Magical Mountain Home

So, much has been said about the House That Annie Had Built, and it’s even shown up here before–

The building that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

Just in case you’d forgotten, the place where a shared vision will eventually come true–if nothing happens to my kids.

But everyone knows about the Lake House, because it gets talked about all the time.  What hasn’t been seen much, save during the holidays and the scene in the first book where Annie left for school for the first time.  However, that doesn’t mean I have figured out what it looks like . . .

The background to Annie’s parent’s house really started back in 2011.  The house first came up in conversation, probably around August of that year, when my friend Tanya–the original Annie–started talking about an idea she had for the house where Annie lived in the mountains.  Now, Tanya will be the first to say she’s not a “visual person,” and while she had the idea about how the house looked, she didn’t know how to bring that vision out.

But since I’ve all the tools and I’m used to designing stuff, I thought I’d draw up the house based upon what she said in our texts.

Just for the record, Tanya loved the layout; she felt it was just how she thought the house should look:  not too fancy, but still something impressive.  And just strange enough that it would fit in well in the world of magic.

I’m considered doing a three-dimensional version of the plan for some time, and Saturday afternoon I spent several hours putting the house together, making some modifications from the original design, and then getting pictures of the three-dimensional layout.

All so you guys can see this.

Let’s start with the basement, because it’s as good a place to start.  Here it is:

Welcome to the lower levels!

Welcome to the lower levels!

So, from right to left we have a spiral staircase to the ground floor, a family room, a bed room, a full bath, and a tunnel.  The staircase is easy enough to explain, as is the tunnel, which is the four hundred and twenty meter route to Annie’s Lake House, with a little detour to Pavlina Kirilova’s greenhouse and lab.  This is the way Annie takes when there’s lots of snow on the ground and she doesn’t feel like dealing with the mountain elements.  The large passage from the stairs to the tunnel also has little areas set in the wall you can’t see for storage and other things.

The family room is found in a lot of homes, where people retreat into their lower levels to watch TV and BS.  The full bath, however, seems a little too full for anyone to just use, and if you look closely, you’ll see there’s a door leading to the bedroom as well.  There’s also a door leading from the from the family room to the bedroom, and that’s because . . . this is the master bedroom where Pavlina and Victor sleep.  The parents sleep in the basement?  Yep.  And why not?  It’s quiet, you have your own bathroom, and when Annie’s up in her room or out to the lake house, it’s a nice, quiet place to stay and feel like you’re the only couple in the universe.

So the stairs go up.  To where?  Here:

Now this looks like a normal house.

Now this looks like a normal house.

Here is the ground floor.  Big porch out front, another big porch in the back.  What we have here, going clockwise, are the stairs, the living room, a storage area and the half bath, the dining room, another set of stairs going up, the mud room, the kitchen, a full bath and a closet/storage area, a bedroom, and Victor’s office/study.  In the dining room scene just described, Annie sits along the long side of the table facing the windows, her mother sits to her right and close to the kitchen, and her father sits with his back to the large window.  And Victor gets his own office because, well, he needs one.  Where’s Pavlina’s?  Out in the greenhouse/lab:  that’s her domain.

This is as good a time as any to point out that the main entrance faces north, looking out on to a mountain flank, so the dining room is gonna get all the morning light.  The kitchen is filled with a lot of modern equipment, most of it enhanced with magic.  And the bedroom is now the guest bedroom, but at one time this was Annie’s bedroom until she was almost six, at which time the bedroom on the first floor was built for her.  Even as a little girl Annie had her own bath.

Originally the first floor of the house was a lot of open space, and there was always talk of building guest rooms up there, but once Annie grew older and required her own space, Mama and Papa decided their little girl needs here own area.  And they got it for her:

What little witch doesn't need a place of her own?

What little witch doesn’t need a place of her own?

