Walking Through the Long Stay

Yesterday was one of those good and not so good days.  It was good because I went to a makeup party and hung out with some great women and had a lot of fun.  It was not so good ’cause I had to drive to Silver Springs, MD, which is just north of DC, which meant I needed to drive I-83 to 695 to 95 to 495, which can otherwise be known as Vehicular Hell.  The traffic is always moving, but it’s heavy all the way through Baltimore and Washington, and you can’t let up concentration for most of the route.  I was fine going in, but by the time I made the trek home I was already tired, and keeping my mind on the road proved to be a lot of work, so by the time I stumbled back into The Burg I was fairly exhausted.

Also, the moment I turned on the main light in my apartment–which is like my only light in my apartment–the bulb blew and I had nary a spare, so I had to run out and pick up a new one.  That meant it was at least another half hour before I could relax and watch the last episode of Mad Men, where it appears Don Draper’a navel gazing may have led to the creation of the most memorable TV ad that didn’t involve Barry Manilow.

Still, I had a great time and got to wear my orange skirt for the first time:

As one can see, I don't take great pictures in my apartment.

As one can see, I don’t take great pictures in my apartment.

I was at least comfortable as I drove.  As well as cool and comfortable.

Needless to say, I didn’t write a word yesterday.  I couldn’t even give much thought to scenes because the mind was on the road, and when it wasn’t it’d turned to stone.  I usually pride myself in being able to through some story ideas together, or even work out dialog and scenes, while I’m out on the road, but not yesterday.  Nope, a whole lot of nope.

It’s not that it’s needed.  I have a great idea of where this novel is going, and I know what needs to be said.  The next scene is gift testing . . .

Happens right here, in the building on the left.  we haven't been down here much.

Happens right here, in the building on the left. we haven’t been down here much.

And I’ll recount a little about what the kids went through for that.  It’s not much of a relaxing “Before school starts” weekend, but that’s how things go down.  As the scene that comes after this next will explain, Annie and Kerry are starting to realize that their B Levels are probably going to be a bit ass busting, between the advanced classes, getting called up for minion duty, and whatever else might come their way.  Oh, and that vision will get a little bit of discussion:  after all, why wouldn’t it?

Ah, my kids are growing up so quickly.  Which may not be a good thing.

Back to writing tonight.  Because I can only be so lazy for so long.

Invisible Moments

The long weekend is winding down, and today I’ll have several things ongoing before packing up and returning to The Burg tomorrow.  It’s the penultimate day of NaNoWriMo, and there are either a lot of people doing a happy dance for making their fifty thousand, or a whole bunch of folks are thinking about hurtling their laptops against the nearest wall.

"No, it's all your fault I couldn't finish this crap!

“No, it’s your fault I couldn’t finish this crap on time!  Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

Either way, you have to give people credit for doing NaNo, because it isn’t easy.  But the really hard part comes after, once you’ve finished the work and it’s time to edit and publish said piece.  There’s where the real work comes in.

But enough of that–what about last night’s writing.  Well, I didn’t hit my NaNo goal, but then I don’t have to.  And I managed just over a thousand words last night as well as getting in just a little over seven hundred this morning.  I finished the scene–it’s like the last, just short of fifteen hundred words–and shows Annie and Kerry working out the new equipment they’re going to use, albeit under controlled conditions . . .

 

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

Kerry hovered one hundred fifty meters above the Tesla Science Hall trying to get a lock on their target. He’d been given the information from the ground: C Level girl, dark hair, slightly tan complexion, wearing a bright orange pullover, jeans, and a long, open sweater. And silver bangles on each wrist. He was trying to get the tablet to key in on the bangles, as they would be easy to identify—

The tablet’s enchantment picked up quantities of silver, and Kerry zoomed in of the person wearing the jewelry. He pulled out the display to form a hologram of the girl’s head and rotated it to get a good view of the face so her could run her against the school data base. He thought off a message to the person on the other end as soon as he got a hit. She’s Kamala Juraspurna, from the Blodeuwedd Coven. I’m surprised she’s heading to the science center.

Send me the downlink, my love. Annie’s reply came back so clear Kerry would have bet she was sitting next to him. I’ll check her schedule. He did just that and a few seconds later Annie had the answer. She has classes in the hall, but not until after lunch.

Think she’s meeting someone? He was about to lose the person as they entered the building and let Annie know.

