Stepping Off to the New

How was everyone’s day?  Good, I hope.  Mine was, well, let’s say pretty good.  I had a huge post yesterday, and it was a good thing I got it out early because in the afternoon it had to compete with the Internet shutting down over escaped llamas and bad dresses that may have been black and blue or gold and white–a question so burning for some that in one group I’m in on Facebook someone actually flounced because they were told they were wrong about the color.

"Now that I've solved the greatest mystery of the Internet, I'm going to tell all these losers wh--Oh, Llamas!"

“Now that I’ve solved the greatest mystery of the Internet, I’m going to tell all these losers wh–Oh, Llamas!”

Me?  Well, I gave my opinion on one (the dress), and we told many times about the other (the llamas), and continued working on something else.  And I made a lot of progress given that I was being told about the most earth-shattering events of the day–while at the same time my mind was on my own dilemmas as well.

Of late I’ve been thinking about a . . . let’s call it “next novel”.  And I think you know what novel I’m talking about, because people have actually asked me when I’m starting on that book.  I was even considering writing a scene from it, because it’s been calling to me a little, and I wanted to do something for that calling–

At the same time, though, I’ll admit:  I’m tired.  I told a friend last night that when you put almost sixteen months of your life into any project, you get tired of said project after a while.  It happens to the best of writers, and I imagine there are days when George R. R. Martin just wants to turn loose the Dragons of Westeros and torch the whole damn thing to the ground because he’s been working on the same stories for twenty years.

There is a real hesitation to get into the project again, to start on a second novel, because I may not have the energy needed to get into plotting everything out and start writing.  The good thing is I don’t need to make up any new characters, because save for a few people, they’re all there.  The bad news is I have no idea how long this sucker will turn out, and it scares me to think it could be huge.  The logical portion of my brain says that won’t be the case, but I won’t know–not until I plot it out.

While I was editing, however, I was contacted by other friends and asked if I wanted to get involved in another writing project.  And this sort of got me thinking, because it would be part of a collaborative effort, and that would mean I don’t have to do everything.  Also, it’s a change of pace, one that doesn’t involve throwing your body and soul into and coming out the other end of the wringer beat to hell and gone.

I’m looking forward to this, because it’s a change-up that I can use.  I’ll get back to Annie and Kerry when I’m ready–

After all, I’ll do their story more justice if I’m not exhausted all the time.

Writing at the Speed of Imagination

After a slow start to the day I’ve come back to a point where I am actually thinking straight, almost like a real person.  It’s wonderful that I’m not crashing out right about now.

Today I’m going to answer another reader’s question and this one is from Christy Birmingham, who I’ve followed for sometime as well.  Her question is simple:

 

What are your top three reasons for using Scrivener?

 

That’s an interesting question, because I’m not certain I can answer it sufficiently.  You see, there are so many different reasons why I use it, but let me see if I can break this down to something that makes sense.

 

One:  I can organize everything from the shortest story to the longest novel however I like.

 

Let me show you a few things.  First up is, believe it or not, the only real short story I’ve ever written, The Relocater, which clocks in at fifty-eight hundred words.  I wrote it in September, 2013, over the course of five nights, just to prove to myself that I could write a short story.

Looks kinda cute, doesn't it?

Looks kinda cute, doesn’t it?

There isn’t much to organize here, and Scrivener even has a short story template that allows you to just rip off some quick stories when you’re in the mood.  In this case I wanted quick and dirty, and that’s what I got.

Now, here is the novel I’m currently editing, Kolor Ijo:

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

Welcome back, my friend, to the show that never ends.

When I laid out this novel I’d used Scrivener for about fifteen months, so I had a better grasp of how I wanted to set up my novel.  You can see that here I’m setting things up in parts, and that each text file is really a chapter.  And since most are short and separated in action from each other, I can get away with having it neatly laid out this way.

Now, maybe you recognize this work . . .

Every time I think I'm finished, you pull me back in.

Every time I think I’m finished, you pull me back in.