And talk about a place!  It’s everything a teenage Bulgarian princess needs to call her own.  And that’s really what the first floor is:  it’s Annie’s living quarters.  Off the stairs she has a sitting room for visitors, and a bathroom for them both.  Inside the room there’s access to a walk-in closet, and her bedroom–it’s the size of the dining room, the half-bath/storage area, and half the living room.  With a little magic Annie can bring about just about any kind of furniture setup she likes in the open space at the end of her bed:  study area, TV area, even a sitting area for those friends closest to her.  It’s really her lake house before she had a lake house.  When you think about it, Annie has living areas bigger than a lot of apartments and even some houses.  Needless to say, she’s living large for a little girl.

There you have it:  The Kirilovi Family dwellings.  Probably the thing to do one of these days is to make out the land, and maybe build Pavlina’s lab/greenhouse.

But that’s for another time.  After a few thousand more words.

Back Home Again in NaNo Land

I’m like Rule #1 for The Doctor:  I lie.  I said I wasn’t feeling the NaNo Love, that I didn’t know if I was going to get the job done this time . . . and I rip off twenty-two hundred words yesterday.  Sure, it took me most of the day, because it seemed like I could only write in two or three hundred word spurts, but I got it done.  Sure, that was yesterday, and today is today, but I have a plan to hit my word count today no matter what–long before The Walking Dead comes on and we find out if Beth is still doing the damn singing on the show.

It was work, though.  I couldn’t seem to keep my head in the game.  Was it distractions?  Yeah, a little.  Was it thinking about what I wanted to write and not simply throwing crap on the page?  Yeah, a little.  Was it not feeling the writing energy?  Yeah, a whole lot.  Was because my characters wanted to do something else?  No, hell no.  My characters are my bitches, and they do nothing but wait for me to paint them upon my literary canvas.  Because . . .

Preach it, Boromir.  Before you get filled with arrows.

Preach it, Boromir. Before you get filled with arrows.

What I managed to do was finish the scene with Kerry at his grandparents–with something happening that I’m not showing, sorry–and moving to Christmas Eve and a conversation between Annie and her mother.  And from this word smithing came and interesting passage between Kerry and his grandparents:

 

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

“When we first heard you were selected to go to this private school, we were surprised.” Aaron tapped the table hard twice with his fingers. “But I’ve been telling your mother for years that you’re special, that the only reason you weren’t doing well in school is because they weren’t giving you a challenge.”

Margaret nodded. “You’re doing well, I hope?”

“Oh, sure. I’m doing extraordinarily well in everything.” Kerry wasn’t lying, either: the midterm status report he received last Thursday said his marks were Extraordinary in all seven Proficiencies.

While Aaron seemed impressed, he had to comment about someone who wasn’t. “Your mother complained that she hasn’t seen a report card from your school.”

“Yeah, I heard.” When he was first emailed on the family holiday gathering at his grandparent’s house, his mother made a point of asking about when she’d get a report card on his progress at school. She’d brought it up again yesterday, at which point Kerry had to remind her, once more, that the school didn’t give out report cards, and that they didn’t grade the way his old schools graded.

“I told you mother to never mind; I’m certain if you weren’t doing well, the school would let them know.”

Yeah, they’d send me home and farm me off to another school. Kerry knew all about no doing well: he’d discovered that last week two students were told that they were on “probation” through the end of the school year, and that they needed to show “improvements”. Annie mentioned that anyone on probation before Yule holiday would not likely return to the school unless they were discovered to has a hidden Gift, and there was a possibility they’d be placed in another school before Ostara. “Oh, they would. I’d know, too.”

 

Writing that third paragraph forced me to come up with something else, which was the actual grading marks given to the students.  The list below shows, from top to bottom, the worse to the best:

 

Worthless

Inferior

Poor

Below Average

Average

Above Average

Remarkable

Excellent

Extraordinary

 

There you go:  you suck at Salem, and you are Worthless, baby!  These witches, they don’t pull punches.  Kerry knows he’s in the Extraordinary group, and you can bet his Bulgarian Soul Mate is as well.  The next thing I’ll have to do is figure out the Proficiency, some of which I already know, but which aren’t written down.