I’ll find out. There was a subtle mental chuckle. Let me go inside and find out; I shouldn’t be there long.

I’ll be here. Kerry sat back on the saddle and enjoyed the view of The Pentagram. Not like I’m going anywhere else.

 

So they’re watching people in the school–but why all the italic speechifying?  Well, there’s a reason for that–

 

Once down in the lower level office Erywin began going over things they’d work with while out in the field. First were tablets that carried major enchantments that would allow them to scan people much like the equipment in the hospital, which then could use a special holographic display to look at parts of them you couldn’t see. They could also tie into the local computer systems where one was “observing” and gather additional information on a subject—though the only reason they were now accessing the Salem servers was due to a link supplied by Isis, who as Chief of Security for the school was aware the training was ongoing. They also had a limited ability to see through walls, but most importantly, it could scan for auras and determine if a person was Normal or Aware.

There were also the enchanted phones. They could mask your aura so you looked Normal, or even hide it if you bent light around you, which was something Helena and Erywin were testing on them now. The most important part of the enchantment was the ability to speak to the other person using just your thoughts: you could send off your messages and receive them back the same way. Annie and he had to work on that, because when they first started trying that out they were picking up every thought the other had, and there was a moment or two when they were both blushing over things they heard. After about twenty minutes they were able to use them without embarrassment.

 

Enchanted tablets and phones–why didn’t Harry Potter have this stuff?  Maybe an enchanted sniper rifle would have put an end to Voldie’s shit real fast, you know?  Remember, this was one of the reasons The Foundation wanted to get their hands on that magic stuff, so they could do things like this with technology–just like what they’ve done with Kerry’s broom.

What I remember what to know is, what were Annie and Kerry thinking that made them each blush?  Those kids . . .

But they’re using their magic, too, in particular one spell they’ve both mastered . . .

 

Two meters off the ground Kerry angled in towards the grove and concentrated on pushing the light bending field around him forward and to the sides. They’d discovered months ago that two or more people who were invisible through light bending could merge their fields and see each other. There was a risk extending the field because someone could walk through it and see the person inside, but here in this grove they’d be alone, and they would only keep their fields extended long enough for Annie to climb aboard his broom.

A couple of seconds after entering the grove Kerry found Annie standing to the side of one of the trees. Like him, she was wearing a heavy sweater and jeans, though her jeans tucked inside her boots while Kerry wore warm socks and tennis shoes. She adjusted her messenger bag as she positioned herself on the saddle behind Kerry then wrapped her arms around his waist. Let’s fly, darling.

You got it, Sweetie. Helena had told them to restrict themselves to thought speech while out, so they’d get used to working with the devices before heading out into public. Kerry lifted straight up into the air, carefully picking his way through the space between the trees. You find her?

Yes. She was meeting someone—a boy.

Oh?

I did a quick scan on him from outside the room. He’s in our coven, a D Level. She rested her head against Kerry’s shoulders. I love flying like this with you.

Kerry laughed. Is that part of the report, or just an errant thought?

Annie chuckled. I am allowed a non-operational thought now and then. She looked over his shoulder. To the Witch House?

Of course. He turned to the northeast and slowly gained altitude. Gotta see if Helena and Erywin think we did okay, and find out what they want next.

 

The scary thing here is that now Annie and Kerry are good enough that they can stay hidden from others pretty well–it’s a given that Annie was in one of the school buildings and no one noticed her–so now they can sort of go wherever they like and unless you know what to look for, no one will see them.  I’m sure, however, that Isis has a number of things up her technowitch sleeve that might keep them from wandering into the Headmistress’ office and listening in on her private conversations–you know she has, because invisibility here is a thing, and Annie got busted trying to slip into the hospital with the same trick.

I wonder what sort of stuff Annie’s been showing Kerry on the sly though?  Time will tell.

Into the Death Test

The night before I complained about how I didn’t seem to have enough time to write and get things done, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  That was the night before, ’cause last night was what I’d call an Enterprise night, because the final word count was 1,701 words, and that’s a registry number that I’ve known all my life.  (True fact:  the Enterprise‘s registration number came from the exact time the planetary cruiser C57-D dropped out of warp and into the Altair system in the movie Forbidden Planet:  seventeen-oh-one hundred hours.)

