No Rest For the Timid

There wasn’t much to get done yesterday.  I was falling asleep at work, I ended up walking home in the cold rain–and my walk is about a kilometer, or three-quarters of a mile–so by the time I arrived I wasn’t in the best of moods, and I was feeling a bit of a chill.  But there were packages waiting for me, and one of them were new jeans and a fleece jacket, and I had to try them on and check things out and get pictures and . . .

And by the time I finished doing all that and chatting with people, nine PM had rolled into town, and the brain wasn’t doing what it should do.  Never to mind.  It did a lot of that stuff earlier during the day, usually between moments when I was working on programs and going to meetings.

It’s how I pass my day when I’m working at my other life.

The other thing I’m into at the moment is mind mapping.  I’ve done this before, and talked about it on a few occasions.  These days I use Scapple–not because I work in Pennsylvania, but because it’s a good product.  Mind mapping is a good thing if you’re trying to work out something and you just don’t know how all the pieces fit together.  This isn’t the same thing as building a time line, though you can take the information here and build up your cause and effect–or your Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey ball of stuff if you’re in that sort of mood.

So I’m trying to rebuild a character, and I’m forty-eight notes of information into the process, and I’m still going.  I’m trying to be honest and saying the things that should be said from the questions being asked.  It’s from this that I’m trying to build the layers of the onion, and every so often it does make me cry–


This is your life in notes--I hope mine is more interesting.

This is someone’s life in notes–I hope mine is more interesting.

Why do you cry?  Because I’m not certain that I’m asking the right questions.  If you don’t ask the hard questions, you’re not going to get the good answers.  You’ll get crap.  You know:  garbage in, garbage out.  It’s just like a computer, only this crap is swirling about in your head before you put it on a page.

So I’m doing that.  I played out a couple of scenes in my head yesterday, because between panicky requests to make changes to a program, one needs to put their mind to other, more important things.  Like figuring out when Papa’s gonna ask about a certain boy, because he knows his only child is really off to school to meet this kid.  Or what someone does when they are the first off the elevator and they get strongearmed by their chaperon to take one for The Foundation and do something special.  I also realized yesterday that one of the new scenes I created in Scrivener isn’t needed:  that journey around London can be discussed while having lunch.  No need to tell everyone about it . . .

It’s taking time, but it’s all slowly coming together.

The real treat is when I start writing again.

Reflections on My Mind

Where in the world is Cassidy Frazee?  Why, I’m here:

Otherwise known as the middle of nowhere.

Otherwise known as the middle of nowhere.

I’m also here:

Say "Howdy!" to Nowhere's Sister.

Say “Howdy!” to Nowhere’s Sister.

I’m in the first westbound rest stop in Ohio after driving for four hours through the darkness of Pennsylvania.  It’s now 5:50 AM, and the above pictures were taken twenty minutes ago, and believe me when I say I’ve still got this joint to myself.

I think I’ll name it Trevor.

I’m on my way home for a week, and after three hours of sleep–and some damn strange dreams–I decided to Blow The Burg an hour early and set out on my trek west.  The last time I did this–which, if you remember, happened during NaNoWriMo–I hit the Turnpike running, blasting music all the while with hardly another car in sight.  This time, not so lucky.  There was a lot of traffic on the highway until I reached Somerset, then it sort of faded so by the time I reached Pittsburgh there was next to nothing on the highway.  As Pittsburgh is the Zombie Capitol of the U.S.–Georgia can suck it, ’cause they gotta use tax breaks to get their Shambling Geeks–I can completely understand why no one was on the highway.

If I wasn’t blasting music, what was I doing?  I was alone with my thoughts.  Okay, with my characters, which is sort of the same thing.  They don’t say much unless I let them, and they certainly aren’t asking me if we’re there yet.  Their world and mine don’t intersect save for when I have Scrivener up and running–

No, don't concern yourself with my long drive, Annie.  You're heading into The Chunnel:  perfect time to play sucky face with you soul mate.

No, don’t concern yourself with my long drive, Annie. You’re heading into The Chunnel: perfect time to play sucky face with your soul mate.

Two scenes edited last night, because hell yeah, I’m going to do this while I can.  But with a long stretch of Keystone State behind me, and Buckeyes and Hoosiers ahead, I’m thinking up scenes not for this book, but for others.  I’m thinking up life experiences.  I’m dreaming up tales to tell, because that’s what you do when you have characters developed and you want them to do things.  You know, stuff . . .

Somewhere along the road I figured out the moment when Kerry’s friend and wingmate Emma finally realizes she’s in the Permanent Friendzone, and not even the death of a certain Dark Witch will change that condition.  I’ve put together a scene where someone tells an exhausted Annie of their time on the Polar Express, trying to gloss over how brutal it was for her because someone’s not sleeping because their soul mate is out there in the cold.  Right before I pulled into this joint I started piecing together what goes on in the Black Vault of The Witch House, and when you put a Kirilova and a Lovecraft together down there alone, what really happens?  It’s not that:  get your minds out of the gutter, people.