One of the things that will keep coming back is that Kerry’s parents think it’s strange that this new school doesn’t grade the way Kerry’s old schools graded.  He’s Extraordinary?  At what?  Well, there is some BS the A Levels with Normal parents were told to pass along as the truth until such a time that they are given permission to say, “I’m Extraordinary at turning you into a frog.”  Which Kerry may be able to do at some point, so stop asking about the grades, Mom.

I moved the action to a few hours before Christmas, with Annie moving out to her private abode on her parent’s property.  Really, it must be nice to be a twelve year old girl and have a place to you can call your own and use as a place to chill when the family is getting on your nerves.

 

Annie sat in her lake house alone, staring into the fire as she waited for her company to arrive. She suspected that they were held up by events over which they had no control, but would arrive soon.

She wasn’t concerned; things here at home were not the same at school. At Salem things were on a schedule, everything had a reason, events occurred as expected. At home one could expect to eat at certain times, but everything else simply happened.

Just like what had happened the first Monday home. After breakfast Papa took everyone off to Copenhagen for shopping and lunch, then they rode the train into Sweden and had dinner in Stockholm. After that they wandered about the city, enjoying the festival-like winter that had overtaken the city. It was fun: Annie hasn’t been to Stockholm in almost four years, and there were few places that were a wonderful in winter as Stockholm.

As much as Annie enjoyed the time, however, after a weekend away from school, she found herself wanting to share the moments in Denmark and Sweden with Kerry. Being with her parents was good: being with Kerry would have been great . . .

“You enjoy sitting in the dark in front of the fireplace?”

Annie’s mother was standing to her left, framing the entryway between the bedroom and the staircase to the loft, dressed in her dark red housecoat, and carrying her laptop cradled in her right hand. Annie slowly turned her head and cocked it slightly to the right. “It reminds me of the Midnight Madness.” She returned to staring straight ahead into the fire. “And in the Cernunnos Commons.”

“Bet they don’t burn cherry wood in their fireplaces.” Pavlina set her laptop on the dining table in the center of the huge, single room that was the ground floor of Annie’s lake house before walking over to the sofa, remaining on Annie’s left. She didn’t sit, but stood next to the arm instead. “Have you spent much time staring into the commons’ fireplace when it’s dark?” She half-turned her head and chuckled. “I seemed to remember the lights in the commons area not going completely out until after midnight.”

“It’s still that way.” Annie wasn’t going to play coy with her mother, not while they were alone, not after of few of Mama gently trying to learn more about her relationship with Kerry. “And, no: they don’t burn cherry wood.”

 

There’s an important little tidbit in that exchange that will show up again in Act Three, but what is it?  That Annie loves going to Stockholm?  Probably.

And Mama finally has a few pointed questions for her daughter:

 

“That makes sense.” Pavlina eyed Annie’s locket. “You never told me how he managed to get you that locket for your birthday.” She crossed her arms, looking motherly. “A Levels aren’t allowed off the grounds.”

“He asked two of the staff if they would buy it for him, and he paid them.” Since arriving home her mother had a few questions about the locket, but she’d never came right out and asked if it had come from Kerry. Annie had deliberately ignored the questions: she understood that eventually her mother would find a moment alone to ask her directly.

“It’s lovely. Did he have it engraved?

“Yes, he did.”

“Something personal?” Annie stared back, saying nothing. “I didn’t think you’d answer.”

Annie crossed her arms. “You were right.”

“Who were you waving to when you jaunted from the school?”

Closing her eyes Annie took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Kerry.”

Pavlina’s tone changed slightly. “But you weren’t really waving, were you?”

I’m not about to tell her I was blowing him a kiss. “Are you going to help me, Mama?” Annie’s stare turned cold, as did her tone. “I would like if you would.”