I was cranking away because I was having fun.  I also had to take a break about 9 PM because my fingers were getting tired.  But still–good time, people.

Now, what were you saying, Annie?  About . . .

 

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

Air.

It was the first day of Spells class, and Annie remembered the object inside the case—a simply action requiring they move it from one end to the other. She did it first, Kerry second. It was easy. And they’d done more of the same since then: moving objects around, side-to-side, and she levitated her spindle because Kerry asked.

The basics of moving small objects was easy for some of the students now—her for certain. Annie figured she could move just about any object—

Like air.

Air was a substance that had pressure, that occupied space. It could be heated and cooled. It could be compressed and—

Moved.

She now watched the homunculus advance on her slowly, not with fear but with growing curiosity. Air is an object, and you can use it in a spell, just like Air Hammer. You can used it against another thing or person. She stared at Kerry, weakening against the homunculus trying to bite him. If I can gather enough air . . .

She dropped the bokken and sprinted towards Kerry.

 

That’s called thinking on her feet–her slightly covered in blood and brains feet, but still . . .

So you get your air and then what?

 

Annie stopped a couple of meters from his head, where he couldn’t see her. She knew she had one, maybe two chances to pull this off, and if it didn’t work—well, it wouldn’t matter, the test would be over in a matter of seconds. She steadied herself, her eyes half-closed, not thinking of the homunculi a few meters from them, or the one trying to get Kerry—there was only the mass of invisible air coming together in front of her, piling up and growing thicker, compressing into a dense mass centimeters from her body. She imagined it, visualized it, and she positioned her right hand directly behind the ball of air she’d crafted. Annie reached for the energy needed to power this Art, waiting for the tremor in her shoulders whenever it came. There . . . All she needed now was her willpower, and the need to reshape the reality around her—

Annie opened her eyes and pushed the ball away from her, hard. The uniform of the homunculus ripped as if in a strong breeze as it fell away from Kerry.

 

Magic in this world is all about Visualization, Energy, and Willpower–VEW as Wednesday once said.  It’s a matter of having a good imagination and seeing the effects once you power it up.  But that willpower:  you need it to Craft your Art, to reshape reality.  If you can’t believe you can do it, then you won’t.

And then, sometimes, you gotta convince someone else they need to do it, too:

 

She rushed in and grabbed him by the arm. “Come on.” She helped him scramble to his feet, as he was having difficultly getting up. Annie guided him away while he was still in a half crouch, as the two homunculi were only a meter away by this time. After three stepped he was upright and keeping up with her as they ran to within a meter of the red line. Only once there did she step in front of him and hold his head in her hands. “Are you all right?”

Kerry fought for air, wheezing with each breath. “Yeah, I’m . . .” He exhaled hard, nodding. “I’m good, I’m good.”

Annie didn’t have time for Kerry to recuperate completely from his battle: there was too much to say, and not a lot of time. She only hoped he was cognizant enough to understand her idea. “Kerry, I need you to listen to me.”

He nodded again, but his head was bowed and he was looking at the floor. “I hear . . .”

“Kerry, listen to me.” He raised his head and looked directly at her. “Air. It can be used.”

His breath had slowed and there was attentiveness in his eyes. “Is that how you got that thing off me?”

“Yes. I crafted a ball of air and compressed it, then threw it at the homunculi.” Her eyes brightened as she saw how Kerry understood almost immediately. “We can use this to fight.”

 

This test, as I put it together, was all about team work.  First it was all about getting together and bashing zombie skulls, but then you find yourself in a position where you learn something new and you figure out how to use it to your advantage.  And when when you brainstorm in the middle of your test:

 

She nodded once. “There’s a spell: Air Hammer. It uses air as a weapon, forcing your opponent off balance or even hurting them.” She gave him a slight grin. “We can do the same thing. We can use it to fight these things.”

“Keep knocking them around, maybe lean to get a few shots at the head.” He stared of into space for a couple of seconds. “Or . . .”

Annie recognized this look—He has an idea; something to do with magic. He’s gotten this a lot of late. “Yes?”

He continued checking the homunculi as he spoke. “Could you craft this spell to work with a foci?”

She knew how Professor Douglas felt about foci, or at least how she felt about wands. But she’d said once that foci have their place, and they aren’t always a bad thing. And I’m certain Kerry isn’t talking about wands . . . “Yes, you could. Why?”

