working to get back his memories.

"Let me tell you about my boyfriend. He doesn't remember me from our dreams, and he thinks I'm really another girl he fell in love with, but . . . not. Pretty clear, huh?"

“Let me tell you about my boyfriend. He doesn’t remember me from our dreams, and he thinks I’m really another girl he fell in love with, but . . . not. Pretty clear, huh?”

There have been a lot of other conversations, though, that weren’t about Kerry.  Annie and Helena talking about Shadow Ribbons; Isis and Wednesday talking about going outside The Pentagram; Wednesday and Erywin talking about getting comms and sensors back on-line; Erywin and Helena having a number of conversations; Helena threatening Maddie about being a mole for the Guardians. And the conversation below:  Annie and Deanna getting into a little school history.  Which is always fun . . .

 

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

“Fortunately for everyone Wanda was affable and well liked, which was considered a change from a few of the school’s overly-strict instructors. And given her age, she tended to identify with the students, which they loved. And as a seer she was good: from what I read two-thirds of her visions tended to be accurate.

“But . . .” A large smile began forming on Deanna’s face. “You know how Normal entertainment tends to portray seers as being eccentric, sometimes to an extreme?”

“Eccentric or insane.” Annie tended to stay away from popular books and movie that had ridiculous or hurtful portrayals of witches, and in particular hated the stereotype of the seer who was anti-social or crazy. While she knew it wasn’t Normal artist’s fault that they’d never knowingly interacted with witches, it was still bothersome that they were played for the lowest common entertainment value. “I don’t care for either.”

 

Seers coming across and eccentric and crazy in popular fiction?  Think they have a certain witch in mind?  Probably.  A nice little touch I love is showing how the people at Salem react to the way their kind are represented in different forms of media popularized by Normals.  Think Deanna doesn’t get pissed every time she sees a woman staring into a crystal ball?  Think Erywin nearly blinds herself rolling her eyes every time she sees witches standing around a bubbling cauldron?  Think Helena hasn’t gone all Elvis on her television whenever there’s an evil sorceress in a program?  They know how they’re seen–either played for laughs or decked out as pure evil–and even when someone comes close to getting it right, they shake their heads and mutter, “For heaven’s sake, we own TVs–we’re not living in the 19th Century, you know!”

But, you know, every so often someone does fit the image . . .

 

“Neither do I, for obvious reasons. However, stereotypes exist for a reason, and it seems Wanda was one of those exceptions. According to the diaries from the time, every vision was a Pronouncement, and she made a huge deal out of each one: standing up, spreading the arms, tossing back the head, and speaking in a really loud voice.” Deanna almost shouted out the last few words to give them the emphasis she wanted. “And it was likely to happen at any time: in class, during meals, during celebrations, even in the middle of the night. That’s why she got the nickname Crazy Wanda, because there was nothing subtle about the way she brought her sight to the attention of others.

“However, given that she was a great instructor, the staff and students put up with her, and she not only became a mainstay, but by the early eighteen hundreds she was being considered as a coven leader. Then Imbolc, 1803, came around, and that is how all this—” Deanna held out her hands and looked about the office. “—came about.

“The diary of the Ceridwen Coven leader stated that right in the middle of the Imbolc feast Wanda stands up and begins speaking of her vision. In this one, she states that the school must build a second building for divination studies just to the east of the current structure, and it must be completed and ready for the next school year, or—as she stated—’The whole of the establishment will be consumed in flame and agony’.”

Annie was torn between grimacing and laughing. “That’s quite a vision to proclaim: give Divinations their own building, or watch the school burn to the ground.”

Deanna nodded. “And what bothered the school staff was her sixty-six percent success rate on visions. The school’s one hundred and thirtieth anniversary was happening that summer, and they wanted a school—and students—there to witness said anniversary. So . . .” She raised her eyebrows as she turned her eyes towards the ceiling. “Here we are. They broke ground right before Beltaine, and they completed the building the first week in July. Wanda got her building—and an office—and the school didn’t burn down.” Deanna sighed. “Everyone was happy.”