 

Mothers are so nosy when it comes to their daughters and their boyfriends that they’ve been sharing dreams with for at least a decade.  And why does Annie need help from her mother?  Do you feel like I left something out in this recap?

I’d say that’s a yes.  Let’s see if that gets answered today.

 

NaNo Word Count, 11/1:  2,217

NaNo Total Word Count:  2,217

A Year in Pamporovo

Last night was like any other Wednesday night for me.  Got home from work, changed, went to Panera, ate, and wrote.  I had two projects last night:  one was writing up a little over six hundred words for a letter I’m sending to someone–I always type it out before I hand write because my spelling is fairly horrible and I need to correct–and then I went to work on the novel and put in another eight hundred words there.  Nothing unusual, right?

It might not be were it not for the date.  Because last night represented three hundred and sixty-five days since I started this novel.  When I did that the novel sort of looked like this:

Only there were, like, zero words on everything.

Only there were, like, zero words on everything.

And now it’s here, twenty-seven chapters later.

With a lot more words added.

With a lot more words added.

Tonight is the night when I started on this little adventure, and it’s been a milestone for me as well, for I’ve never stuck with a novel this long.  In the past I’ve usually burned out and given up on something like this, but I haven’t, not this time.

Doesn’t mean there hasn’t been stress.  I’ve probably had two or three nervous breakdowns in the process of putting out this story.  I spent a month rewriting chapters because I did Annie wrong.  Oh, and I grew breasts:  I should get points for that as well.

How did it all begin?  With Annie and her mother.  Let’s go back and see that moment, captured in the just over the first five hundred words I wrote (and have since edited) on 30 October, 2013:

 

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

The mountains were bright under the morning sun, though the light had yet reached many of the surrounding valley floors. Within the hour every valley in and around Pamporovo, Bulgaria, would bathe in sunshine, but for now most were enveloped in quiet shadows.

In one valley lay a small lake, the surface smooth and unmoving, still in possession of a layer of light mist from the prior evening. The eastern shoreline brushed up against the heavily wooded valley side, but everywhere else the lake was surrounded by low, rolling hills marked by a few bare spots of erosion, and meadows covered in short grass. Here no trees had taken root—

Save for one spot opposite the eastern valley walls. A lone tree stood upon a slight bend in the shoreline, making it even more distinctive. It was impossible to tell the tree type: even a close scrutiny didn’t reveal its secrets. It looked out of place—and yet, based upon it’s height and the spread of the branches, it was obvious it had been there for decades.

Stranger was the color of the leaves. They were a bright yellow, as if they were dusted with saffron—an unusual color, for the other trees on the opposite bank were a uniform green with a sprinkle of brown, and nary a spot of yellow anywhere. The coloration wasn’t due to the coming of fall—it was late August and the trees wouldn’t begin changing for another two months. It was possible that the tree itself sprouted yellow leaves, but if one had visited the tree the day before, they may have seen the leaves a bright red—and the day before that a light green.

The leaves changed color, but they didn’t change with the seasons . . .

Beneath the branches a young girl with wavy chestnut hair that rested lightly upon her shoulders stood. She was dressed in a light summer blouse and jeans and sneakers, making her indistinguishable from any other eleven year old girl currently living in and around Pamporovo. She stood facing the lake, her eyes fixed upon a point somewhere across the water, her arms locked across her chest. It seemed as if she were deep in thought, staring off into space so that her mind was free from distractions. She didn’t move, nor give any indication she was aware of her surroundings.

Her expression betrayed her emotions, though. She slowly blinked as she stared across the lake with lips slightly pursed while in the cool morning shadows of her unusual tree. Mist drifted off the lake and over her, making the skin on her arms dimple. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to finally enjoy this almost-perfect morning.