“Instead of creating balls of air to throw around—” He raised the jō and ran his hand along the pole near one end. “What if you put them here? Then you have . . .” He chopped downward with the jō. “Leverage.”

Annie smiled as she understood Kerry’s line of thought. “That localizes the effect, makes for a better weapon.” She looked over her shoulder at the bokken lying two meters away. “A cutting weapon.”

“It might just be.” Kerry checked on the homunculi, then quickly looked to his right. “Look, we could just step over the red line and be done with this, or . . .” He nodded towards the bokken. “Or we can give you idea a try.” His face broken into an enormous grin. “Personally, I’m all for trying you idea.”

“It’s your idea as well.” Annie scooted over and retrieved the bokken. “I’d like to try it, too.”

Kerry raised his jō. “Go on; I got your back.”

 

You got your ideas, you know how to craft your Art, there are zombies still shambling about on the field–time to get to work–

 

Bokken in hand, Annie slowly advanced on the homunculus, now only three meters away. She knew, as when she saved Kerry, that she’d have but one chance, maybe two, to craft this spell, but she was more confident this time that her Art was correct, that the spell would come off flawlessly.

She visualized air wrapping around the tip of the bokken, forming an invisible blade, one turned thin and sharp on the side facing away from her. She saw it in her mind becoming firm, a dangerous addition to her wooden sword.

A meter and a half away she stopped. Annie allowed the homunculus two step more, then she raised the bokken over her head and slashed into its skull with a strong blow.

It wasn’t the hardest Annie could hit, but with the magic used it wasn’t necessary. The homunculus’ skull split cleanly down the middle, with fake blood and brains spraying out along the lines of the cut and catching her in the hand, arm, and chest. She flinched but remained on her feet, while the homunculus crashed to the mat in a bloody heap.

Annie didn’t hear the gasps, groans, and yelps from the students on the sidelines: the only thing important to her was the now-still creature at her feet. She turned to Kerry, grinning broadly. “Do you know what to do?”

He held the jō ready. “Oh, I think so.”

She nodded towards the approaching homunculus on his left. “Your turn.”

 

–To some really bloody-ass work.  And now they’re having fun:  “Hey, I killed this one, let me see you do one!”

He doesn’t disappoint:

 

Kerry closed his eyes for a few seconds, getting the visuals in his head before heading towards his target. He knew the form he sought: with the jō there was little doubt what sort of magic he’d craft around the long pole. He took his time covering the four meters between him and the homuncuWalkers, then drew the jō back like he was carrying a bat.

“Okay, you . . .” He began his swing, but released his right hand and continued the follow through with his left. His swing was low and upward, and he caught the homunculus in the left shoulder. A large chunk of flesh and uniform flew up an away; Kerry drew back for another swing, and this time his attack was high and level, catching the homunculus just below the jaw line and severing the head three-quarters of the way from the neck with blood shooting outward in a flat arc, catching Kerry as it went down. He turned to Annie with a semi-bloody grin. “I’ll get this last one.”

 

Two down, two to go, and now Little Miss Dark Witch wants to get her kicks in another way:

 

Annie nodded and advanced on the fourth homunculus, only a few meters from her. She let the bokken slip from her hand because she wanted to do something different this time. She understood what she could do with a weapon, but she wanted to see what she could do with a different kind of magic . . .

She began crafting her air bubble, but this time she pulled in a little of the dark energy that was often used to fuel more potent sorcery. This was something Annie had worked with before in small quantities, and it didn’t shock her to feel the different surge of power that came with these spells.

She powered it into her bubble of air and held it before her good hand. She stopped just short of two meters from the homunculus, then willed everything into a tight, compressed sphere and pushed it into her target—

The spell powered through the torso, tearing away the shirt and part of the jacket and boring into the body. The head and shoulders pitched forward towards her as the body came apart with a loud squishing sounds and fell in pieces to the mat. Nearly all of Annie’s upper body and head was covered in blood and goo . . .

And directly across from her stood Kerry, looking much the same, having caught the aftermath of her attack as it tore through the homunculus. Seeing him holding the jō straight out as it was, Annie realized he must have raised it for protection, and whatever effect he’d used on his last attack tore off the head of her homunculus.

They’d both ripped it apart.