It’s good, quiet, dark times out there on the road back home.  The sun won’t come up for another thirty, forty minutes, maybe more since I’m racing it westward.  It’ll catch me soon enough, probably about the time I blow through Youngstown.

Coffee’s finished, I’ve got another seven hours on the road, and I’ve gotta get my mind into the Black Vault.

Aloha, dudes.

To Map, Perchance to Plot

Let’s met Annie.  Say hi to her–

"Hi, Annie!"

“Hi, Annie!”

When I was working towards understand Kerry’s far, far, better half, I started throwing around what I knew about her, and began format that knowledge into the world I was creating.  This is where Scapple, the mind mapping program created by the same people who make Scrivener, came in handy, because I could make notes and interconnect them to other notes, work them around and get an idea about where I was going with the character.

I’ve seen where others have also used Scapple to work out plots for their stories.  I’ve played with this a little in that area, but I’ve yet to work out a story where my notes and ideas would find themselves interconnected in such a way that a coherent tale springs forth.  Though there are a couple of scenes I’m considering working out this way . . .

On to the current work in progress.  When I prepared to start the novel, I did so–as I usually do–with two things in mind:  I needed a title, and I needed an ending.  The idea of the title I got from Harlan Ellison, who commented on more than a few occasions that he couldn’t write until there was a title on the page.  Now, my titles may change as I get deeper into a story–that happened a few times with The Foundation Chronicles:  A for Advanced–but I always have a title.  And the ending idea comes from Issac Asimov, who was quoted saying that it was necessary to know how his story finished so he’d know how to get there.

I knew how I wanted to start the story.  There would be a prologue with two scenes:  the first would have Annie standing next to a tree near her lake house, and the second would be The Foundation people convincing the parents of a sullen and likely depressed Kerry that he was getting a free ride to a school for special students outside Salem, Massachusetts, and that he should pack his bags because he was leaving for London in a couple of hours if he said yes.

The last two scenes would mirror the intro:  the first scene would show Kerry returning from school, somewhat depressed because he’s parted from someone special to him, and now it’s time to go back to his old, “Normal” life, while the second scenes would show Annie standing next to a tree near her lake house, equally sad from saying goodbye to her “Ginger Haired Boy”, and having to face the summer without him.

With that in mind, it was time to start plotting.

Since I was working in parts, chapters, and scenes, I decided to work in Scrivener through Outline Mode, because as folders and text files were added, and metadata added, it was a simple matter to move things around when and where needed, and lay out dates and times as needed.  As the Prologue and Chapter One were almost all Annie and Kerry there wasn’t much of a need to keep track of other characters, because the one who did walk onto the written stage didn’t require a great deal of attention.

Carefully taking my kids on the trip of their lives, one scene at a time.

Carefully taking my kids on the trip of their lives, one scene at a time.

It was easy to plot things out like this, but keep in mind this is a small section of the story.  There’s a lot more in the next two acts–which were added about half way through writing the first act.  This is something that’s nice about Scrivener:  you need to add or move something around, you do.

Something else I used for the first time were document notes.  These came in handy when I was writing about Annie and Kerry’s day trip around London, which was done almost entirely via tube travel.  Notes stay attached to a scene, so once in place they’re always there inside the Inspector (the area on the right) all the time.

Sure, you could make up how you get around London, but it's easier if you do it with notes.

Sure, you could make up how you get around London, but it’s easier if you do it with notes.

Another thing I did on this novel was layer scenes under a top scene.  I used it extensively for the scene “Over the Pond”, where all the action took place on-board a 747, and point of view switched from my kids to some traveling instructors, and back.  The date and time were already set, so here it was just a matter of knowing who was in each sub-scene aboard the plane, and that information was kept in the metadata for each scene.  The great thing with these layered scenes is when you don’t need to see them, you just collapse them under the top lead-in scene and all is right in the world once more.

There's a party in the sky, and you're all--well, you'll get invited in time.

There’s a party in the sky, and you’re all–well, you’ll get invited in time.

One last thing to mention about this layered scenes is that they were added as I wrote.  I did the lead-in scene, then decided I’d write about Annie and Kerry finding their seats, or the instructors talking about Phee–I know who that is–and I’d add the text file, do a copy and paste on the metadata, set the Label and Status, and away I’d write.  Easily Peasily!

And that leads to cross-checking what I’d laid out in Scrivener by seeing if the time lines matched up.  There was always the possibility that something was off, and sure enough, once I started plugging things into Aeon Timeline, there were a few things that didn’t make sense.  Now, this didn’t affect the plot, but in terms of when things happened, it was a good idea for me to see if everything worked.  I didn’t actually need to do this for what became the first act, but this was practice for something that was coming in Act Two, and the practice of laying out this first section of the book helped me understand how I was going to lay out an important set of scenes that required things to happen at certain times, within a certain time frame.  And that would be important to the story . . .

