Preparing the Firing Line

It all feels a bit strange this morning, as I progress with the development of the novel, and in particular the latest scene.  According to my record I’ve written almost sixteen hundred words since yesterday morning, and yet, it feels like I’ve written almost nothing.  Perhaps this is due to having a lot on my mind of late, and feeling a lot of distractions all around as I work upon this final chapter of Act One.

Also, last night, I was screwing around with a map route an trying to fill out the spell list, so that only added to the feeling that all is not as well in Salem as it should.  What is more likely is that I’m just freaking myself out over nothing, and given that I’ll probably start on the next scene this afternoon, as well as start on my first television review of the AMC show Humans tonight, this later hypothesis doesn’t require a great deal of testing to ring true.

But you don’t want to hear that, do you?  You want to see, not be told.  Seeing it is, then.

Homunculi and training torsos are in place, and Professor Chai has jaunted out of the house.  What does this mean?  You know it won’t take long to get to that point . . .

 

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

Now that they were alone, Kerry decided it was time to ask questions. “What’s up today, Sweetie?” He came over and joined her. “What’s up with—” He ran a hand lightly over the red cabinet. “—these?”

Annie took a deep breath before answering. “I spoke with Helena Tuesday night while you were in class. She wanted to know how our development was coming along.”

He didn’t need to ask about development in what. “You mean in sorcery?”

“And in transformation magic. We told her and the others last school year that I would teach you and you would teach me.” She gave him the slightest of smiles. “Helena wanted an update on where we were.”

“And what did you tell her?”

“The truth, my love. I said including the spells we learned in class last year, you knew Shadow Ribbons and Cold Fire, that you knew how to charge a Fireball and Air Hammer with dark energy, and that you could do the same with normal spells. Along with Physical Shields you were developing Minor Spell Shields and that you’d start on the major version of that . . .” She paused only long enough to catch her breath. “I also said that as far as Morte spells were concerned you were well versed with the minor version of Electrify, but that you hadn’t quite mastered the spell, and that you were starting to develop Exsanguination.”

 

As pointed out yesterday, it’s scary enough to know these two can toss around fireballs powerful enough to light up a large bonfire, but then you add in the Shadow Ribbons and C0ld Fire and dark versions of shields and Air Hammers, and it becomes a bit more frightening knowing how formidable they are–which, of course, a majority of the school doesn’t know, but can only guess.

But what about these death spells?  Well . . .

 

Kerry dropped his gaze towards the floor. He’d kept his birthday promise from last year, when he’d told Annie that he’d walk with her and become a Guardian—as she had put it, she wanted him to be “her Dark Witch—but learning Exsanguination hadn’t progressed beyond the visualization stage. He pointed to the cabinets. “I guess it’s time to do more than start developing.”

“Yes, it is. Helena said she wants you to reach my understanding and use of the spell as soon as possible: Her reasoning is that, should the need arise, we’ll complement each other with equal knowledge of both Morte spells, and that will make us more formidable should we—” She slowly arched her brow. “—run into another situation where we need those spells.

“While I teach you that, she wants you to help me improve my mastery of Electrify, since you have a better understanding of the spell.”

 

There you have it:  Helena worries they may encounter another . . . situation . . . and so the best thing to do is be more bad ass.  Just wait until Helena has kids of her own:  those will be some scary youngsters.  Just like Mom was when she went to witch school.

But is that all?  Of course not!

 

“It’s not.” Her gaze locked on to that of her soul mate. “I’m going to show you how to do Shadow Net, which is another Shadow Discipline, and can be used to restrain or capture someone. There’s also Blend With Darkness, which is also a Shadow Discipline and works something like Light Bending.”

“Why do we need that if we can already bend light?”

“It’s far harder to detect, especially at night. At low levels you are invisible and you can move seamlessly from shadow to shadow, but at higher levels you become completely insubstantial.” Annie’s eyes twinkled as she grinned. “Helena said it’s just like being an astral form within the Physical Realm: people can walk right through you and never know you were there.”

Kerry couldn’t help but smile as well. “Like being a ghost.”