This is, right here, the most advanced layout I’ve ever done, which is for, naturally, The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced.  And I should mention that the layout I have today is not the one with which I started.  When I began writing this in October, 2013, there were parts, there were chapters, there were scenes–but there were no acts.  It was only after I was close to finishing what is now Act One that I realized this story was gonna be huge, and trying to release it as one large tome might not be a good idea.  Therefore, I added the acts, began moving Parts into those Acts, and everything followed.  And that’s one of the things I love about the program.  However I want to set up my story, however I want to lay out my research, however I want to link to information from internal and external sources, I can.  It’s all up to you.  It’s even possible-though I haven’t tried it yet–to build your own template so these setups are available when you go to create a new project.  Like I’ll need with I write that B Level novel.

 

Two:  Write in one simple format, compile it into anything.

 

As a word processor Scrivener is simple:  it’s just text files where you can set margins, font styles, and font sizes.  You can so most everything that you can do in, say, MS Word, though for some functions you need to be hooked up to the Internet to get them to work, but who isn’t these days?  (And those functions are really needed to get the story written–I know; I’ve done that.)

But where the program really shines is in the area of how your final product look.  The Compile function is the formatting system of the program, and it makes it possible to just write lines of information in each text box, and by setting definitions in the Compile pop-up box, you can make the output look any way that makes you happy.

So many options, so little time to play with this stuff.

So many options, so little time to play with this stuff.

Most of the time I’ll compile into PDF format to look for errors and to send to beta readers, because you can’t change the stuff in that format–well, you can, but I have to trust my beta readers.  When I’m ready to send something up for self-publishing, I’ll compile the document to a Word .doc and run it through various checks as it’s converted into an epublishing format–

Which Scrivener will actually do for you.  .Epub and .Mobi are the two epiblishing formats supported by Scrivener, and if I remember correctly, Amazon will allow you to upload .mobi to Kindle Direct.  And those options on the left of the popup window?  Those are you selection and formatting options.  It’s actually possible to take plain, unaltered text an set your margins, fonts, and sizes in there, and have a ball getting your final product ready for whatever you like.  I haven’t explored all that because, well, it would take away from my writing.

And speaking of writing, the most important reason I use Scrivener:

 

Three:  It keeps everything I need for the story right in front of me.

 

Scrivener is not a word processing program:  it’s a project management program.  That’s why, when you go to create something new, you’re not creating a story or a short or a novel, you’re creating a project.  And into that project goes–

Everything.

Here’s something I’ve not shown much:  the research section for A For Advanced.

I seem to have an interest in aircraft . . .

I seem to have an interest in aircraft . . .

All that stuff on the left are things I slipped into the binder almost a year and a half ago, and some of the information I’ve kept updated, or even changed, as I went along with the story.  After all, the Spell List was being updated and added to constantly, because I’d come up with new things as I wrote.  But all the world building I did in October, 2013–it’s there.  Everything.  And up above I have information on students and who’s in every coven, and the levels and . . . you get the idea.

Now, in the picture above, there are four entries that look like little globes.  Those are interactive webpages that you can set up inside the project–you know, some of those functions that you need an Internet connection for?  Here’s what that looks like:

I seem to recall looking for these schedules back in 2013--

I seem to recall looking for these schedules back in 2013–

And the website is completely functional, so while I’m working on a scene, if I really needed to know the time for the train from Rockport–which, if you remember, is the end of the train line on Cape Ann and not that far from the school’s main gate–to Salem, it’s right here.  That was why I set this page up:  so I would have access to these schedules if they were needed.  And they will be–maybe.

The great thing is when it comes time to set up a project for B For Bewitching, I have an option to import another Scrivener project, so I’ll just zip all of this into that new project, delete what I don’t need, and keep the rest.  There you have it:  all my research is available for the new novel, with a little fuss as possible.

That’s pretty much it:  three main reasons why I use Scrivener.  There are a lot more, but those three are the biggest reasons.

And with reasons like those, I don’t really need any others.

The Path to Knowing is In the Missing

Here is an interesting quandary:  I was supposed to work on Kolor Ijo last night, because when you’re in the editing, you should edit, right?  And editing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, because the novel is only (I would put that in quotes but then it feels like I’m showing off if I do) twenty-four chapters long, with a prologue and a code that stretches it out to twenty-six chapters, the whole novel is sixty-eight thousand, eight hundred words total.  And nearly all of the chapters are short:  in Part One the longest chapter is just under three thousand words, and that was a standard with my last novel.

See?  Just little bitty chapters.  The good ol' days when you could rip off something like this in a month.

See? Just little bitty chapters. The good ol’ days when you could rip off something like this in a month.

