The Special Allowances

I have this strange, sinking suspicion that I’m going to need to run out and buy a new lamp tonight, because this morning my bulb blew out and now my three-way lamp is acting like a one-way, which is never a good thing.  Sure, why not finish out the new year having to stumble around trying to find stuff in the dark?  It’s not like this place is that big that I can’t find what I’m looking for in the pitch blackness of night.

But night is where we are at right now, and speaking of that, you saw a few hundred words of lead-in of something, and I think we all have some knowledge of the approaching event . . .

 

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

Annie had known about the upcoming flight for two weeks, and her discussions the Friday before with Isis was to go over the specifics for this flight. Normally Annie would have made another, longer solo flight in broad daylight before doing a night solo flight, but both Vicky and Isis felt that given how well she did on her first flight, and how well she did when she flew with Isis, that Annie should skip the second day flight and move directly to the night flight.

In the end Isis left the decision to move ahead to the night solo flight to Annie. She immediately chose to proceed directly to the night flight as she felt she there wasn’t much of a challenge in another day flight. Annie felt that if she were as good as Isis indicated, then it was time to ignore the current learning scale and move up one more level . . .

Vicky and Isis finally entered the Ready Room, closing and locking the main door behind them, as well as making certain the locker room doors were sealed as well. She’d already made Kerry aware that this meeting was considered immensely private, and she had warned him the weekend before that they were not to discuss the matter with other students at all. As Isis told Annie, if anyone asked about her next solo flight, all either of them were to say was upcoming.

The women made their way to the front of the room, and while Isis took her place next to the center podium, Vicky turned the lighting down by half and activated the holographic map. Only once everything to was to her liking did she take the podium and address the other girl in the room. “How you feeling, Annie?”

“I feel good, Vicky.” She ran her the fingers of her left hand lightly over the fur collar of her coat’s hood. “I’m eager to start.”

 

Whenever you ask Annie if she wants to try something that she’s not perhaps ready to do, you may as well throw a whole lotta meat into the bear pit and ask them not to eat.  Annie’s natural state f learning is to push things right to the wall, and since she’s done nothing but that since coming into Salem, it only makes sense that if you want to move her on to a more difficult event, she’s gonna run at that with extreme passion.

It seems, however, like there’s something big going on, and Vicky gets to that part right away:

 

“I’ll bet you are.” Vicky was smiling as she turned to Isis. “We’ll see if your enthusiasm remains high after you hear what awaits you outside the walls tonight.

“First off, allow me to address the need for secrecy on this flight. Tonight it’s going going to be you two—” She pointed at both students. “—and that makes you the first B Levels to go outside the school walls unescorted at night since 1973. Annie, we trust you will do what’s expected of you tonight, and with Kerry now approved for solo night flights, we saw no reason to have either Isis or myself tag along. You guys will do fine on your own.

“However, while the headmistress is aware you’ll be out on your own, she was a bit apprehensive that if others knew about tonight’s flight, they might—” Vicky hesitated, as if she were unsure of her next words.

Kerry found them for her. “She’s afraid the other students are gonna say you’re playing favorites with us again.”

Vicky nodded. “Pretty much. I know you’ve had some issues doing minion duty in other classes, and I wanted to avoid more of that.”

“I’m not worried about the jealousy of other students—” Annie didn’t bother blocking the contempt from her tone. “—but I can see why you wouldn’t want us to talk about this. Some would think we were bragging about the test.”

“Exactly.” Vicky smiled as she relaxed. “I knew you’d understand.” She looked to Isis for a second, then turned back to Annie. “Ready to begin?”

Annie made herself comfortable. “I am.” She knew Kerry wouldn’t answer: as with the last solo preflight briefing sat quietly, prepared to speak only if he was spoken to directly.

“Let’s get started then.” Vicky half-turned and moved the holographic map between Isis and her. As she turned away from the display well over a dozen and a half points appeared over the area between the school and the city of Boston. “There’s a lot to cover this evening, both figuratively and literally.