 

I should try that with my job:  “If I don’t get a raise, FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, YO!”  Yeah.  I’d get shown the door real quick.  Probably would help if I could turn people into newts . . .

Now you know why there are two buildings out at Memory’s End.  And all’s well that ends well, right?

 

Annie leaned against the wall. “So how long did Wanda teach here after this was built?”

Deanna’s mood began to shift and turn dower. “Four years.”

“Did she go back to The Netherlands after that?”

“You could say that—” Deanna looked down for a moment. “She died 2 November, 1807, right after the Samhain celebrations.”

Given the way Deanna’s mood changed Annie was almost afraid to ask the cause of the young seer’s death. “What happened?”

“She killed herself.” Deanna paused just long enough for Annie to get over the shock before continuing. “She came out here early in the morning with a potion—which is what they called them back then—and her body was found right before lunch. She gave no reason for her suicide: all she left behind were instructions on who would get her books, that she wanted her body immolated, and that the ashes were to be dropped into the Maas River a bit upstream so they’d flow past her home town on their way to the sea.”

With the end of the story the mood in the office changed dramatically. “That doesn’t seem right. How could she kill herself?”

Deanna came over and touched Annie’s shoulder reassuringly. “It’s not the first time it happened, and certainly wasn’t the last.” She glanced to her left. “A total of five instructors of divination have died in this office, four by their own hands—the last one killed herself in 1964.”

 

Well, that’s a bummer, but it was one I expected, because when I set Wanda up in the notes I wrote “1770–1807” next to her name.  She didn’t make it to forty.  And, you find out, that’s not unusual out at Memory’s End–or at the school . . .

 

“That’s so . . .” Before coming to Salem she’d knew nothing of the dark side of the school save for whispered comments about The Scouring, and though the Day of the Dead attack was horrible, she believed it to be an exception. “I don’t know how you can work in an office where people killed themselves.”

“It doesn’t bother me.” Deanna softly chuckled. “Besides, this place is drenched in blood. The school is going to be three hundred and thirty years old next summer, and in that time nearly six hundred people—staff, instructors, and students—have died here—”

“You’ve seen a lot of that, haven’t you?” Annie was very much aware of Deanna’s involvement in The Scouring, how she managed to lead a majority of her covermates out of Åsgårdsreia Coven before it was destroyed by a Deconstructor attack, even though they hadn’t studied the event in history yet.

“More than I’ve cared to see.” She slid her hand behind Annie’s shoulder and directed her out of the office. “Let me show you something—”

“What?”

Deanna led them towards the stairs going to the first floor. “One of my favorites places here.”

 

Let’s hope the place Deanna wants to show Annie is a happy one, because I managed to end almost a thousand words of writing on a real down note.  Not to mention that she pointed out that nearly two people have died each year at Salem for the duration of its existence, and that’s a strange bit of history to keep in mind.  In Annie’s first year at the school ten people died, and that number was nearly fourteen, and that’s a hell of a way to start off your magical instruction.  And even though it was pointed out that Deanna was involved in saving a lot of people from her coven during The Scouring, she’s leaving out that something like thirty were killed when Åsgårdsreia Tower exploded–yeah, right up in flames it went.  Not a pretty sight.

Maybe tomorrow there’ll be happy time.  Pretty sure we could all use it.

Flyby Sight

Hey, no zombie writing today–I actually did that over the last couple of weeks, because there’s nothing to write about this week.  Well, I wouldn’t say nothing . . .  There’s always something.

For example, since I was only one thousand words away from hitting one hundred thirty thousand words last night, and because it was two weeks since I’d reached one hundred twenty thousand, I was like, “What the hell, chick, you gotta do this.”  I got to work and, well . . .

Yeah, I got this shit.