Kerry looked down at the gore covering his shirt, then tried to wipe it off his glasses. He looked at Annie with a strange, unfocused stare, then dropped his weapon, turned away, and vomited.

Oh, Kerry— Given everything she’d experience—the smell, the blood, the gore of the last minute—and now this, Annie couldn’t prevent her stomach from protesting. She lowered her head and vomited what remained of her breakfast as well.

 

Kids these days:  how you gonna survive the Zombie Apocalypse if you can’t keep your breakfast down?  Don’t you know that’s always the start of a good day?

"This is not fun.  On TV everyone drinks and has sex when they aren't running for their lives."

“This is not fun. On TV everyone drinks and has sex when they aren’t running for their lives from the undead.”

Now, tonight, all I need to do is put the finishing touches on the scene, and she’s in bed.  Which means when I finish this scene it’ll probably be the longest one in the story that’s all one, continuous scene, without little breaks in the action here and there.  It’ll also be pretty much around seven thousand words.

Would you like a short story with your novel?

Would you like a short story with your novel?

But it only makes sense that this is a long scene, because today and tomorrow are, for Annie and Kerry, the most important twenty-four hours of their lives . . .

Setting Up the Death Test

Even though I managed to get my lab work out of the way, get dinner, and end up back at the home by four, the exertion of the afternoon–and lack of sleep from the early morning–conspired to make me yawn and look at the screen dumbly.  It was a real, “What am I suppose to do here?” moment, and it took a couple of hours of gathering strength to get to writing before ten PM and Fargo came on.

I hit the deadline with time to spare.

So where did we leave the kids off?  Right here, ready to be thrown to the zombies:

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines--

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines–

 

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

Kerry felt his stomach drop as Annie and he stepped away from the rest of the students and onto the mat. Before heading off to look at the weapons, he turned to Professor Chai. “Professor?”

“Yes, Kerry?”

“Do Annie and I—” He looked at Annie, then back. “Are we really going to do this alone?”

The professor took one step towards them both. “Is there anyone else from your coven level that you can call upon for assistance?”

Annie and Kerry turned to each other and shook their heads. “No, Professor.”

“Then it’ll only be you two performing the test for your coven.” Professor Chai stepped closer to them. “Remember to play to your strengths. You both have them: don’t forget to use them.” She pointed to the far end of the room. “Go pick out your weapons.”

 

Thank, Teach!  Way to give a challenge.

But let’s not forget what Ramona said there at the end–before “Arm yourselves.”  She was giving sage advice, and Mr. Geek knew how to play to his strength with a little secret:

 

They walked back to the weapons table. All the Åsgårdsreia students had returned to the sidelines, so the area behind the red line was empty. He’d already decided upon the bokken, but didn’t pick it up right away, Instead he eased up next to Annie, who was looking over the poles. He leaned his head close to hers. “I know what these things are.”

Annie had caught his exclamation when the homunculi first exited the cabinets, and figured his comment had something to do with a story he’d read or seen. “You do?”

“Yeah. They come from a comic—”

Annie slowly half-turned her head. “These things are from a comic?”

“Okay—graphic novel.” He adjusted his glasses, pushing them up his nose. “It’s a bit more adult.”

She raise an eyebrow. I’m learning something new about him every day; I don’t ever recall him mentioning this. “How is it you managed to read these—adult novels?”

“I have an account on Amazon linked to one of my parent’s credit cards.” He looked over the weapons. “As long as I don’t get crazy with the charges every month, I can buy books and other . . . things.”

“And you’re parents know you’re buying these?”

“No. Which is probably a good thing.” He turned to Annie, grinning. “But it’s a good thing I have read this stuff, because I know how to take them out. Right?”

“Yes, we’re so fortunate . . .” Annie slowly rolled her eyes before selecting a jō. “How do we stop these homunculi then?”

 

He’s bought things and read stuff.  Sounds like someone I know.  And Annie–who seems to know just about everything concerning Kerry, didn’t know this.  You  can bet she’ll start checking into his reading habits more closely now.

He tells Annie about skull crushing (possible with wooden weapons), and decapitation (highly unlikely with wooden weapons), but still:  “Pass your test by crushing the skulls of the undead, kids!”  Well, a month in school and you gotta blow off that steam somehow . . .