 

Right away the kids learn they’re being treated . . . differently again.  No B Levels outside the walls at night, unescorted, since 1973?  That’s like, um, forty years!  And these two are being let outside the walls because they can be trusted–I mean, it’s not like they don’t have hiding places on school property, so why worry about them being alone beyond the walls?

So flying out of the school and down to Boston–

Just like this, only no plane wing and probably no bird, either.

Just like this, only no plane wing.

The list of points was published yesterday, along with the map.  Now all Vicky and Isis have to do is tie the two together and tell the kids . . .

Back On the Blue: The Plan

The next few days are gonna be busy for me.  Today I start working on the forms for my name change, and I’ll have dinner with a friend.  Tomorrow I visit my therapist for probably the last time, just to show her how I’m doing.  And Friday I start preparing for the trip back to The Burg, and maybe drop off my papers with the Clerk of the Court to get my name change process rolling.

Oh, and probably wash panties, ’cause clean panties are a must.

And writing, too.  Since putting up a post a while back saying I was a bit burned out on writing, I’ve been hitting it hard, and yesterday was another twelve hundred fifty word day, with four hundred thirty-four written in the morning and eight hundred and ten written before going to bed.  I’ve inched up over eighty-nine thousand words, and it’s highly possible that I’ll hit ninety thousand tonight or tomorrow.  No matter what, I’ll be there before heading back to the other casa on Saturday.

The lights turned green and the race is underway, but not all is rainbows and unicorns with Team Cernunnos–

 

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

Almost fifteen minutes into the race, half way through the fifth lap—the third on the Green Line—and Kerry wasn’t in a good mood. It wasn’t due to running a bad race: it was due to having a couple of teammates who, in his opinion, were acting like enormous douche rockets.

The first lap went without incidence. When they crossed over to the Blue line it was with a Ceridwen flier in first, Manco in second, and Darius in third, while Penny, Alex, and Kerry held and and traded off sixth, seventh, and eighth with the remaining four positions firming in Ceridwen’s possession. Through this lap and the next on the Green Line, Penny, Alex, and Kerry began pushing their way forward, so by the time they began the fourth lap—the second on the Blue Line—they’d moved into forth, fifth, and six positions, and were rapidly gaining on Manco and Darius, who’d managed to pull far ahead while the girls and Kerry fought through Ceridwen fliers surrounding them.

That’s when the trouble began.

By the time they’d rounded Observatory Bend and turned onto Skyway, the trio had second and third place in their sights. Being the quickest of the trio, Penny made her move on Darius as they flew through Back Path and began her pass, but he threw a block which nearly put in into the safety barrier. She attempted two more passes, and each time Darius—who didn’t appear nearly as fast as Penny—threw a vicious block, forcing her to fall back and regroup.

As they entered the Green Line for the last time it became obvious that Darius and Manco were doing everything they could to protect their podium positions, and they weren’t about to let their teammates by, even if one, two, or all were faster. Penny grew frustrated with the attitude, and in The Esses she tried her best to make her way around Manco, who then nearly wrecked her in Polar Jump, which made Alex and Kerry scramble to keep from running into Penny.

The problem wasn’t just in the front, either. Once Penny, Alex, and Kerry had made their way around the other Ceridwen fliers, they’d put them several seconds behind. That was no longer the case: those fliers were closing fast, and with a lap and a half remaining, Kerry figured that the guy’s efforts to keep their lower lever teammates away from what they saw as their podium wins could result in Cernunnos losing the podium and most other points positions.

 

In technical racing terms, what the boys are doing is known as “acting like dicks”.  They’re so hell-bent on getting a top three–here known as “getting a podium” because at the end of the race those in the top three stand on a podium and get recognized–they’ll blow everything, including the race itself.  Rather than looking at the big picture, they’re looking at fame and glory, both of which are fleeting.  I’ve seen this happen in races before, and it’s truly an embarrassment when someone not only crashes and burns their own race, but they bring their team down in the process.