“Exactly. Now, that’s what I am supposed to show you—” She tapped him on the chest. “You, my love, are to show me what you’ve learned as far as Minor Personal Transformations are concerned. We know you’re working on changing your features, because Jessica is speaking with Helena so she’s aware of everything you’re doing that class.”

“Guess I can’t hide anything from you guys.” He pulled Annie close and wrapped her up in an embrace. “How do you want to do this, my little pumpkin?”

 

No, death spells aren’t enough:  time to rock those transformations and Shadow Disciplines.  Blend With Darkness was what Isis used during The Scouring, but she could, and still does, only use it at a minor level:  as Annie mentions, once you’re using it at higher levels, you are a shadow.  And how does one combat a magic wielding shadow?

Just ask The Doctor:  he hates fighting shadows.

Become one with the Vashta Nerada.  And eat all the chicken you like.

There’s also transformation spells that Kerry is learning that, according to what Annie has learned from Helena, will allow him to change his features.  Meaning what?  Remember Jessica showing up at last year’s Samhain dance looking like a Na’vi?  Or Emma looking like a katana-swinging, zombie-killing woman of color?  Those are pretty good examples of “changing your features,” and if they figure these out quickly, they could be very popular with other students looking for costume ideas in a couple of weeks.  If not, there’s always next year . . .

The novel sort of looks like this now–

Moment by moment, scene by scene.

Moment by moment, scene by scene.

And what’s this?  A subscene!  My first of the story.  Given that it’s called Dark Witch Frustration, it could mean that Annie or Kerry, or both, are running into a bit of difficulty with this particular lesson–

Seeing the Final Scene

More than a few times in the past I’ve discussed the programs I’ve used to help define a story, lay out a time line, or even help design a local so I have a better idea of what it looks like when I’m trying to develop the description.  And in the course of his novel I’ve used them all to make each of those things more or less come alive–

All save one.

If you were paying attention at the end of the excerpt yesterday–and I know you were–you saw the kids welcomed to the Sea Sprite Inn.  What is it?  It’s a fictional bed and breakfast just a half a block south of a real bed and breakfast on the same street.  It’s location is right on shore of Salem Harbor, and though there’s a residence there now I’m sure they won’t mind that I’m uprooting them.  It should also be pointed out that they’re directly across the street from The House of the Seven Gables, which makes it even easier to find.

Oh, and it’s owned by The Foundation and run by an alumnus of my magical school.  That sort of thing happens, you know.  Hiding in plain sight and all.

One of the things about the Sea Sprite Inn is that it becomes a focal point for Annie and Kerry in this novel, and while I’ve known so much about the school itself and some of the other locations they’ve visited, I’ve considered the Sea Sprite for a while but had no idea what their room was like.  (Oh, and if you hadn’t figure out that their “special accommodations” involved them sharing a room, you haven’t been paying attention.)

I was pretty much exhausted last night after coming home from work; I ended up nodding off in a chair about six-thirty, and wasn’t functioning at peak performance for most of the evening.  But I still had enough hand-eye coordination to be able to put things together visually, so I thought, “Why not design their room?”  And I did.

Here’s the program I used:  Sweet Home 3D, which is an open source program that you can get free with a few bare bones items that you use for furniture, or you pay fifteen dollars from Amazon and get it with a whole lot of items to make your design look like a real place.  I’ve had the free version for a while, but last night I sprung for the Amazon copy and set it up on my machine.

Here’s the interface, by the way, with the finished room and some . . . additions.

Pay no attention to those kids on the bed.  They could be anyone.

Pay no attention to those kids on the bed. They could be anyone.

You design the room or rooms in the top right, you get a 3D scene of it below, and to the left you have your furniture and items along with a list of what you have and if you want it visible.  You can change the size and proportions of everything and then save it off to your hard drive.

The room is good sized:  twenty feet by thirty.  There’s a large bay window to the south, giving them a great view of the harbor.  The bed is actually a canopy bed:  I’m going to hunt for a download tonight and see if I can find one to stick in the room in place of the one there.  Because this floor of the B & B is reserved for Foundation people, there’s enough room to conjure up just about anything you want in the room, which explains all the space there.  I mean, why leave things laying about when you can magically bring them up when you need them.