Yeah, I got this shit.

Given that the last scene took four days to write–over a five day period, I should add–I figured I needed to kick my ass into gear and get some stuff done.  Yes, fighting through depression isn’t a nice thing, but hell, kids, I gotta write–right?  Not really, but I did it anyway, because this scene is All About Annie and a place she likes to visit so she can talk to someone she likes.

Let’s go there, shall we?  We shall:

 

 

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

Annie touched down lightly about four meters from the entrance of the Divination Building at Memory’s End. She’d taken off from the Pentagram Garden within minutes after Kerry left after lunch for his pre-race lecture, and was certain no one saw her land under her own power because nearly everyone else was either on their way to The Diamond, already there, or hanging out elsewhere because they weren’t interested in the races.

Not that she was concerned about anyone seeing her using her Flight Gift. The retelling of her Judgment Trial against Lisa’s champion was all over the school by breakfast then next morning, and that evening Vicky and Isis spoke with her while Kerry was off in Advanced Transformation. They let her know that they weren’t unhappy with her “Unveiling” and that it was only a matter of time before the rest of the school became aware she could fly, and they saw nothing wrong with her flying around, as long as she remained inside the outer walls.

 

Now, I should point out something:  Memory’s End is really two buildings.  It’s not always easy to spot on the maps, but when you see it close up, it’s obvious.

Now with 100% more trees!

And now with 100% more trees!

When looking at the picture, the Divination Building is on the right, and the Numerology Building is on the left.  Why are there two buildings for studies that really aren’t that big?  Well, that’s one of the things you’ll discover in this scene.

And if you’re wondering about all these paths, here you go:  the one from the left leads to Gwydion Manor, the one going off the top leads to Astria Portal, the Firing Line, and Observatory Tower.  The one on the right leads to The Witch House, and the one going off to the bottom ends at the main path running between The Witch House and History and Social Studies Building, which is just north of The Pentagram and Åsgårdsreia Tower.  And that little tower-like object on the small path in the bottom-left section, that’s a stairwell leading to the tunnel system below the school.  All roads lead here, it seems.

For a point of reference, when Annie and Kerry visited here the first time, they walked up the path appearing on the bottom of the image frame.  There, now you know more.

And as you can see Annie is able to fly around the school because, what the hell, people saw he doing it, so it’s not like she can hide that any longer.  Let your flying, um, fly.

What waits for Annie here?  This:

 

She stood listening for sounds: walking, coughing, activities of any kind. Nothing. The building was completely silent, even more so with the sounds from outside cut off. Now she was even more uncertain about Deanna being present, but the last thing she wanted to do was call out her name. I’ll sound like a frightened girl in a horror movie, and that’s the last impression I want to make.

She was right in the middle of preparing to walk to Deanna’s office when the seer called out to her. “I’m down here, Annie.”

Annie yanked on the hem of her sweater and headed down to Deanna’s office. She expected to find Deanna sitting cross-legged on one of the various pillows, but found her instead standing before an old-fashioned desk that folded down from a wall cupboard. “Hello, Deanna.” She stood in the doorway and examined the seer, whose outfit of a sweater, jeans, and sneakers matched Annie’s in everything except top color. “I wasn’t certain you were here.”

Deanna finished writing something on a tablet before answering. “I like to come out here after lunch on the weekends because it’s quiet and I can get a lot more done in this office than I can in the coven tower.” She tapped the screen as if to punctuate her statement. “There. All done.”

 

Spooky Muslim Seers be spooky, right?  Of course Annie’s a polite girl and all, but after a while she’s gotta ask the question . . .

 

Annie finally entered the office once she understood Deanna wasn’t going to make the request. “Did you know I was coming?”