In case you were wondering, in the Salem school system there are individual points, and those points accumulate into overall Coven points.  So a flier from, say, Ceridwen, can win a lot of races, but if two other fliers from, say, Cernunnos, keep getting the second and third place finishes, it’s likely you could have an Individual Champion from Ceridwen, while the Team Coven Champion would be Cernunnos.  Are you racing for the team, or for yourself?  Manco and Darius are definitely racing for themselves.

This is not sitting well with the new Cernunnos Troika:

 

Heading towards Northwest Passage Penny flipped up her visor and began yelling to Kerry and Alex. “These idjits are pissing me off. I’ve had enough of this shite.”

Kerry checked his review as they began the turn leading to West End and saw the full pack of Ceridwen fliers round Polar Turn and advance towards them. “We gotta do something, or we’re gonna get a real fight on the last lap.”

Penny nodded. “Then we gotta do something.”

They reached West End and began to accelerate. “There’s only one thing to do—”

“Yeah?”

“We gotta bum rush these guys.”

This brought a gleam into Penny’s eyes. “Out of Reservoir?”

He nodded. “That would be a good place.”

Alex—who’d pulled closer to Kerry so she could hear the conversation, yelled out her thoughts. “I don’t know this bum rush, but it sounds like we take action.”

Kerry glanced at her as the trio accelerated down West End. “We do.”

“Then I’ll work with you.”

“We work as a team.” Penny set back in her saddle. “When we come out of Reservoir, we move on those tossers. Alex, you take the outside; Kerry, you go up the middle. I’ll take the inside.”

He was already visualizing what would happen. “Got it.”

Alex nodded. “As do I.”

“Good.” Penny slapped down her visor. “We do it on my mark.” She leaned towards her handlebars. “Let’s make this happen.”

They flew together in formation the rest of the way down West End and into Sunset Boulevard, only breaking up as they zipped through Double Dip, reforming as they negotiated Double Back and Cove Lane. Kerry readied himself for Reservoir, a tricky turn that beginners found difficult to time, but which he found to be one of the more fun, semi-technical turns on the Green Line. It swept right out of Cove Lane, rising and dropping over the Cove Reservoir path before turning back to the left, once more flying up over the path before dropping down into the long, fast curve known as Gloucester Bend.

They completed the first flyover as Penny spoke. “We ready?”

Kerry nodded once. “Ready.”

They started up into the last flyover when Alex spoke. “Ready.”

“Okay, then . . .” They began their drop through the elevation gate towards the ground. “Let’s get ‘em. Go, GO.”

 

That’s where I left it, with Penny, Alex, and Kerry about to put the moves on the older boys and take this race to them.  Because sometimes you just gotta give someone the bumper and push them out of the way–or into a wall if there’s one nearby.

And so you can see where this stuff is happening, I even made pictures!  First, Observatory Bend and Skyway:

Squiggly line, remember?

Squiggly line, remember?

Then Back Path, where Penny was getting blocked.

Right there by the Aerodrome.

Right there by the Aerodrome.

Polar Jump, Northwest Passage, and the start of the West End, where everything started coming to a head.

Also known as the place where Emma Blocked Kerry.

Also known as the place where Emma Blocked Kerry.

And finally Reservoir, when they make their move.

Complete with little people standing under the course.

Complete with little people standing under the course.

Reservoir is also where, during the Day of the Dead, Emma and Kerry rejoined the Green Line on their way to The Diamond.  And we remember how well that turned out.

Let’s hope this time things are better for Kerry.

The Secret Witch’s Gathering

The last couple of nights have been slow going.  It’s been a little difficult to get motivated this week, but according to the NaNoWriMo site I’m three thousand, three hundred and seventy words from fifty thousand, which means by tomorrow or Friday I’ll pass that mark and be ready to verify my word count.  This will, by the way, be the lowest word count I’ve ever managed in four years of doing NaNo, but in a way it’s helped considerable due to that fifty thousand getting wracked up fast, instead of being doled out in small number throughout all of December.

