Welcome to the Underworld

After noon came and went yesterday I had to head and do a few things, and came down with a serve case of motion sickness.  This has happened to me a few times in the past couple of weeks, and it’s been a real pain in the butt.  Yesterday was particularly bad, but I think part of it started of with me having a bad case of the caffeine shakes when I left the shop.  Since I’ve stopped drinking coffee at work, I believe two cups is quickly becoming my limit for coffee ingestion.  Can’t have that these days.

I ended up taking a long nap in a cool room, and felt better, but I really didn’t have much in the way of writing chops in me at that point, not to mention that last night was recap night, and I needed to save my fingers for the sixteen hundred words I was gonna type in an hour–for reals.  But there are other creative endeavors one can get up to as well, one of which–as I mentioned in the comments in yesterday’s post–is that I’m going to work on my “movie trailer” for this novel, much like I worked on one for A For Advanced, and . . . I’m doing one for the C Level novel.  Yes, I’m gonna tease the hell out of that book, and let me just say, there is gonna be some stuff in it.


But the biggest thing I did last night was finish the lower levels of Cernunnos Coven, and I now know what they look like.  So let me show that off–

A common bit of information, first.  Both of these levels are 3.2 meters high, or 10.5 feet.  It’s high for a reason:  that the height of the walls beyond the coven towers, and it keeps the students from feeling claustrophobia when they’re below ground.  Claustrophobic witches are panicky witches, and you don’t want that.

So, lower level first:

Here it is in all its underground glory.

Here it is in all its underground glory.

Just so you have your orientation, the path going off to the left is lower level wall passage to Åsgårdsreia Coven, and the one at the top leads to Ceridwen Coven.  That means the big fireplace on the level above is directly along the right-hand wall.  As you can see, the lower levels is full of storage areas, and several of the rooms here are used for things like informal gatherings and meetings:  it’s down in the lower levels of Mórrígan Coven that Erywin holds her LGBTAIQ support meetings.

The most important section of this level, however, is in the central-left section of the tower, near the east exit:

It looks much better this way.

It looks much better this way.

In the slightly-top-of-center of the photo are the stairs going up to the ground floor and down to the sublevels.  Below that is the kitchen where students can go and make their own food if they so like.  Pantry, refrigerator/freeze, oven, stove, sink, dishwasher:  it’s all there.  Of course the stuff is all magical, and there’s an area where your plates of finished delicacies are jaunted to whatever floor you so choose, much like it’s done in the Dinning Hall.  It’s either that or having students walk up several flights of stairs with food and drink, and that’s never a good thing.

And there on the left, with the black table and gray sofa, is a certain private lab that a couple of kids I know have.  No one’s there right now, however:  they must be off snogging in another part of the school.

Last but not least is the sublevel:

Diggin' deeper into the dirt.

Diggin’ deeper into the dirt.

This area is pretty bare, and doesn’t have nearly as many rooms at the level above.  That’s because the center of the level is taken up by the coven “storm cellar”, the fortified section of the coven where students go when there’s a Level Three Security Protocol instituted, much as Isis did when the outer defense screens of the school were breached during the Day of the Dead attacks.  When that goes into place everyone heads down the stairs and right across the hall to the double doors leading to the room, and the joint is sealed and locked.  And in the instance there’s a Level Four Security Protocol set into place, they have a way of getting out of this room and proceeding to a large room below the Great Hall where they are just one step ahead of evacuating the school for safer parts unknown.  Which hasn’t ever happened, but it’s there just in case.

There you have it:  all the stuff below ground that you now know and see.  As some wit once said, from here, the only place to go is up . . .

Welcome to the Coven

It is true:  you give me a new toy and some time, I’ll put it to good use.  Or I’ll waste my time screwing around with stuff–hey, either works for me.  At least when I’m obsessing on something I’m not falling asleep in the afternoon, and as I had laundry to do, keeping busy is the best way to be.

Given that I’d written over thirteen hundred words yesterday morning I figured I could play around with something else, and that’s exactly what happened.  I decided to design something, and finally, I have it in place–

I welcome you to Cernunnos Coven Tower.