Deanna turned towards Annie. “The funny thing about being a seer is that most people never believe you if, once you’re asked a question, you reply in a negative fashion.” She set her right elbow upon the fold-out desk and gently leaned upon the surface. “Everyone believes you see everything, so when you say ‘no’ in way of a response, they immediately assume you’re lying.” She brushed hair back out of her face. “It’s a hell of a thing to have in your life.”

“I can imagine.” She looked directly at Deanna. “Did you know I was coming?”

“Yes, I did.” The seer shrugged. “It doesn’t matter how I knew, the actual reason I came out here to work was to wait for you because I saw you coming out here to speak with me. So I thought I’d better be here when you arrived.” She cocked her right eyebrow upward. “You believe me?”

Before answering Annie considered her current dilemma of accepting that Deanna was speaking the truth, or if she was telling her what she wanted her to hear. It would help a lot if I could read Deanna’s aura—I should work on that next. “I believe you.”

 

Deanna has pulled this a few times on Annie:  knew she was going to show up and called her down the moment she entered the building, or made a remark based upon something that was already on Annie’s mind.  And when Deanna tries to skate on that shit, Annie calls her out once more, and gets an honest answer–or does she?  Why does Annie want to see Deanna’s aura?  Because witches who can see another person’s aura can tell if they’re lying by watching the colors and shades of said aura.  Except really good witches know how to keep their aura from changing, and Deanna’s a really good witch when it comes to not letting people see your inner feelings through your aura, so even if Annie could see it, it’s likely she’d never know if Deanna was bullshitting her or not.

This is one of the reasons when new students arrive instructors can tell if they’re being lied to or not–among other things.  You’ll be surprised what instructors can determine based upon the color and shade of a student’s aura . . .

After a little more back and forth–and once I got in my thousand words–I wrote up just a bit of strangeness:

 

Annie decided to move on to another subject. “I’ve never seen you use that desk before.”

“No, when you’ve been here in the past we’ve sat on the floor; I’m normally not working when you come to visit.”

If you want to call speaking about a problem a “visit”. “Did you have that put in?”

“Me? No.” She set the bag on the floor and folded the desk up into the cupboard and shut the doors. “This desk was put in when the building was constructed in 1804.” Deanna chuckled. “You can thank Crazy Wanda for both of those things.”

Annie gave a surprised laugh. “Crazy Wanda?”

 

"I don't know; does she have mangoes?"

“Who is Crazy Wanda?  Does she have mangoes?”

No, sorry Pupok, she doesn’t have mangoes.  But you’re about to get a history lesson on the school, that much is true.

Maybe tomorrow everyone will get to hear the tale of Crazy Wanda.

Given I’m not doing anything else this morning, it’s highly likely.

We’re Off to See the Seer

First off, face time–literally.  The swelling is down and I look a lot better this morning.  The lips are still kind of puffy, but nothing like yesterday when even drinking coffee felt funny due to the left side of my mouth not wanting to open right.  I hope that by tomorrow I’ll be back to my almost normal self–if there is such a thing.

I was still feeling a tag punk when I returned from work yesterday, and even fell into nap state after eating.  The entire procedure from Monday took a lot out of me, and for most of the time at work I was dragging butt hard.

I actually look a little bored here doing the selfie.  And this was two days in a row I showed leg:  you should see the picture from Monday.

I actually look a little bored here doing the selfie. And this was two days in a row I showed leg: you should see the picture from Monday.

Anyway, even while Treasure of the Sierra Madre played in the background, I wrote.  Slow, and with a lot of deliberation, because the head felt like stone, which is why I only managed six hundred and fourteen words total.  Good words, but still feels like I’m dragging of late.  I do hope that picks up tonight . . .

Here is the part after the Evil Ginger Soul Mate Stealing Bitch, aka Emma, leaves and goes and sits:

 

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

Annie and Kerry ate in silence, watching the new students enter, select their breakfast, and find their seats. They spotted their new covenmates enter in two waves: first a couple of girls sat next to their old table, and two minutes later the remaining two girls and the lone boy entered and sat at their table. While they both felt a little sad to see their old table being used by other students, they were taken by the realization that, one, they’d taken that table from other students, and two, at least the table was being used by new students from their own coven.