The nice thing that comes from editing a work like this is that you can take your time reading the tome and see what needs to be changed, and what has to be changed.  I found a lot of interesting but messed-up sections in the chapters I’ve read, and without a careful re-reading, that crap would have slipped through.  That’s one of the hazards of NaNoWriMo:  you’re writing so quickly at times that words just flying into the page, and there are sentences where those words make no damn sense.  I found about a dozen of them so far, and it’s a scary thing, let me tell you.

But at the same time I’m editing this–and I should mention I’m taking my time editing, because I’m reading this once for the first time in over two years, and it’s taking me time to get to know the characters once again–I’m thinking about another couple–and you know who they are.  Over the weekend I began thinking about something that happens to the kids–here it comes–after they leave Salem, because they do have a life outside the reinforced walls of that environment, and the things that happened to them when the Real Annie and I started thinking about their lives at school have changed slightly.  Meaning their future has changed slightly as well.  This is a perfect example of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff going on, and one must adjust.

There are things that happen to them both that need to be adjusted, because what happened before was, frankly, a little strange.  Also, life is a little different in The World of the Foundation, and it’s pretty obvious that Annie has her sights set on doing something that she wants to make her own, and it seems likely that Kerry may follow in her footsteps.  They’re gonna be busy kids from their F Levels on for a couple of years, and later on into their lives.

In fact, one of the things I was time lining out was . . . hum, should I do this? Naw, better to keep you guessing and wondering.

I don’t need to wonder:  I know what’s coming.  In both the future and the past.

I just gotta get their on my own power.

 

Into the End at the Beginning

Yesterday was a busy day for me, as some of you may have noticed.  Two posts, a few videos–I did one that I posed in a group of the snowfall here in Harrisburg that was freaking everyone out–and then the late night videos I did on makeup.  I did a lot of editing.  I watched movies.  I listened to music.  I even started working on a segment of Annie’s an Kerr’s life that, in retrospect, needs to be changed, because given things that have happened to them in their A Levels, and things that will happen to them in the future, there are incidents in their lives that make no sense.

Today is Science Fiction Sunday on TCM, with Forbidden Planet starting at eleven, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind finishing up at eight, with a 2001 and 2010 interlude in-between, so I expect to spend most of the day watching that.  Three of those four movies are among my favorites, and these days I don’t get to see 2001 as much as I would like.  I have, however, watched the trailer the British Film Institute put out last year when they did a special release of 2001 on 28 November, 2014, and it’s a thing of beauty that always brings a tear to my eye.  Seeing it on a computer does not do it justice:  it needs to be seen on a huge screen with the sound system cranked all the way up.  And having seen this movie in theaters three times, I know what that’s like.

Today I answer another reader question, and this time it’s from Kim Jameson, another of my HodgePodge Crochet friends who knows the difference between a hook and a needle.  Her questions are a little like the one I answered yesterday, but at the same time they’re much different.

 

Do you plan your story and build a world ahead of time? Do you know the ending before you begin? How do you pick character names?

 

I’ll tackle the first one first, because it’s–first?  Actually it’s an easy one to answer, because I pretty much sorta answered it yesterday–

I am what is known in the writing business as a plotter, which means I figure out the story ahead of time before one word goes into the story.  I do that for a novel that’s gonna run a couple of hundred thousand words, and a story that will run ten thousand.  I do that so I don’t get lost about a third of the way in, thinking, “What do I do now?” and start thinking about the next story I could screw up the same way.  (Trust me, I’ve encountered this phenomenon more than a few times from other writers.)

And for really big stories, like A For Advanced, when you’re dealing with incredible events happening to a couple of kids who aren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary–beyond the extra-ordinary that’s already happening to them–one wants to make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up with unnecessary plot holes to fall through by winging the damn thing as you go along.  The entirety of the recollection of the dreams between Annie and Kerry, and getting Kerry to remember them, could have been screwed up completely if I didn’t know where they had been, and where they were going, story-wise, with the matter being further complicated by stretching the story out over a quarter of a million words.  Write that on the fly?  Not a chance.

And building a world ahead of time?  With A For Advanced I had to know as much about the World of The Foundation before I started writing about the events at Salem.  I knew the cities where The Foundation ran their business, the headquarter locations of the Protectors and Marshals and Guardians, and where every school The Foundation ran was placed and what they were named.  During the Day of the Dead attack, when Isis starts talking about schools she can no longer contact, though the names were mentioned that one time, they exist in a file, ready to be pulled up if I need that school, or another like it, in a future story.  When we are discussing a world-spanning organization that spends all its time hiding in plain sight, you better know where those hiding places are.