Time be time, mon.  And here be the time for Act One.  Looks so different here, doesn't it?

Time be time, mon. And here be the time for Act One. Looks so different here, doesn’t it?

Out in the Right Mind

Here we are, or am I, at least, with a good night sleep inside the elastic waist of my pajama bottoms.  I took something that wasn’t actually drug based, and though I was up at one AM for a minor inconvenience, and I finally started coming awake at five forty-five, I sleep without much disturbance.  Lets go for two tonight, because I feel a lot better than the Zombieland creation I was yesterday.

Even though I was out of it, I got stuff done.  I have a program to finish today that’s probably going to top me out at about a thousand lines of code when I finally look at it and thing, “Yeah, that’s it.”  I’ve chapters to edit tonight and tomorrow.  I looked at one apartment, and will see another today, in preparation to move into something semi-permanent here in The Burg.  (Which is what Paul Verhoeven would tell the cast of Starship Troopers when he was trying to get reaction shots from them:  “Look at me, Imma Burg!  A Burg!  Shoot me, shoot me!”  Such fun.)

There was also brainstorming on a story, on some characters, and I felt good when it was all over because I feel like I’m finally getting some focus on someone that I’ve needed for some time.  I have to thank my next Scapple beta program, because laying out my ideas on a screen, and playing “connect the dots” with them, came in very handy.

I never thought I was the sort of person who was that visual.  I can still see a lot of things in my mind, and use that to write my story.  These days, however, with the tools one has available for the computer–as I pointed out last week–it’s so much easier to actually make the things in your story come alive, to make them nearly living things with a physical presence.

That’s what mind mapping did for this character.  I started building up ideas, relationships to other people, ideas of what sort of influence those other people had over the character . . . and it started to become clear.  The whole rain is clearing, I can see clearly now thing actually began happening.  It was a good feeling to know that after months of hand wringing and doubt, you now had a character that you were finally able to “get”.  Sort of, but getting there.

I passed off a pdf of my mapping to another person, one who knows this character better than me, and she told me, “You’re getting it.  She’s coming into focus.”  Yes, that’s what I needed to hear.  Because you always want to know you’re on the right track, and that your ideas are maybe working.  It’s the sort of affirmation one needs after a long, sleepy day.

There is a lot to do this weekend.  I have mapping, I have editing, I have other things on tap.  I have decisions to make about The Burg.  But it’s all good stuff.

Maybe one of these days I’ll travel down to the real Undisclosed Location and think about where I am now.

Scribble Scapple

So another is in the books, for yesterday I finished the Final Draft for Couples Dance.  The short novel now stands at fifty-three thousand and change for the word count, and that’s not bad for a short story of erotic horror.  How erotic and horrifying it is I won’t know until it sells, but then if it sells as well as my other stories, I’ll never know how well it is doing.

This time the editing went with little drama and strain.  If it seems as if I was driving myself crazy editing Her Demonic Majesty, this time the editing went off as orderly and easy.  I’d sit and do a thousand, two thousand words in a sitting with little problem.  There was one time when I put down about six thousand words and didn’t think anything of the matter.  Maybe I’m getting better at this, or maybe I came into the editing with a different set of eyes and a different mind set.  Whatever the reason, Couples Dance was actually a pleasure to fix.  And I do mean fix:  there were parts that were messed up, that didn’t make sense, that were simply wrong.

Now time to find readers and get their feedback.  Find more errors and fix things up.  Get a cover and bang!  I’m ready for big time publishing once more.  Yay me.  If this is the breakthrough, then next up:  gnome porn!  I know there’s an untapped market there . . .

I know the question that’s being asked:  what’s next?  Good question.  I could edit another story, for I don’t intend to start another original story until November–at least that’s the plan at the moment.  But one never knows with me.  I’m thinking Fantasies in Harmonie would be a good one to clean up:  follow up one erotic story with another.  Why not?  I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  I’ll make up my mind in the next few days, because with nothing to do I’ll begin getting crazy by Wednesday.

Not that I need any help there . . .

Since I’d finished editing my novel by seven-thirty PM, I had plenty of time to play with Scapple.  There’s a story idea that’s been floating about in my head for the better part of a month, and I figured, “Hey, what better to lay out, huh?”  I’m the sort of person who likes to flowchart, because that’s what comes of being a computer programmer for a long time.  I wasn’t putting notes all over the place; I wanted to see if the plot flowed well, and if things made sense.