Pretty much as you'd expect it to look.

Pretty much as you’d expect it to look.

Yes I set out in Sweet Home 3D to lay out the building, and I started on that yesterday afternoon.  What you see in the picture above it just on level:  in starting the layout I managed to set up space for both the sub-level and lower level of the coven, so in time you’ll see where the kitchen and Annie and Kerry’s private lab are on the floor below, and where everyone went when they had to retreat underground when students went into the sub-levels during the Day of the Dead attacks.

But first, what about the image above?

Right off the bat you see areas outside the tower:  a ring around it and four walkways heading off in different directions.  The walkways are easy:  those that look like stone are the covered walkways leading to the Great Hall (the one heading off to the left) and to the Transformation Center/Chemical Building and the Instructor’s Residence (the one heading to the right).

The other two passages on the left are actually the Pentagram Walls, and the ring around the tower is the wall passage that allows people to move from one side of the Pentagram Walls to the other without having to walk through the coven.  The ring around the tower is 4 m/12 ft wide, and the walls themselves are 5.5 m/18 ft wide.  The passage at the top of frame heads to Ceridwen Coven, while the one on the bottom heads to Åsgårdsreia Coven.

The inner tower–the actual coven itself–is 20 m/65 ft across, and the ground floor is the location of the main commons.  There are three entrances:  two under the stairs at about 10 and 4 o’clock on the dial, and the other at the bottom where the passage to Åsgårdsreia lay.  The area with all the small rooms is the space directly under the mezzanine commons, and they are, from left to right, the boy’s bathroom, a small meeting room where students can gather, the stairs to the lower levels (it’s the small room between the meeting table room and the commons itself), the service passage where you’ll find two storage areas near the exit, the Coven Leader’s office (like the one Annie and Kerry were just in with Deanna), and the girl’s bathroom.

And if you want to see the Coven Leader’s office, it’s right here below:

B For Bewitching Cernunnos Coven Office

Kind of stark, isn’t it?

It’s not meant to be huge, just a place to conduct business, but it’s bigger than my office, that’s for sure.

As for the main commons, it’s pretty large, taking up a little over half the ground floor, and you can see the staircases leading up to the mezzanine.  Because of the limitations in the program they aren’t quite as smooth as I would like, and there isn’t a railing on those grand staircases, but right now the layout works.  The walls of this level are 4.5 m/14.75 ft high, giving a good open feeling, and the walls of the next level up, the mezzanine, are another 3.5 m/11.5 ft, so you have a wonderful, open feeling when you’re sitting down here.

So what does the coven commons look like from the ground floor?  Glad you asked.

B For Bewitching Cernunnos Coven Ground Floors

Looks a lot bigger down here.

This is what is looks like standing near the girl’s bathroom/west exit and looking towards the east/inner Pentagram Garden.  Lots of chairs, a few tables to set things upon, the fireplace and sofa right where they should be–and is that a couple sitting before the fire?  Yeah, I couldn’t resist placing those two on the sofa where so much has happened, and they’ve yet to be caught sleeping.  Yet.

And just as I did with my layout for the Sea Sprite Inn last novel, here’s a little walk through video.  And since I have a better system now, I can actually create this video quickly enough that I won’t still be waiting for it when the heat death of the universe occurs.  I set the light so that it gives the impression it at night and the lights are low, which means it’s gonna be romantic, yeah?

So there you are:  the layout of the Cernunnos Coven ground floor.  More will come in time, eventually you’ll see the entire tower laid out.  I’ll probably do the lower levels before I get to the mezzanine, and then it’s up to the dorm floors, which are pretty much duplicates of each other.

We close out with a certain couple enjoying the quiet while they sit before the fire–

B For Bewitching Annie and Kerry on Sofa

‘Cause by this time in the story they’ve earned the rest.

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.

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.