The girl was about to check the time on the small wristwatch she wore when a voice called to her. “Annie!” She turned slowly; she knew the voice, and why they were looking for her—

She spotted the woman standing on the porch of a small house forty meters away. The woman waved her right arm in the air as she called once again. “Annie!”

Awareness dawned upon young girl. “Yes, Mama?”

“It’s almost ten o’clock.” This time she waved for the girl to come to the porch. “It’s getting close to the time to leave.”

Anelie Kirilova—or, as her mother, father, and the rest of her extended family called her, Annie—knew her mother was right. She knew it was nearly time to leave; she’d known this for over an hour. In another twenty, thirty minutes she’d leave this all behind and not see it again until it was all covered with Christmas snow . . .

She brushed a strand of hair from her face as she walked toward the house. “Coming, Mama.”

 

There was my beginning.  And how did I continue a year later?  Another five hundred or so words with Annie and her mother:

 

The moment Annie’s eyes opened she checked the clock at her bedside. 5:21. She did a quick calculation and determined the time in San Francisco. It’s 19:21 yesterday there; Kerry’s likely meeting his family right now. Secure with the belief that Kerry was probably starting his holiday, she threw the covers back and sat up.

It was pitch dark in the room, but that wasn’t surprising: local sunrise wouldn’t be for more than an hour. She waved her hand at the lamp on the bedside table and it came on, illuminating her bedroom in low, white light. She slid off the bed and into her slippers before giving her blue pajama tops a final tug down. She walked the short distance to her dressing table and retrieved her locket from a necklace tree and fastened it around her neck, pressing the heart-shaped locket into her chest to assure herself it was there. Lastly she put on her robe and pulled it tight around her body before letting it swing open. With a smile she made her way to the bedroom door.

The night before, during dinner, her mother had said that now that she was on Salem time she would probably rise early, adjustment or not. Annie had said she expected to sleep in for the first time since leaving home, but she should have realized that Mama was speaking from experience. It makes sense— She reached for the door knob. I never sleep in at school, so why would I expect to sleep in once I was home. She slowly opened the door. Must be an enchantment they put on us during the E and A

Her mother was in her sitting room, seated at the table with a plate of food and a kettle before her. “Good morning, Anelie.”

Annie was surprised to find her mother up this early—and with breakfast ready. “Good morning, Mama.”

Pavlina Kirilova nodded toward the closed door to her left. “Go on and use the bathroom. I’ll prepare your tea.”

Annie was in and out of her bathroom in a short time. When she returned her tea was seeping and plate with a printsessi sat before the empty chair across from here mother. Annie sat and inhaled the aroma of the breakfast. “This is what I missed.”

“My printsessi?”

“Yes.” She took a small bite and savored the disk. “It’s still hot.”

“I cooked them last night and put a time spell around them.” Pavlina raised here tea and took a small sip. “From your perspective, they’ve only been out of the oven for two minutes.”

Annie savored another mouthful before speaking. “When did you get up?”

“I’ve been up about twenty minutes.”

“And Papa?”

Pavlina set her tea aside, chuckling. “I let him sleep. Though I expect him up within the hour.” She folded her hands in her lap. “I wanted a little mother-daughter time—like what we had before you went off to school?”

Annie didn’t remember there being a lot of mother-daughter time, but she wasn’t going to start contradicting, not now. She’s searching—and I think I know what she’s looking for . . . “I did miss chatting. I only had your letters.” She smiled. “At least we wrote. A few of the students didn’t hear much from their parents.”

 

A year later and Annie can tell her mother is fishing for something, but she’s playing along.  Any idea about what she’s looking for?  And as I’d said, as Kerry’s last thoughts upon reaching San Francisco and seeing his family were of Annie, Annie’s first thoughts upon waking–at the same time, mind you–were of Kerry.  There’s some kind of symmetry with those kids, I tell ya.

How much have I put behind me with this story?  As of last night Act Two finished up with 140,960 words; the full manuscript is 291,665 words.  I stared Act Two in May and I’ve been trudging along for a little over five months now, and I’ll finish it in November for sure.  And then it’s on to Act Three and the end of the novel.