My progress last night wasn’t helped by Internet issues.  I was trying to look up a few things to refresh my notes, and the bandwidth wasn’t there.  Which is why I was up at six AM getting things nailed down for my current scene.

I need real stuff, even when I'm faking it.  That's how I roll.

I need real stuff, even when I’m faking it. That’s how I roll.

As you can see by my notes, we know where this Guardian operation is taking place.  Does that mean–?

 

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

Kerry said nothing right away, and Helena hadn’t expected him to speak first. She looked at Annie, who stared right back with no sign that she was giving the matter much thought. Annie nodded slowly. “I want to do this.”

“Are you certain?” Helena kept her voice as neutral as possible since she wasn’t supposed to sway the child’s feelings either way on the matter.

“I am.” She crossed her hands across her lap.

“I see that.” Helena turned to Kerry, knowing good and well he was going to say—

“I’ll do it.”

She arched a brow at him. “You’re certain about this?”

He turned and looked at Annie for about five seconds, then went back to Helena. “I’m sure.”

Helena turned around and nodded at Erywin, who stood and handed two tablets to the students. “I want you to read these before you do anything—” Helena leaned towards the two children. “I mean read them. Don’t just skim the document and then tell me you’re ready to sign. Take your time reading them, then let me know when you’re done.”

 

Now that they’re both in, where is “in” taking them?

 

A city scape appeared in the display. “The field operation will take place in Kansas City, Missouri, and we’ll stay in that part of the city. We’ll set up a base of operation in the Sheraton Kansas City in the Crown Center.” She pointed out the locations on the view. “We’re expect to check in to the hotel on 26 April, though there is a chance the operation could be moved up. Still waiting on that bit of information.”

Annie examined the display. “Why would they move up the operation?”

“There’s always a buffer built into these operations to deal with anything that could be construed as unexpected.” Helena didn’t look concerned. “It’s one of the reasons they wanted to get you involved now, so we could test you out and familiarize you with the equipment we’ll use.” She wanted to put Annie—as well as Kerry, who hadn’t said a word yet—at east. I wouldn’t imagine the operation getting moved up more than two week if they do move it. That would have us leaving here for Kansas City on 12 April.” She shook her head a couple of times. “Plenty of time to get you checked out and tested.”

 

Welcome to KC:  I guess this makes them the Sunshine Band?  Over Helena’s dead body–which would probably be someone else’s, come to think of it.

There is a question that Kerry has, and it’s answered so there aren’t any questions about the witches in the room . . .

 

Kerry finally spoke up. “Is everyone in this room going to KC?”

“Yes: all four of us. In fact, that’s going to be our cover.” She pointed to her second. “Erywin and I will be traveling as a same-sex couple from England—a big stretch for us, I know—who are here on a combination business and pleasure holiday. We have our documentation for the company we represent, and we have an itinerary made out of places visited and places to see that will pass the tightest scrutiny.

“You’ll have a cover as well.” She pointed at Kerry. “You’ll be Erywin’s naturally born son. You’ll have a history you’ll need to remember, such as the name of your father, when he and your mother separated, when we met . . .”

“You’ll also have to remember—” Erywin chuckled. “—to call me ‘Mummy’.”

Kerry laughed right back. “That’s gonna be fun.”

“Yes.” Helena jumped back into the conversation. “But necessary. You’ll need to work on the accent as well. And—” She pointed at the top of Kerry’s head. “The hair, too. It’s one of the reasons you were picked: you skill in transformational magic.”

Erywin nodded. “And you have started to show some skill in minor self transformation—at least according to Jessica.” She stood and walked towards Kerry. “We’ll have to work on getting your hair closer to my color—”

Kerry focused on Erywin for about two seconds before the color of his hair changed from his normal ginger to something very much like the professor’s dirty blond color. He smiled as the instructor stopped when she saw the change. “How that—Mummy?”

Erywin glanced at Helena. “I’d say that’s pretty close.”