Builder of Worlds

I received a new toy the other day:  the beta version of Scapple for Windows.  Scapple is a mind mapping program, a very simple system that allows you to diagram your thoughts and working out plots, characters, locations, anything your heart desires.  I’ve waited for this software for a while, since it’s made by the same people who make Scrivener, and on the Mac version of both programs it’s possible to drag notes from one program to the other when you’re in the mood to think things out in the middle of a complex story.

When I posted this link a discussion came up about the uses of software for writing, and I mentioned that I’ve used mind mapping software before, and that I’ve used a number of other programs, too, when building a world that is my story.  The question came back, “What software do you use, Cassie?”    I sent a PM to the person who asked, then started thinking last night, “Hey, maybe someone else will be interested to see the sort of tools I use when the writing madness strikes.”

If you’ll allow, I’ll show the thing I use, and maybe you’ll find some of this information useful.

Shall we begin?

First off, I use Scrivener for writing.  I’ve wrote about Scrivener many times, even going so far as to post pictures of SA Startmy projects–like the one at right which comes from December of 2012.  Lets get this out of the way right now:  Scrivener is not simply a word processor, it’s a project management tool.  The idea is to have all the things you need for your story in one place, and eliminate the need to bring up multiple files onto your desktop and flip back and forth looking for something.  If it were “just” a word processor, it wouldn’t be worth the $40, but it’s more than that, and that makes it well worth the price of admission.  Plus I have a fifty percent off code from Camp NaNo, and you never know who might end up getting that little gem.

Since Scapple is in beta mode at the moment, and will likely not be ready for full-out production until right before NaNo 2013, I use FreeMind for all my mind mapping needs.  FreeMind is Java based so it’ll run on any computer that uses Java, and it’s open source, so it’s free, but kick in a donation if you’re in the mood.  It’s not a perfect tool, but once you learn the ins and outs of how it works, you can build mind maps in no time.  Another nice thing is that the saved mind map can be imported into Scrivener, and it’ll set up separate text cards for each point in your map, which means you only have to go and fill in the words.

Aeon Timeline isn’t available for Windows at the moment, though I’ve seen that they are working hard on a Windows version.  Time Line Blog 01Since it’s not available, I use Timeline, which is another Java-based, free program released under the GNU General Public Licence version 3.  I’ve written about this program and its use a few times as well, and thought it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Aeon has, if you are looking for a quick and dirty way to lay out your time graphically, it does the job.  The learning curve is minimal, and since it doesn’t have a lot of stuff loading up in the background, it runs fast on just about any machine.  It’s also great for plotting out all those stories you’re going to write about characters who’ll be around for a very long time, and figuring out where all the events of their lives take place . . .

I’ve said it before:  I like to make maps.  For some stories you need them, or at least I Pentagram Closeupdo.  There are a few programs out there that will allow you to draw up maps, but years ago at GenCon I bought Fractal Mapper, which was really designed for the gaming community, but works wonders if you want to lay out something for a story.  The shapes may not be exactly what you need, and the sometimes drawing roads and paths isn’t always easy, but once you figure out how all that stuff works, you can draw up towns and villages, or those secret government complexes that people seem to want to write about so much.

When I want to look at the layout of a building I use Sweet Home 3D, another Java-based, open source Main Hall 518program.  This program will not only allow you to develop the floor plan of a building, but you’ll be able to see it in 3D from both an aerial view, and a walk-through view.  This program came in handy, because for my last story i created the structure you see on the right, and I was able to figure out where action occurred when I needed it to occur.  Some might call it overkill:  I say I’m getting it right.

If you are of a mind to see how your worlds really look, Pentagram Southeastdo what I do:  get Blender and start modeling.  So far I’ve used it to create a space ship, and to lay out the school where my last story takes place.  Once you figure out how to scale your models, you can build something huge:  for example, the building on the right is five hundred fifty feel from front to back, so you can imagine the size of everything else in that picture.  This is a step most people will never take, but I’m one of those people who sometimes need to see their creations, and there’s few programs that do this better.  Blender is, if you haven’t guessed yet, free to all, and will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.