By eight-thirty the remainder of the instructors entered the Dining Hall and began eating: Kerry spent that time retrieving drinks, fruit, and yoghurt for Annie and him. Kerry had just returned with another round of drinks when the headmistress entered the Dining Hall, attired in a light gray dress suit and black low pumps. She walked along the instructor’s table, greeting everyone, before turning back to the middle of the room and approached the podium on the raised dais.

She set her hands on either side the podium, smiled, and gazed out over the dining hall. “I want to extend a welcome all our returning students, and hope this school year is as memorable as last year’s, or becomes even greater.” She examined each of the tables along the front where the new A Level students were seated. “For our newest members, allow me to introduce myself: I am Mathilde Laventure, Headmistress of the Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning. After a long and busy day yesterday, I am certain each of you have many questions about what you have seen up to now—and they will be answered soon, I assure you.

 

The headmistress’ speech was easy to work out because it was already written.  Pretty much I took here entire speech from A For Advanced and made a few changes here and there.  After all, it’s sort of a canned speech, and let’s face it:  she’s not the Sorting Hat, so screw that new speech stuff every year crap.

Anyway, unlike last year, when Mathilde dismisses the returning students, my kids get up with the rest–

 

Annie and Kerry stood with the rest of the returning students and headed for the exit leading to the East Hall and the Rotunda. Kerry spoke as soon as they came to a stop in the large, open area. “Where do you want to go?”

She took Kerry by the hand and led him towards the North Exit. “Who did we visit first last year?”

The answer to Annie question was easy: Kerry remembered using his tablet to follow the paths to their first classroom visit at Salem. “Deanna.”

“Yes.” They stopped outside the long corridor leading to Åsgårdsreia Coven. “I have a feeling she’ll want to see us . . .”

 

And start making the trek out to see the Seer.

Dining Hall in the lower left, Memory's End in the top center, nice little walk in the middle.

Dining Hall in the lower left, Memory’s End in the top center, nice little walk in the middle.

Which sets up this moment:

 

Kerry held the door for Annie as she entered Memory’s End as quietly as possible. She looked about the hallway between the classrooms and saw the message board indicating that the school Seer was in Classroom #2. She spoke to Kerry in a quiet, revered tone. “It was much easier getting here this time.”

“Yeah, it was.” Kerry kept his voice low. “Do you think she knows we’re here?”

A voice called out from the open doorway on the right. “Yes, Kerry, I know Annie and you are there.” A soft chuckle followed. “Please, come in.”

Annie walked into the room ahead of Kerry, stopping a few steps inside the classroom. “Hello, Professor Arrakis.”

Deanna Arrakis, the young Iraqi woman who was Salem’s Seer and taught Divination and Nurmorlogy, and well as being the leader of Åsgårdsreia Coven, waved her visitors forward. “Oh, please: we’re alone and among friends: it’s Deanna.” She opened her arms. “Come here.”

Annie stepped into Deanna’s waiting embrace and hugged the seer. “Thank you, Deanna. It’s nice to see you again.”

“It’s nice to see you, too, Annie.” As soon as she was finished hugging Annie she turned to Kerry.

He bowed his head with his hand folded in front of him. “Assalamu alaykum.”

Deanna nodded once. “Waalaikum assalaam.” She found it endearing that Kerry was one of the few non-Muslims at the school who greeted her with a traditional Muslim greeting. “Are you going to join us?”

“Sure.” He came over and stood next to Annie. “It’s good to see you, Deanna.”

“It’ll be better when you give me a hug.”

Kerry was hesitant to approach the instructor. “Is that going to be okay? I mean—you are Muslim.”