 

Not much has been said about what they’re picking up, though Mr. Gabriel did mention that Kerry was getting a real hang of transformation magic–and that little demonstration shows that.  Now, what he did was an A Level spell, but the quickness and completeness surprised Erywin–stopped her in her tracks, you might say–which shows Kerry’s pretty much mastered that spell.

Annie has her own question, and this leads to a quick wake up of something potentially troubling for Kerry and her . . .

 

Annie had her own concern, however. “If Kerry is pretending to be Professor Sla—”

“No titles, please.” Helena held up her hand. “When we are meeting like this, it’s first name basis at all times. In pubic it’s one thing, here it’s another.”

Annie fell right into step, since she was already used to this. “Then if Kerry is pretending to be Erywin’s son, what am I?”

“You’ll be my adopted daughter—from Bulgaria, of all places.” She smiled back at the suddenly unsmiling girl. “It was believed that would be the easiest way to pass you off—that I’ve never been married and that I adopted a girl from Bulgaria—which would explain the accent and language, and why you don’t look like me.”

“That would mean—” Annie turned slowly towards Kerry. “He’s suppose to be my brother.”

It hit Kerry in that moment what she meant. “Wait . . . that means that we can’t like—”

Annie nodded slowly. “Be close in pubic—which means . . .”

Erywin finished the statement. “No public hand holding or snogging.”

Kerry shot Helena a worried look. “How long are we gonna be in Kansas City doing . . . this?”

“We leave here on the 26th, and should be there for most of Friday and Saturday. If necessary we’ll return here on Sunday.”

He turned to Annie and sighed. “The whole weekend.”

She nodded. “We’ll miss the Madness.”

Helena appeared gravely concerned. “The things one must do for their Foundation.” She chuckled and pointed at the display. “Let’s see why we’re going there in the first place—”

 

Suddenly the idea of being Undercover Witches doesn’t seem like a lot of fun, not if it means you can’t hold hands with your pretend brother.  And missing the Madness?  Heavens forbid!  The world has suddenly turned into a mass of suck.  They just come out of a traumatic situation regarding their relationship, and they’ve being told they gotta be siblings.  I guess we can now joke, “Do you kiss your brother with that mouth, Annie?”

I promise this scene will finish up tonight.  You’ll get some history, you’ll get the reasons why these two have been picked–you may even get part of the next scene.  Really, I’m so close to the end I’m almost feeling like ripping off three thousand words and getting the story to where it’s all tucked in and ready for bed.

It’s possible, you know.

 

NaNo Word Count, 11/25:  1,170

NaNo Total Word Count:  46,630

Ticket to Write

The other day my writer friend Ellie–who lays her thoughts on her blog, quotidiandose–asked me a question about NaNoWriMo.  Actually, she was doing a post, and she wanted to know what my thoughts were on NaNo, why I would or wouldn’t do it, what sort of benefits did I see from trying to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, what changes I might make, or not make, this year.

At the time I was knee-deep in crap that wasn’t going away, so I said, “Let me think on it,” because, really, I did have to think about it–and a dragon had me by the ass.  So I didn’t have an answer then.

I think I have one now, but only because I’ve been awake since 4 AM with my brain on fire.

Two years ago I was ask if I was going to do NaNo.  At the time I was getting back into writing, I was finding my voice again, and I was thinking of doing a short story.  But a novel, in thirty days?  Not a chance.  I told one friend there was no way I was ready to tackle the insanity that came with writing something like that.  I’d already tried writing a novel:  it got away from me, and turned into an unruly monster that I only recently tamed.

But last year, I’d written and self-published my first story, Kuntilanak, and was working on another.  There was another friend who asked me if I was going to give NaNo a shot, and this time I was ready.  I knew it would be a difficult undertaking, but I knew I could write this time.

Why would I do it, or recommend it to anyone who writes?  It’s not just the challenge, but the discipline the challenge places upon one.  If you want to “win”, you need to do 1,666 words a day.  Now, that doesn’t sound as bad as it might look, but it’s probably two to three hours of writing for most people.  That means you need a schedule, and that means you have to stick to it once you set it up–disasters at home being allowed, of course.  This creates the discipline needed to keep writing, not just through November, but beyond.