Do they all come to me at once?  No, not really.  I had the world built in October, 2013, before I started writing, but bits and pieces came to me as I went along.  The CDC as a Foundation location didn’t come to me until probably March or April of 2014, and that happened because I was thinking of using it in one of the future novels.  But it seemed perfect, and so it was used.  Now to see if any of the real underground bunkers I mentioned get used.  The show The 100 use Mount Weather as a location, so it’s not like it’s something new.

Do I know the ending before I begin a story?  Yes, pretty much.  Maybe I don’t have it locked down one hundred percent, but I know how a story will end before one word goes down.  That actually comes from something Issac Asimov once said:

 

Know your ending, I say, or the river of your story may finally sink into the desert sands and never reach the sea.

 

Since Issac wrote about everything and anything with fascinating clarity and intelligence, and did it hundreds of times throughout his life, I tend to believe he knew what he was doing when it came to the written word.  And I’ve seen this one happen many times before as well, where a writer who’s just pantsing the hell along (“Pantsing” is the term for a writer not knowing the story, but rather writing as it comes to them, like “I’m writing by the seat of my pants”) when, suddenly, they’re like, “Where the hell did my story go?  How the hell am I gonna finish this sucker?”  It’s fin and dandy to be a character in a Bob Seger song and just roll me away, but there exists the real possibility that because you have no real destination in mind your ass is gonna end up stranded in the middle of nowhere ’cause you ran outta gas, and then where you gonna be, bitch?

"This is as good a place as any to get lost and end up having buzzards stripping the drying flesh from my dead ass."

“This is as good a place as any to get lost and end up with buzzards stripping the drying flesh from my dead ass.”

And that last question:  how do I pick my character names?  That’s easy:  I just roll names around until I come up with something I like.  I might find a first name and think about last names to plug in, or a last and then look for a first, but that’s sort of it right there.  I may latch onto a famous name–Lovecraft was one that I used in A For Advanced, which I used for both a Founder of Salem and for Helena’s family name.  It was the same with Erywin’s family name, which was taken from the then recently deceased actress Elizabeth Sladen–or I may just pull out one that sounds good–Kerry’s family name is like that; it simply sounded right to me–but there’s nothing elaborate in the selection process.  Once I know it’s right, then it’s right.

There you are, a little more of that which makes me a writer unveiled for you.  And if you have any questions you want me to answer, have a go and post one.  You never know what I might say if I pick yours.

Building These Dark Satanic Mills

This has been an interesting morning so far, mostly because I’ve know what I wanted to write about since before crawling out of bed, and with coffee in hand I’ve been getting myself worked up towards said writing of post by tuning into the Brain Salad Surgery, more specifically track one of this recording, which is Jerusalem.  In case you’re not aware of that song, it was originally a poem written by William Blake in 1804, and later turned into a song by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.  And when you’re recording one of the seminal albums of the 1970s, why not open with your own version of an English hymn?

It’s from this song that the expression “Chariot of Fire” comes, and I’m certain you’ve all heard that one at some point, usually with Vangelis playing in the background.  It’s also where I get the title of today’s post, which has nothing to do with darkness, mills, or even Satan.  No, it has to do with a reader question, and this comes from one of my Facebook Hodgepodge Crochet buddies, Debbie Wisely, who asked the following:

 

Do you have characters in mind and then build a story around them or do you have a story in mind first and fit your characters to the story? How do you pick what city/state or country they reside in? Do you write or type the original work?

 

This is sort of a crazy question, and I’m going to answer the last question first, because it’s the easiest.  No, I don’t write by hand:  I type everything,  If I didn’t type I’d still be working on my first novel from over twenty years ago, because my handwriting is Teh Sux.  I can also type a lot faster than I can write by hand, and given I can’t spell worth a damn, or that I’m always making mistake when I’m writing, I’d be lucky to churn out a few hundred handwritten words a day.  So typing it is.  There you have it.

As for the other two–oh, boy.  Those are good.  So let’s talk about one of  my other novels that some of you might remember me writing, but which hasn’t seen the light of day.

I’m talkin’ Suggestive Amusements.