As they’re preparing to meet their doom–I mean, start their test–Kerry lays out the last of their possible ways to stop their opponents:

 

They slowly walked towards the middle of the mat, giving Kerry time to finish his last thought. “The professor said we also take them out if we prevent them from taking action against us. That means there are things we can do that won’t involve crushing their skulls—”

Annie like this idea better. “Such as?”

“If we break off their lower jaws they can’t bite us.”

She curled up the right side of her mouth. “That’s not much better than crushing their skulls.”

“The other way would be to do so much damage to their torsos they can’t move.” He shook his head from side to side. “I don’t think we can do that with these. But I do have an idea . . .” As they took their place near the center of the mat Kerry quick explained his plan of attack.

Though Annie wasn’t thrilled with his idea, it at least appeared plausible. “Then we’ll try it first thing.”

“Yeah—so if it don’t work, we can fall back on our nonexistent Plan B.”

They were almost to the center of the mat when Kerry moved to Annie’s left. He smiled back at her puzzled look. “Leftie and rightie. This way we aren’t hitting each other when we swing.”

She nodded. “Good idea.” And I might have thought of it if I weren’t so nervous . . .

Once Annie and Kerry were in their place on the mat Professor Chai returned to the place where she’d stood during the Åsgårdsreia test. “Are you ready?”

Annie reached over, took Kerry’s right hand, and gave it a squeeze. “We’re ready, Professor.”

There were a couple of chuckles from the other students at the show of affection—and Lisa needed to make her comment known to everyone in the room. “Awww, that’s so cute.”

As soon as Annie released his hand Kerry slide it behind Annie’s back and shot a reverse V-sign in Lisa’s direction. He figured Lisa wouldn’t get it, but hearing a couple of guffaws come from within the crowd, a few people did. “We’re ready, Professor.”

“Very well, then—” She waved her hands. “The test begins now.”

 

Kerry flipping off people in class?  Say it ain’t so.

Where as the test before was working on one-and-a-have to one odd, Professor Chai sends out five homunculi, giving Annie a Kerry a two-and-a-half to one disadvantage.  Not cool, Professor.  Unless . . .

And where we end is watching them steel themselves for their own undead assault:

 

“Yeah.” He nodded towards the yellow line. “They’re almost here . . .” They prepared themselves for whatever it was that had affect the Åsgårdsreia students.

The first homunculus crossed the yellow line and broke through the barrier—

A wave of putrid air rolled over the two Cernunnos coven mates.

Annie and Kerry recoiled from the stench. It was more that bad: it was the accumulation of a thousand fetid swamps broiling under summer humidity; ten thousand rotting vegetable patches cooking in the daylight; a million pig farms simmering in the noonday sun. Both children gagged and retched, fighting to control their churning stomachs in the wake of the horrific foulness.

Annie held her free hand close to her face. “That’s horrid. What’s causing that?”

“That’s—” Kerry gulped air trying to keep his breakfast down. “It’s rotting flesh.”

“What?”

He half-turned to Annie. “They’re Walkers; they’re homuncuWalkers; they’re zombies—whatever, they’re dead. They’re ambulatory corpses that are still decomposing. Slowly, but . . .” He turned away as he nearly gagged. “They never talked about this in the comic.”

She didn’t want to discuss it, least it make her more nauseous. “Have to breath through our mouths, then.”

He nodded. “All ready there, Sweetie.”

All five homunculi were pasted the yellow line and advancing up on them. Annie pointed to the one in front and on their left. “That one?”

Kerry nodded. “Yeah.”

“You ready?” She raised her pole with both hands.

He slowly exhaled. “Yeah. Let’s do this.”

 

Not only do you send out creepy walkers, but you gotta make them that real?  What’s next?  Former class mates?  Which they probably are, because it sounds like the instructor is a bit twisted.

This is where I wish I knew how to draw, because I can see how these scenes set up, and I’d love some pictures to throw into the story–pictures that didn’t consist of stick figures.  That’s one day, though:  maybe I can con my daughter into doing a few for me one day.

Thirty-three hundred words into the scene, and the good part is yet to come.

Can’t wait for tonight.

Åsgårdsreia Down, Cernunnos to Go

Well, now:  yesterday wasn’t a bad day, but beyond getting a little shopping done and having a good lunch–couldn’t eat much for dinner since I’m fasting for blood work today–there wasn’t a lot going on.  I was in sort of a strange, negated funk about doing something, but ended up doing little of anything.