Anyone who’s gotten into the NaNo Vibe knows that one of the biggest pieces of advice being laid at your feet is, “It doesn’t have to be perfect; this is only a first draft.”  No truer words have been spoken.  Unfortunately, a lot of people believe that “First Draft” equals “I Don’t Need to Do Much to This Before I Publish!”, and understanding the meaning of “editing” is what separates the crack heads with delusions of grandeur from the writers.

Over the last few months I’ve had ample opportunity to look at manuscripts from other writers.  Some are pretty good:  some need to burn forever in the Seventh Circle of Hell.  Some manuscripts look as though the writer thought they were going to be charged a dollar for ever comma used, and decided to save money.  Some stories were well thought out, and some were slightly better than opium fantasies, of which I’ve had some experience.

Editing is a chore, and no one enjoys the task, but those edits are what make your story.  My only NaNo Novel went through two revisions, was submitted and rejected, and I put it through a final edit before submitting it again.  And during that last edit, I still found things that were wrong, so please, don’t say you wrote a hundred thousand word NaNo novel in four days, but you don’t need to edit it because, “I’m really good,” because you aren’t Philip K. Dick cranking out sixty-three pages a day while cloaked in an amphetamine haze, so I’m going to crawl way out on a limb and say your manuscript probably needs editing before you send it off to a publisher, where your story goes out of its way to embarrass the rest of us.

If there is any other advice I would give, it’s “Be prepared.”  Now, that doesn’t mean, “Plot your story out to the last detail.”  Just because I plot out things, get names ready, and have a good idea of location where my story is occurring,  that doesn’t mean I’m going to say you’re wrong by sitting down and going where the story takes you.  Everyone has their own style, and if you’re the sort who says, “If you don’t know everything before you write Word One, your story will suck,” or “People who plot are sell-outs formulaic hacks, and I’ll never be that!”, then I wish you well with your hobby, my friend.

There is no right or wrong way to create a story.  Read up on your favorite authors, and you’ll find that each of them has their own style.  Some lock themselves in a room and write ten pages a day; some re-edit their whole novel each day before writing anything new; one writer from the 1960’s and 70’s used to write standing up, saying it was the only way he could think.

When I say, “Be prepared,” I mean, know what you’re getting into.  You’re going to start out eager and full of energy, but somewhere around twenty thousand words, your mind will start bitching, “Hey, this isn’t going as fast as I thought it would,” then about the thirty thousand word mark, your mind is screaming, “This is bullshit!  Why are we doing this?”

Keep in mind, this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  You have your pace, so stick to it.  You need to know some information, so have it ready.  I would advise having a list of names for people, places, and items, at hand, so you aren’t one of those people who jump onto Facebook saying, “I need a name!  A name for a dog!  With brown hair!  Who lives in a small town in South Carolina!”  But if you like to fly by the seat of your pants when writing, go for it.

Would I do anything different this year?  I did.  I’m more prepared than last year, but that’s because I was writing pure fantasy/science fiction, and this year the local of my story is in a real place.  And since that place isn’t in this country, I’ve needed to have a few facts and figures at hand.  And I’m only doing that because I don’t want to deal with “facts” when I’m editing.  I want to edit sixty thousand words, not rewrite the damn thing from scratch.  If this is your first time writing a novel, try to limit yourself to a full re-write, because that can be even more insane . . .

NaNo is suppose to be fun.  Fun, like time, is relative.  Last year I had good times and bad.  I had moments when I felt like I was the greatest thing since sliced break, and others when I was ready to douse my computer in lighter fluid and set it aflame.  But there was a moment when I felt fantastic:  that was with three chapters to go.  I was already over fifty thousand words, and the end was near.

It’s like being in a long race, and seeing the finish line ahead.

Go for it, people; there’s plenty of room on The Crazy Train.  Just remember to go to the end of the line–

Otherwise, you miss all the fun.