This was written from 31 December, 2012, to 26 March, 2013, while I was in the process of doing something before publishing Her Demonic Majesty.  I blogged about the writing of this novel back in the day, and I remember the finishing of the novel was memorable because of a dream I had when it was all over, a dream I can still remember today–but that’s not why we’re here, yeah?

How did this start?  Well, I had time on my hands because I’d just finished NaNoWriMo 2012, which I’d won by writing Kolor Ijo.  I was thinking of things to do, and if you want to know how I got this story going, it was with a vision of two people, a man and a woman, sitting in a living room.  The man was on a computer writing, and the woman was on a sofa looking at the guy while she was crocheting.  Seriously.  That’s the genesis of Suggestive Amusements:  guy writing, woman crocheting.

But who were they?  They guy writing–that’s pretty simple.  Or is it?  There’s more to his story, sure, there has to be, just like how at that time there was more to my story.  I drew on my own experience as a programmer/writer and sorta made the male character in question the same kind of people, only single, untroubled by gender issues, and a huge-ass slacker.  There you have him:  Keith.

Who’s the woman then?  Ah, well, that’s easy:  she’s there to inspire him.  She’s . . . I know!  She’s a muse, a real muse, like thousands of years old, creature without a real beginning, being that’s there to bring you inspiration muse.  That’s Erin.  Not her real name, of course, just like her sister’s name–Talia, who you get to meet in the story–isn’t her real name.  but do you want to call them by the Greek names by which they’re remembered?  Nope, it’s too much of a mouthful.  So Erin it is.

Something else was needed, however.  I mean, come on, we know what’s needed:  a love triangle!  I need another woman, and she shall be called Elektra, because I like the name.  And since we’re dealing with these ancient muses who are known mostly through Greek Mythology, why not stay with that Grecian naming motif?  So there you are, Elektra.

With this novel–with most of my novels–I have the characters in place first.  I get to know them, who they are, what they need, what they’re looking for, and once I know that I start building the story around them.  I have the basic idea of what’s going on with the characters, so it’s now a matter of building the plot–

But as the second part of the question indicates, how do I know where the story takes place?

And the answer there is whatever strikes my fancy.  In this case I wanted a place that I knew something about, but not a great deal.  And that place was Las Vegas, because what hit me was, “I’ve never written about the desert area, and just about all the stories of Vegas revolve around casinos, gamblers, the mob, and Nic Cage drinking himself to death with help from a friendly whore.  Why not build a fantasy there?”

That’s how Las Vegas and the areas surrounding the city became the setting for the novel.  But wait!  While writing the story, I started to think about Elektra’s backstory, and realized she was like a lot of people in the city, she came from somewhere else, and she blew into town with a lot of baggage.  After a lot of thought and consultation with Google Maps, I decided that Elektra was a New Mexican woman from the Alamogordo, a place known as “The Friendliest Place On Earth” and the home of a whole lot of giant ants.  And in that process of knowing where she was from–and trust me, I knew–I set up an adventure for her, traveling from one end of New Mexico to another, before eventually heading into Arizona and onward into Nevada and my main setting.

I came about all these places because I just felt it was right.  I knew, because by that point I knew my characters, that this is where they were from, and why they were here.  I do this with everything:  when I’m setting up places for my characters I start looking at maps and I wonder, “Where would these people live?  Where would they work?  Why are they here?”  And little by little I start putting it together until my thoughts reach a critical mass and it becomes real.  Just like I did with my current story:  why did the Salem Institute for Greater Education and Learning end up where it did?  Because it is supposed to be there.  I know this because I know this.

And now you know how I usually start putting my stories together.  Maybe not the same way every time, but close enough that if you wanted to know how I get the writing party started, you now know.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

One last thing, however:  while I was working on Suggestive Amusements, a slight break in the action occurred in the 1 March, 2013 post titled The Sofa by the Hearth.  And there you’ll find mention that I was missing a couple of characters from my life, and I was thinking about an event that happened to them every weekend, and, well, maybe it was time I started writing about them–something I’d start doing in earnest eight months later.

That was truly the moment, almost two years ago, that I’d decided to begin work on their story.

If I’d only known then how that was going to turn out . . .

Revisiting Old Horrors

I have to confess:  while I was editing another project I realized that I was missing something, and I think you know what I was missing.  When is put down almost sixteen months of your life to a single project, you tend to put your heart into said project, and now that it’s not in my life at the moment, things feel lonely and just a little bit empty.