Soon.  I hope.  I want to have some kind of NaNo, even though I haven’t bothered registering yet, and may not.  I’m still on the fence about doing so, because I’m really not sure I can keep up the pace this year.  Far too many things happening, far too many things to get in the way.

Or . . . I just have to suck it up and put my two hours of writing aside and not be distracted.

That would probably work better, yeah?

Under the Milky Way

Yes, The Church will likely get upset with me if they know I just ripped off the title of one of their songs, but I’m willing to take that chance.  Besides, it’s a great song with some fantastic ebow playing:  one should give it a listen, eh?

I didn’t write a lot last night:  close to seven hundred words.  But it was enough.  My word count for the story, as it sits right now, is 86,666.  Ooooooh, my story is going to burn in Hell, I suppose.  Ah, well:  it’ll be entertaining to some.  But this makes it the second longest thing I’ve ever written, and I’m still going.

In fact, here is all the wordy blather in it’s unedited, first draft glory, so if you find some errors, don’t be too shocked.

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

The red lights flashed twice as the platform locked into place. Harpreet stepped away from the students and walked towards the opening in the dome. “We have arrived.” She stepped onto the tower’s outer ledge. “Come, please—” She motioned for the children to join her. “Look upon the night sky with me.”

Several of the students mumbled amongst themselves as they stepped outside onto the broad, circular ledge. Some looked up into the sky; others took a moment to look around at the campus to the south and to the world beyond the school walls to the north and east. It was easy to see the few homes north of the wall, Rockport to the east and southeast, and the small state park situated in the northeast corner of Cape Ann. Since arriving the only parts of the Normal world—as they were coming to call it—were spied either from the clock tower—which few had climbed—or from the top of the outer wall, which many students—Annie and Kerry among them—had walked.

From a mile away The Pentagram and the Great Hall didn’t look as large, yet still looked impressive. Up here he saw, for the first time, just how large the core of the school was, and how far apart everything was. From the ground, next to everything, everything seemed enormous, but up here, one was able to get a true sense of scale.

“Kerry.” Annie tapped him on the arm. “Look how clear the sky is tonight.”

Kerry finally looked up and took in the sky. When living in California it was impossible to see the sky, even on a clear night, without some light pollution; it Cardiff one never saw the stars unless the entire city was blacked out.

Here the sky was a deep black, as if they were looking straight into outer space without any light spoiling the view, and the stars were blazing bright, as he’d imagined they would appear if you were standing in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle of the ocean. But it shouldn’t bee this way. Salem was twenty kilometers away, and Boston another ten kilometers beyond there. The sky should have been washed out to the south and east, and the sky to the north should have suffered from the lights of communities situated along the north coast to New Hampshire. It wasn’t: it was as black and clear as the sky to the east and south.

He turned to Annie. “There’s no light pollution.”

She didn’t need to ask what he meant, as living in Europe she was aware of how difficult it was to see the stars at night depending upon where you lived. Even at home in the Bulgarian mountains the lights of Pamporovo lent a slight, bright fog to the otherwise dark skies. “I see that. It’s so . . .”

“Dark.”

“And bright.”

The Japanese boy, Koyanagi Jiro, noticed the same thing. “How is the sky so dark? There isn’t any light from the cities.”

Harpreet nodded towards the sky, a playful smile growing upon her face. “We filter out the ambient light surrounding us using a combination of magic and technology. What that leaves is a view of the sky as it was when the school was built and our first astronomer taught her first classes.” She headed back toward the dome opening. “Come inside: there is something I want to show you.”

 

Astronomy class has begun.  I’ll get over eight-seven thousand words tonight, and maybe even eighty-eight if I’m not too distracted by the Breaking Bad marathon.  I’ll reach ninety thousand easy before the end of the year.

Things are actually pretty good.