The nicest function is the 3D view, which allows you to see what you’ve created.  You can even use the program to get a snap shot of your view and store it on your hard drive, if you were of a mind–

I am of that mind.

I am of that mind.

And since you can rotate the view around to just about any point, you can get a lot of different shots.

Like looking into the room from the outside.

Like looking into the room from the outside.

One of the things I played with last night, though, was a video walk through.  Pretty much it’s a movie of what it might look like if you were to entered the room and look about from the inside, and one of the last things I did before going to bed was make one and upload it to my account on YouTube.  The picture quality isn’t that great, because my machine won’t handle the massive rendering needed for a near perfect look, but it’s good enough that you’ll get the idea.

So there you have it:  the final location designed.  And that’s a pretty neat thing when you think about it, because this really all began with me designing Annie’s Lake House, which became the first scene in the novel.  Now we’ve come full-circle and I’ve designed the last new location for the last scene in the book.

Time to go in and finish this off.

Anxiety and Affection

Some people don’t like new technology–some don’t like it, period.  Last night I was going to do something with my new video camera, and technology decided to bite me in the butt.  Hard.

"Don't worry:  I totally got the shot.  No problems, right?"

“Don’t worry: I totally got the shot. No problems, right?”

Getting the shot isn’t the problem, though, is it?

"It's an eight minute video--why are you going to hell on me?  Why?"

“It’s an eight minute video–why are you going to hell on me, you demon computer? Why?”

That was me last night.  Every time I shot a video that lasted more than, say, five minutes, the software I was using to download it to my computer had fits.  Lots of fits.  As in, “I ain’t gonna be your coded slave, bitch.  You figure out another way to get this down.  Bwah, hahaha.”

It was very frustrating to say the least.  But, in the end, I figured out the problem and managed to get the first video up to YouTube.  And . . . I may reshoot it, because it was done in poor light.  Hard to say what I’ll do, because by the time I managed to get it up there, I was pretty frustrated by the whole process.  Then again, it’s new for me, so there’s a learning curve.

What this also did was cut into my writing time.  I managed almost seven hundred words, but I’d wanted more.  Tonight I need to go shopping, so that will cut into time–

Oi.  What’s a girl to do?

My kids went to a bonfire after the dance and walked back to the center of the school, so when finally reach a point where they can rest, it’s late–probably the latest they’ve ever been up.  And this happens . . .

 

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

Rather than take the return portal back to the Great Hall, she asked if they could walk back. Since the temperature was dropping, Kerry asked if she would like to take the tunnels back, but Annie refused; she’d brought the beautiful crocheted shawl her grandmother had made for her earlier in the year and it kept her warm; the path back to The Pentagram was illuminated; and she was wearing flats.  She didn’t see a single problem . . .

She wanted to enjoy the darkness and silence with Kerry by her side, hand in each other’s hand.

Neither broke the silence all the way back to Founder’s Gate. Never once did Kerry even seem as if he were going to speak: to Annie it felt as if he knew she wanted to linger in the quiet night and enjoy the spark between them, and would only speak when Annie was ready to speak. He knows my moods and perhaps my thoughts. Once inside The Pentagram she turned him onto the second left hand garden path instead of entering the Great Hall. She knew it would be cavernous and dark inside; here there was still the abstract indirect light that made walking though the Pentagram Garden at night such an enjoyable and loving experience.

It wasn’t until they were nearly to the opening of the covered walkway leading to their tower than Annie uttered her first words since leaving the bonfire. “Moyata polovinka.” She slowly ran her left finger down the Kerry’s left arm.

He waited until she was finished before responding. “What does that mean?”

“Moyata polovinka—” She stopped the moment they stepped onto the path between Cernunnos Tower and the Great Hall. “My soulmate.” She gently pressed against Kerry and gave him a peck on the cheek. “If you say the last as two words it’s moyata srodna dusha.”