I managed the first couple of chapters and realized the program is great.  Does it do what I want?  Yes.  Does it do it well, with a short learning curve?  Yes.  Are there problems with the beta?  Yeah, but that’s why it’s a beta:  you have people play with it and then tell the developers what you’ve found that’s wrong or not working.  I’ve found one problem in particular that bugs the hell out of me, so I’ll see about leaving feedback so the issue will get fixed.

Will I buy this program?  You know it.

A girl and her software shall never be parted . . .

Seeking Balance in the Sideways World

Up early, which isn’t a good thing, because I’m not getting sleep again, and I do need my sleep.  If for no other reason, it keeps me from flipping out and hallucinating throughout the day–

Oh, wait.  That’s called being a writer.

It’s coming up on a week off since I finished NaNo, and I’m feeling uneasy.  I don’t have anything to do, and it’s starting to tug at my head, because I need something to do.  I want to do something besides sit around playing with software, trying to make things that are cool to me, but deep down tell me I’m bored, and I’m stalling for time.

I’m stalling because I’m stuck for a project.

Usually something will hit me, tell me, “Hey, listen!” over and over, like Navi trying to show me the way to go, but it would seem she’s on holiday or something, because I’m not getting any clues as to the next big thing.  Other than to work on graphic projects that are only going to take me so far, because it’s not writing!

I’ve been in this place before.  It’s akin to hanging off the Trollveggen, wondering how much longer it’s going to take me to get to the summit, and if some bastardy trolls are going to get me before I’m there.  It’s the feeling that you have nothing holding you to the world save for a couple of clamps and some nylon rope, and if either of them ever give way, then you’re going to find life interesting for the few seconds it takes for your body to reach the base of the wall.

After that, not so much.

I have a couple of projects in mind, but nothing is smacking me across the face, saying that I need to do this one.  You often know what is striking your fancy almost before it does, but this time I’m stuck with the feeling that what I’m looking for isn’t there–at least not yet.

This isn’t the same as writer’s block, that mysterious force that keeps you from writing anything worth while, where you have no idea how to work through the story before you, or to even get started on a story.  This is more like, the ideas are there, but nothing seems good.  Or interesting.  Or worthwhile.

Maybe it is writer’s block.  If so, Chuck has a bit of advice for getting your Creative Mojo back, and I’ve already seen a couple of points that seem to be pointing at me.  Maybe there is time to do something else.  Maybe there is time to work on another creative release to get the juices flowing in another area.  In fact, I just had something pop into my head, based upon another idea that had come along months ago, and . . .

Well, it seems good now.  Maybe it’ll be good later.

I think I have something I could work on, a good idea that could be better.  Maybe I need to mind map this sucker out and see where it goes.

The story idea might not go anywhere, but it might lead me towards the next big thing.

That makes it worth while.

Deconstructing the Big House

There has been a lot of head scratching and character conversing going on of late.  Some of it is for old characters that needed to work something out.  (That’s a difficult one to explain; lets just say someone was pissing me off, and I needed to vent on the nearest idiot, and a character came to mind.)  But a lot of it has to do with this dream/story that’s begun making my life interesting.

I have a general idea about the story, and I have a few ideas that, I hope, will make it interesting enough to keep people turning pages.  I’ve tried to imagine a couple of scenes that would, in my opinion, scare people–or, at least, give the reader a bit of churning in the pit of their tummy.

There’s this issue, however . . . one of the secondary characters, one that you hear a lot about, but don’t really see.  He’s becoming a pain in the butt.

Allow me to explain:

I want the story to be spooky and atmospheric.  Now, perhaps I’m reaching for something I’m not ready to do yet, but what the hell–you’ll never know if you can grab that ring unless you try.  Ergo, I’m thinking about how the story can advance from A to Z.

But I keep coming back to this character, the person that isn’t seen, but who becomes a part of the story because–well, he do set everything in motion.  And I find that not only am I thinking too much about him, but he’s becoming way too much like characters I’ve already written about in another story.

This is what bothers me:  am I writing another version of a story I’ve already written?

I keep coming back to this same thing about the character, and the more I do, the more I’m aware that I’m doing something I’ve already done.  Yes, there will need to be something said about this character, but I want to do something different.  I don’t want to pull this exposition out the same way as I did in another story.  It’s way too close, and worse–it’s lazy writing.

If I’m going to continue with this line of thought, I need to go back to the beginning and think about what I want the story to be, and where I want it to go.  One of the things I haven’t yet figured is the end.  What will happen at the conclusion?  I have no idea.  That’s as much a mystery to me as it might be to the reader.

It’s time for some brain storming.  There are no plot bunnies here; I drove them off with the 12-gauge years ago.  This is a case of sitting and mapping my mind, and while it’s a bit frightening to believe I can really map my mind, it has helped in the past, so give it a shot now.

While I’m at it, I could do the same for a story I’m going to write in October.  And what about NaNoWriMo?

Hell, man:  tackle one craziness at a time, right?