The last program I use from time to time is only for those of us who write science fiction and like to create real worlds–as in, I build solar systems.  I’ve done this more than a few times, both for stories and for games I’ve run/played.  The program I use for this world building is AstroSynithesis, which is currently on version 3.0.  I’ve Cymru Newydd Systemwritten about this software before, most famously in a post when, because I had a character speaking to a person he’d just met he guessed the world she came from orbited a K Class star, I decided I better design that world just in case my character was wrong about his observations.  You can see that world and its moons to the right, because the program not only allows you to lay out orbits and figure out the rotational periods of the worlds, but you can see what your systems look like the 3D.  I plan to get the newest version–I’m still on version 2.0, since I bought it at the same time as Fractal Mapper–because the next thing i want to map is The ‘Verse, which is something I should be able to do with the newest version.  Why do I want to do that?  I’ve an article I want to write . . .

It goes without saying that I also use Google a lot–everyone should try it, it’s like magic!–and there are a number of websites with conversion calculators that I’ll use from time to time, depending upon what I’m writing.

There you have it, the tools I use for building my worlds.  Maybe some of these are going to be useful to you, maybe not.  But you now know where they are if you suddenly have the urge to start time lining the life of one of your characters.

Oh, I forgot:  there’s one tool on here that I didn’t mention, one that I absolutely need for any of my stories–

My imagination.

Just try writing a story without one.

Mindmelding Elements

Made it through a good day yesterday, one of the better I’ve had in a while, and today–well, that’s another story.  I’ll get through all the “The Forth Be With You” crap and probably remind more than a few people that my 4th of May involved hearing about four college students being shot to death.  Yeah, Yoda can bite my ass.

Where to go now, dear Cassidy?  How is your new project coming along?  Glad you asked–

Yesterday also dealt with the upcoming story, because I was talking a few ideas to some people, and though I’ve joked about how I’m going to just “write smut” so I can make a quick buck or two, I still want this to be a good story.  I can’t help it:  even my erotica has to be about more than just fucking.  I’m strange that way.Cabin Overview

For example, when I’m talking about the cabin where my story will take place, I bring up a cabin.  What does my cabin look like?  Gander to the right, if you will . . .  I was speaking with Annie (yes, she was around!) and we discussed how sometimes you have to see something in order to describe it.  I’ll admit, I never used to be that way, but when it comes to buildings and apartments and the like, there are times when I need to know how everything is laid out.

I created the interior using Sweet Home 3D, which is a fantastic open source modeling program (check them out, download, and drop them a few bucks for the effort).  I only needed a few simple templates to show me how everything is suppose to look, and with the split screen I can design and get a 3D look at everything in real time.  (One of the great things I liked was as I moved objects onto the design screen, I’d see them moving around in the 3D screen, and if I adjusted then in modeling, they’d adjust in 3D.  It’s like moving furniture in your house, only you’re doing it on a computer with a lot less back strain.)

So now I have a good idea what things sort of look like, so when the action gets hot and heavy, and I need to knock things over because of way too much Sexy happening, I’ll know where the knockage occurs, and how it’s going to break.

It’s not only the look of the story I want right, but I started wondering, late last night, if my mental flow is going the right direction.  So I brought up FreeMind and began mapping out my ideas into something logical.  This is another open source program I use from time to time, when I need to “think” about how I want a scene–or, in this case, a story–to flow.  It’s another great tool if you feel yourself stuck on something and you want to shake your mind loose . . .Mind Map Cabin

I have my thoughts and ideas collected here, as you can see.  I know how to read the flow of the picture to the right, and there are arrows to show me where I need to go from one set of ideas to another.  I’m not finished laying it out all–after all, I was working on this until about eleven-thirty last night, and the eyes were starting to burn a little–but I’ll have it all worked out and into Scrivener by this afternoon.

There was a point last night when two questions came to mind:  one, am I spending way too much time developing a story that’s suppose to be a short (for me), quick, tale of fantasy screwing?  Finally, two:  is there enough hot sex going down?  I mean, yeah, I do erotica, but I also write about characters, and knowing why you wanna get laid is just as important to me as getting there.

Ah, well, perhaps I’m over-thinking this story.  Then again, it is my story–

I can do that if I want to, you know.