“Moyata polovinka.” Annie thought Kerry’s pronunciation was almost spot on, though the accent needed work. “I like how that rolls off the tongue.”

“You can say it in a much softer, gentler tone, too.” She tugged on Kerry’s arm. “Let’s sit at our bench.”

 

Our bench, our sofa . . . our time together.  It’s starting to get real serious here, and I’m gonna try to get to that tonight, at some point.  But I’m getting there.

If I’ve not pulled what little hair I have left out by then.

Back to the Beginning of the Beginning

How did I start writing my current work in progress, The Foundation Chronicles?  It started with designing buildings.

The main characters in the story, Kerry and Annie, were originally created for an online role play.  I made Kerry, and a good friend of mine created Annie.  We played these characters for a few months, but with most good things the role play came to an end and the characters were shelved.  In the process of building the game there was a great deal of material the two of us developed, both characters and world-wise–

However, I was always pushed to show the buildings, to show the grounds, the show the towers.  My partner in crime kept after me to make maps and building layouts, and being that I was the sort of person who loved doing that kind of thing, I obliged.

It was from there that the Salem Institute of Greater Learning and Education was built.  It was from there that we named our covens, and the buildings, and figured out where everything went.  It was a great learning experience for that fantastic summer of 2011.

Over the next two years I thought a great deal about writing about these character’s adventures.  Even while working on other projects, the story of Annie and Kerry was never far from my mind.  Kerry I knew, but Annie was always a problem for me, because I wanted to get her right, and she wasn’t my creation, at least not at the beginning.  So it took a lot of thinking to get where I wanted to be with her, and I probably tortured myself for a year thinking about her motivations, her feelings, what she wanted the most.

So after I’d finished publishing Her Demonic Majesty in May of 2013, I decided it was time to tackle the tales of Salem.  I didn’t want to start right in on Annie and Kerry, but rather I wanted to do something else that would help build The Foundation World, but at the same time introduce a number of characters that would end up in their world.  I decided that for Camp NaNo, July 2013, I’d write The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, a story of a traumatic event that occurred just before the end of the Twentieth Century.

While speaking to Annie’s creator about the upcoming story, we started talking about Annie’s Lake House.  This is an important location, a place that plays in a lot of scenes not only in my current book, but will have a place in the hearts of both children in their future.  And I wanted to see what it looked like, inside and out.

So it was time to get into the software and design.  I used a program that would allow me to make floor layouts and then show the building in three dimensions.  I could even place furniture inside and imagine the scenes that hadn’t been written yet.

The building that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

The house that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

And there it all was, the house that little spoiled Annie pestered her father to build.  With living room and dining table and kitchen, a library and a private bedroom, and the loft guest area overlooking the ground floor below.  And the wall of windows facing to the south, keeping the house illuminated from morning to nightfall.

I showed it to Annie’s creator and she loved it, even going so far as to say it was perfect.  To hear those words made me feel wonderful, and empowered me to prepare to get my world ready–

Because if I was going to write the story I wanted to work, I needed to build something else:  my Great Hall.  I knew it in my mind, I saw it in my imagination, so it became necessary to lay out with floor plans that would display it as I’d displayed Annie’s Lake House.

I wasn’t able to created it fully, because my computer couldn’t handle all the rendering needed.  But I did most of it, and . . . it was so worth while.

Because if you're going for "Great", you best go all the way.

Because if you’re going for “Great”, you best go all the way.

I had building all created:  I had my Atrium and Rotunda, the Library, the Security Center and the Instructor’s and Headmistress’ Offices.  There was the Clock Tower and the Transepts, the Hospital and the Dining Hall.  It took me about a week of work, but when I looked at this building, I saw my Great Hall.

I was just about ready to write.  Except–

I needed a school.

Tools for the Making

I’ve been around software a large part of my life.  I started taking classes in computer programming in 1979, and began writing code for real in 1982.  Most of what I’ve written has ended up on IBM boxes, though I have dabbled in web based applications, including one that took the better part of a year to write because I ended up slinging about fifteen thousand lines of code before it was all over.