I was looking for ways to keep busy after editing, a little of which was done by catching both Judgement at Nuremberg (a movie I’d only seen the first fifteen minutes of a long time ago), and Dr. Strangelove (which I’ve seen dozens of times and never get tired of seeing, only because I want to exceed my authority and launch a nuclear attack), so I sat down and did something I started on a few days ago.  And that something looks a little like this:

You also now know when the Last Madness of the 2013/2014 school year is held.

You also now know when the Last Madness of the 2013/2014 school year is held.

I’ve always been curious about the time line of the “books”–I guess I can call them that now–and now I know.  The first three are the “shortest” in terms of calendar time, with A For Advanced the shortest of them all.  Why?  Because it picks up right as the kids are getting ready to leave for Salem, and any discussion of their summertime fun is seen in flashback.  The time between the B and C Level books is deliberate:  the story, as I see it in my head, actually starts on 2 June, then immediately flashes back to the night before.  Why?  You’ll have to wait for me to write it, that’s why.  But it does, because I know how it starts.

And the last three novels, particularly the last two, cover a year in their lives.  In reality, there’s almost no break in the story between the start of the B Level book and the end of the F Level one, save for the month that passes between the D and E Level novels–and you’ll know what’s going to happen in that month because it’ll be discussed at the end of the D Level novel.

There you go:  I know the road.  Just have to write it now.  And know that between the screen borders on the left and right of that shot, I know just about everything that happens to my kids.  Everything.

But this didn’t keep me up all night.  Nope.  I got into something else . . .

First off, I finally moved my Foundation novels off my computer drive and placed them on my external drives for safe keeping.  It’s a sad thing, I know, but when I’m finished writing those stories I move them away for safe keeping.  And in return I moved something back onto my computer–

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

I started editing Kolor Ijo last night, and let me tell you, it’s so different to go back into a work you haven’t actually laid eyes on for over two years and started reading it again.  As you can see I began editing the Prologue, and . . . oh, boy.  Was it a little rough?  Yes.  Has my style changed?  Tremendously.

Reading the prologue was like reading the writing of another author.  I was trying for a style and it felt clumsy, as if it were almost experimental.  That comes from writing a whole lotta stuff since then–probably close to 600,000 words if you include the end of my latest novel, and not include this blog.  It was a little tough getting through the work, and I ended up not only re-writing certain portions, but I cut out about fifty words.  That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s likely closer to a hundred when you take into consideration what I rewrote.

This is something I’m doing.  My mind is on other things, too, but I do want this story edited and even published.  I miss Salem, but I miss some of my other characters as well.

And it’s a change of pace to go back into the horrors of the past.

The Characters That Are In My Life

Last night was just a bit boring.  I worked on a project at Panera, but I didn’t get real far with it before my head wasn’t in the right spot.  It was slow going.  Perhaps tonight will be better, with the right mind set and a nice dinner and some coffee here, because I have stuff to do.  You know . . . things.

I did make another map, though.  What does it look like?

Looks kinda . . . mappy.

Looks kinda . . . mappy.

It’s amazing where my imagination takes me when I let it.  And there is a scene associated with this map that, when I get around to writing it, will melt your hearts.  Well, at least mine.  It melted mine last night.  And it’s another of those that needs a drawing, but . . . it sorta has one already

But today I thought I’d answer a reader’s question.  So, for the first question to answer, I turn to a read who has enlightens and frustrated me to no ends at times, just because.  I’m smiling when I say that, because there have been some great conversations around my characters.  So take it away for the first question!

 

Renxkyoko Iglesias
I’d like to know who the characters are that you most relate to. You can also talk about the characters that you like most, besides Annie and Kerry.

 

First off, this is a bit of a trick question, because when it comes to relating to characters, Kerry is number one with a bullet.  As I’ve mentioned before, Kerry came about original from a role playing game, and if you know anything about role playing, you’ll know it’s not all that difficult to throw a bit of yourself into the mix when you’re throwing numbers down on the page.  More than a few of the things that have happened to his so far in the story happened to me, and I’ve drawn on that hurt a lot when I needed him to hurt.