“I’m not going to hug you to death—” She chucked while giving Kerry a quick, light hug. “—and you’re also not of marring age.” She gave Annie a quick glance. “At least not for me.” Deann adjusted her green, beaded tunic before turning towards the front of the room. “Come, let’s sit.”

 

Yeah, Deanna, rub that last part in just a little in your own special way.  I thought long and hard about whether nor not Deanna would actually hug Kerry, but as she’s stated before, she’s not heavy into her religion, and Kerry isn’t the sort of boy who would, you know, likely have impure thoughts about her–as Deanna already knows who he has had impure thoughts about.  In the end she likes them both, and would want to show that affection.  Damn, but this school has a lot of huggy teachers.

Now, you know if they’re out visiting Deanna, certain subjects are gonna come up.  How was your summer?  How did you get along missing each other?  Did you have any nasty dreams about each other?  And . . . well, you’ll have to wait for me to write tonight and see what happens.  I’ve been waiting for this scene for a while now.

Here is the novel now, just twenty-five hundred words short of forty thousand:

I love it when a novel comes together in about a month.  Which it has been.

I love it when a novel comes together in about a month. Which it has been.

I started on 11 April and it is now 13 May.  Just a little over a month, and in another couple of days I’ll hit the minimum novel word count.  Given it’s all part-time writing at night–some times when I’m not at my best, either–I feel I’m making great progress.  At this rate I could hit one hundred thousand words around the middle of July–and if I do Camp NaNo, that’s pretty likely.

Never let it be said I didn’t need a novel to, um, start a novel, okay?

There Beyond the Memory’s End

It’s a day off for me, the last one before I head home in March to do taxes and a few other things.  Which is to say I have another month before blowing The Burg and taking that eleven hour drive back to Northwest Indiana.  Then I’ll head off again in June after which–well, that’s a good guess.  I may stay in The Burg.  I may not.  I may run through all the nonsense of trying to find another contracting job.  Maybe by this summer I’ll be a big-time published author.

Yeah, keep dreaming, Cassie.  It’s what you do best.

The scene was written yesterday, started late in the afternoon after lunch was an afterthought and there’d been a very short nap.  It was written in parts, with the first eight hundred words completed before a television break, then the rest written in a mad dash to get to the end.  When it was finished another sixteen hundred words were in the story bank, and my kids, Annie and Kerry, were last seen floating into the sky over the school, ready to spend an afternoon flying and exploring.

It’s curious that so long ago, when I named the school’s center for Divination and Numerology, I’d call it Memory’s End.  Because the last couple of scenes had to do with memories, those remembered and those hidden, perhaps forgotten.  I’d chosen the name because, at the time, it sounded like a good name for a place where memories weren’t actually needed, because truths past and future were discovered through far different methods.

Now these memories will have to remain tucked away for a while, though there are a couple of chapters in Act Two which will bring forth a whole different set of memories, and this will lead down another that will answer some hereto unknown questions.  Maybe in another hundred thousand words you’ll see this happen.

I’ve already stated that whatever mysteries I’ve set up here at the end of Act One will find resolution somewhere in Act Three.  The resolution may open up a can of mystical worms, but it’s going to make sense.  Or as much sense as anything can make in this crazy world I’ve created.  Here near the end of this current writing cycle, the world has become more real than I’d have imagined.  And this last chapter has become something of a relief, giving me some room to play with the character, both in their joy and sadness.

There’s not much left to the story at this point.  I’ll be honest, I’m going to miss these last three-and-a-half months I’ve spent getting this tale together, and I’m setting the  week of 31 March as the starting point for Act Two.  I’ll get back from the Indiana Home and start in on three months more at The Burg, and during that mine I can probably make a significant dent in Act Two.  And whenever September starts, that’s the start of Act Three.

I have all this down.  I’ll remember it.

This memory isn’t about to end.

"That's easy for you to say--you know the ending!  Can't you write the ending now?"

“That’s easy for you to say–you know where this all goes! Can’t you write the ending now?”