Even today I’m coding.  That’s my day job:  playing code monkey for the State of Pennsylvania.  As it is said, it pays the bills, though after thirty years of it I’m ready for something else.  That’s one of the reasons why I write, because I’d like to be able to work on my projects full-time and not have to spend nine to ten hours a day engaged in endeavors that hold very little interest for me.  I also write because I love to tell tales, but I would love it were it to become my full-time job.

Because I’ve found myself so connected to software for so long, I find dealing with it to be somewhat intuitive.  Most writing software seems to follow a pattern for me, and once I get the basics down the more difficult stuff tends to come once I’ve had time to play with things.  I’ll find something that looks interesting and mess around, get a feel for what I can do, and if it works for me I’ll keep it.  If not, I file the information away just in case it is something I can use later.  Most of what’s in a program really falls under a 40/60 rule:  about forty percent of the stuff in a program is gonna be your go-to stuff, and the other sixty percent is there if you find a reason to use it.

Yesterday’s post received a lot of attention.  Probably because of the pretty picture I included with all kinds of time lines and talk of history, but I have received a bit of feedback about the things I’ve done and what I’ve used to get there.  I’ve written about software a bit in the past, and most of the time the responses I’ve gotten are great.  Sure, I’ve gotten a few, “I never plan anything, ur a hack,” comments, but I tend to laugh at those these days, because who needs that negative energy?

"No, I don't need negitivity in my life:  that's what my job is for."

“No, I don’t need negativity about my writing: that’s what my job is for.”

Since I have time, I thought I’d spend a few days talking about my process:  how I set things up, how I get things plotted out, how I try to tie things together to make my story coherent, what I do with the software I use.  I’ve done a little of this from time-to-time, but this would be with a little, or lot, more detail.  And since I’m intimately tied into my current work in progress, it’ll make a good test bed for discussion.

The hope is that someone will see something that I do, and imagine how it might work for them.  As I told someone last night–someone who was like, “Most writers say they just write”–what I do works for me; what you do will work for you.  That doesn’t mean you might not see something that looks like it might work for you and use it, however, so why not throw that out there?

It’s always worth throwing things out there and seeing what happens.

The Tunnel at the End of the Tunnel

Today is Snowmaggdon in The Burg.  People are freaking out because we are expecting one to three inches of the white stuff.  Um . . . yeah.  I’m from Chicago.  One to three inches of snow is otherwise known as “Tuesday” back home.  Let me know when it gets serious.

Back at my school, where they also laugh at one to three inches of snow because it’s New England and you’re right on the Atlantic Ocean, and that’s still flip-flop weather, I’m out of The Chunnel and into a smaller tunnel leading to Flight School.  My kids got tired of amateur insults and one of my characters finally had to lay some Cymraeg on the girl in question, and admitted to Annie that he’d just cursed, telling her in English what he’d said.  Gasp!  Eleven year olds cursing.  Yeah, it happens.  Just wait until one of my instructors loses it, which does happen later in the story.  It’s a thing of beauty.  It’s also a good thing this is a private school . . .

Walking home from work I positively, pretty much sorta, figured that I’ll need to split the story up into three sections.  Yeah, a lot going on for one year of school, but it is what it is.  As much, if parts of the story are shorter, then I can just cut it in half, or if it ends up under two hundred thousand words, then I just keep it as one.  Maybe.  This is one of those things I’m keeping in my head as I go along, and that I can change at any time because Scrivener makes it easy.  Just plug and play, people.  It’s that simple.

I was surprised, however, that I managed a little more than eleven hundred words last night.  I wasn’t feeling the story that much, but somehow in a forty minutes period I laid down almost seven hundred words, so inspiration must have come at me from somewhere.  It is strange how that happens, but at the same time it’s good when it does.

Speaking of inspiration, I have things to give away!  No, really, I do.

See, I won NaNoWriMo again, and I have all these goodies that I don’t need because, well, I either don’t need them or I already have to software.  Like, I have discount codes for Scrivener and Aeon Timeline, and I won’t use them because I already have both, and it’s Use It or Lose It time for those babies.