I would not be lying if I said I’ve Mary Sued him just a bit, and I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with it, and at the same time I’m a bit hurt by it as well, because when you’re writing about characters who are somewhat stylized versions of yourself, you try not to make them too good, or give them too many nice things.  Kerry has a lot of flaws, not the least of which are his fears of being abandoned and of going through life not having anyone.  Now, the “not having anyone” fear isn’t as much any more, not since he returned completely to his Annie, but the fact that he freak out in the first place thinking she was leaving him is pretty much the proof in the one hundred and twelve ounce can of pudding that he isn’t completely free of his doubts, and that will come back to haunt him from time-to-time.

Kerry has something at his age that I didn’t have, and that’s love.  He feels it from Annie, and he loves her back tremendously.  That’s the thing when you write about characters who possess extensions of your own essence:  you can give them thing you desire, and he has that with Annie.  Kerry would move a mountain for that girl, and . . . well, you’ll see.  One day.  If I ever get around to writing that particular novel.

Now, what about characters I like the most.  That’s easy.  They are, with their birthday’s included:

Erywin Sladen (10/23/1967), Helena Lovecraft (03/29/1968), Deanna Arrakis (06/26/1985), and Wednesday Douglas (06/11/1986).

Of all of these characters, Helena was created first, and she’s went through the most changes.  I’ve admitted that she was based upon Lucy Lawless, in particular the character she played in Battlestar Galatica.  But as I started putting this world together I didn’t like that she was just another Basic White Girl, and I started thinking:  what if her mother’s line were still witches, but they were native to New Zealand?  What if they were Māori?  What if Helena’s grandmother was the first Māori to go to Salem, and ended up becoming Head Sorceress for a while?  What if Helena’s father–also a witch–married her mother against the wishes of his family?  What if . . ?

And that’s how Helena changed into the dark haired, black eyed, tattoo markings, take no nonsense woman she is today.  And, I believe, a far more interesting one that I first developed.  Others went through similar changes, but Helena pretty much changed the most.

Deanna is an Iraqi woman.  She was born there but her parents left in 1989 and moved to France.  Mother is a doctor, father is a manager of procurement for a shipping company.  Her family is Muslim, but pretty moderate in their practice.  Deanna used to wear a hijab when she first attended Salem–it was her own choice, not that of her parents–but after the Scouring she began to wear it less often, and by the time she was an E Level she’d stopped the practice, though she still tends to favor long skirts and slacks and jeans, sweaters in the winter and lovely, colorful tunics in the fall, spring, and summer.

We know Wednesday also played a part in the Scouring, and Isis and she pretty much did something that saved the school.  We also know that Wednesday’s father was a former Russian spy, was relocated to Arizona, and eventually wound up in Austria working for a pharmaceutical company.  Wednesday got her name because that’s the day on which she was born–look up the date if you don’t believe me.  Of all the instructors Wednesday is the most easy going, and the one who seems to relate to her students on a person level–though we know she’s not the only one.

Last but not least there’s Erywin, who is probably my favorite character of the whole bunch.  She’s a witch, a Wiccan, and a lesbian, and I’d always developed her that way.  I’ve also developed her with a relationship with Helena in mind, too, and she’s always been forward and outspoken–mostly because as a kid she put up with a huge amount of crap.  She relates to Kerry the most–as Helena relates to Annie–because she sees a lot of herself in the lad, with a few interesting parallels in their lives, too.

It’s interesting to see them lined up in my head.  Erywin has always been style conscious, and it shows in the way she dresses.  Helena is pretty casual and not a bit scary with her black slacks and thick heels booties, her dark pullover and her long, leather jacket.  Deanna is colorful and modest, and the most demure of the women, and Wednesday is just like the students she teaches:  open, friendly, and not a bit wild.  I can see them in my mind’s eye, looking a little like Disney characters . . .

An interesting thing about them, though.  Erywin and Helena are lesbians, and Wednesday–even though she’s in a relationship with Isis–considers herself bisexual.  Deanna is straight, and someone has her in his sights–she knows that Trevor Parkman finds her “interesting”.  Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

And they are only a year apart from the person next to them.  Erywin is a year older than Helena, and Deanna is a year older than Wednesday.  Also, Erywin is a coven leader, as is Deanna–must be the age thing.  Because witches age slower, Erywin and Helena can pass for their early to mid-thirties, Deanna looks college age, and Wednesday could, with the right outfits, pass for a teenager.

There you go.  I hope that answered most everything.