Instead, I’m going to give those away.  Actually, I have codes for the following:

Get Two Free Books from CreateSpace (Must have NaNo account)
50% off on Scrivener writing software for Mac OS X and Windows
50% off Storyist for Mac for NaNoWriMo winners
Save 40% on Aeon Timeline to Plan Your Next Draft or Next Novel
Book Country congratulates winners with 30% off an eBook publishing package, special placement, and double your marketing value with free BookStubs
50% off Spark Anthology
BiblioCrunch Gives 50% off Author Concierge Service for NaNoWriMo winners ($120 value)

There.  I’m giving it all away.  I don’t need it, so if you want it, it’s yours.

However . . .

I’m not standing in the middle of the street givin’ away money.  Here’s what you do.

Go into the comments and leave a message telling me what you’d like, but also telling me what your next story is going to be.  Tell me in . . . lets make it simple:  seventy-five words or more.  Yeah, go for it.  Oh, and leave your email address–though if you’re on Facebook you can look up sweet little Cassidy and PM that to me.

I’ll read the comments, and based on what I think will be the best use of whatever you want, then you’ll get.

Simple, right?

Just like walking through a tunnel–

Eventually you come out the other side.

 

Timelines and the Aeon

It finally arrived yesterday:  Aeon Timeline for Windows.  They mentioned in their email that they were sorry that it’d taken them longer than they’d imagined to write this version, but here it was, ready to go.  But it’s go time, and here it is.

So what have we got?  Let me see if my computer will let you see.

You always start out with a splash page asking ETstartyou what sort of timeline you need.  I’m not picky so I go with the standard BCE to AD, and I’m off.  What comes up is pretty standard, and you’ll notice that you tend to start near the beginning of your current year.  There are ways to get around that.  It has a little of the Scrivener feel, with the Inspector (even has the same name) set up on the right side of the screen, and a big “I” to toggle it on and off.

One of the things that’s extremely nice with the software is it’ll allow you to set up your own fantasy calendars.  This could work very well with my Transporting stories, which mostly take place on a world with a twenty-eight hour day, and a year that’s about three hundred and thirteen of those days long.  That’s my next thing that I’m going to spend time playing–

But for now, I wanted to see how it would look with an existing time line.  That was my play time yesterday.  And here’s what I found . . .

It looks a little like a standard timeline ETStart02when you start mucking about in the simple stuff.  Everything points to a time at the top, and if you look at the sliding bar at the bottom, you can sort of make out where things are located in time, so to speak.  At it’s simplest it’s kind of crazy looking, and if you’ve never worked with time lines a lot, it might not make sense.

The Inspector allows ETStart03you to open up a spot and change, or even add, information.  You can color code your events, you can add tags and then search for things in your timeline based upon those tags.  A nice feature is being able to see how long an event takes place; in this case, the scene lasts for forty-five minutes.  Aeon will set your event to the easiest thing to determine, so if you set an event to take a day and a half, it’ll tell you that event lasts for eighteen hours.  If you try to say it takes one and a half days, Aeon will adjust the time in the event to the nearest day,  I discovered this by trial and error; now you know.

But I need more detail, what can I do?  For that you have Arcs and Entities.  And they are so much fun.

Arcs allow you to segregate things based on ETStart04people and things.  Suddenly I’ve open things up a little, and now I have things that happen globally, and things that happen to individuals.  You can turn the arcs on and off as you like, so one can narrow information down even further.

Then you have Entities, and these can be anything–people, places, organizationsETStart05, whatever.  Straight up Entity Mode lets you see what happens to whom and where.  You can even decide if your entities were active participants in an event, or just an observer.  You’re now linking people to things, crime writers, and you know where things are happening and who was there.

And when I ETStart06turn it all on . . .

Right here you have the full monty, entities and personal histories if you so like.  It’s all scrollable and expandable, and tonight I’m going to see about drawing one timeline into another, because that’s how I roll.

It’s $40, but if you have the Scrivener winner’s code from last year (I did), it’s $24.  More fun, more craziness, more software for writing.

What more can a girl ask for?