But I did end up writing.

But of course I did.  And you knew that.

But of course I did. And you knew that.

I left my Åsgårdsreia students ready to meet the oncoming horde of homunculi emerging from the cabinets.  This wasn’t taken very well:

 

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

The homunculi shambled out of the cabinets, all the size of the students facing them and dressed in tattered and dirty school uniforms. Their skin was discolored and blemished; some of the homunculi showed open sores and, in a few cases, showed extensive damage to their heads, faces, and hands.

They were the literal representation of a class of zombie Salem students preparing to attack their living counterparts.

Nine of the homunculi were out of the cabinets and advancing when the first reached the yellow line. The shield there dropped, allowing the Åsgårdsreia students to attack. Four of the students began to move forward—

Then the Åsgårdsreia students stopped and groaned. Most of them raised their hands to their faces: all of them had looks of disgust. Several of the students grumbled in their own languages, including Anna Laskar, who nearly fell to her knees while screaming in German—“Der gestank ist entsetzlich. Lassen sie mich: ich will nicht hier sein.”—and trying to hold herself upright with her fighting pole. Half the students turned pale; a couple gagged several times.

 

Well, that’s never a good sign.

But there’s eight of them, so things should have went well, right?

 

They fought through whatever was bothering them and moved on the twelve homunculi advancing upon the coven team. Lisa Glissandi and three other people ran up to the homunculi in the front; Lisa wound up her jō, ready to swing, and struck Dariga Dulatuli in the face. She screamed as she dropped her jō, clutching her face as she turned and sprinted towards the red line, blood running over her mouth and over her chin.

This didn’t deture Lisa, who hit the homunculi on the shoulder twice. When her third strike did nothing to halt its advance, she drew her jō over her head—and struck Balgaire Ibanez’s head. The boy staggered to his left, falling into Anna and Shauntia Okoro, before steadying himself.

 

I’d watch where you’re swinging that thing, Lisa–you could hurt someone.  And you aren’t the only one your coven mates need worry about:

 

Daudi didn’t see the homunculi shamble up from behind and sink its teeth into her neck.

The girl’s scream was high pitched and flooded with pain as blood fountained from the source of the bite. The blood arced from the wound and sprayed Dongsun in the side of the head, making him flinch. Daudi’s eyes rolled back in her head and she fell backward, making a loud thud when she hit the mat.

 

It’s always a good Self Defense class when you instructor turns killer zombies loose on the kids, isn’t it?

Needless to say, save for three students who “died” by being bitten, the rest of out Brave Åsgårdsreia Shield, um, maidens and dudes, ran for the red line.  Brave zombie killers they were not.

 

That was enough for Professor Chai. She waved her hands and the enchanted side shields vanished. “Well . . .” Her gaze bored through the panting and huffing Åsgårdsreia students at the other end of the mat. “That didn’t turn out very well, did it?” The professor waved her hands again and the unconscious students began to move, shaking off the enchantment they’d fallen under when they were bitten. They slowly regained their feet and joined the rest of their coven mates.

She turned to the rest of the students, some of whom still appeared shocked by what they’d seen. “The mat is in need of a cleaning—” She turned and waved at the homunculi, who turned and shambled back to the cabinets. “All will take a ten minutes break—except for the next team. They need to prepare.” She turned to Annie and Kerry. “Cernunnos: you’re next.”

 

Sorry, kids:  I didn’t mean to leave you hanging like that.  I’m sure everything will turn out just fine–

"I have a bad feeling about this, Annie."  "And a bad hat, too."  "Yeah--I took it off a kid eating pudding . . ."

“I have a bad feeling about this, Annie.”  “And a bad hat, too.”  “Yeah–I took it off a kid I found eating pudding . . .”

Walkin’ With the Homunculi

Summertime is happening outside, but in my story it’s the last day of September, and the start of my kid’s “strange day” has arrived.  Though it took some time to get writing on this sucker, let me tell you.  There was much chatting happening, and as I always am when I’m getting ready to start a new scene; the fingers want to start typing, but the mind is like, “Now just hold up there, girl.”

But I get over it:  I always do.  Just like yesterday.

We start off in the Self Defense for Beginners class, early Friday morning, which is where you want to find yourself at the end of a long week of school, ready to learn your forms in the hopes you’ll one day deal out some pain.  Except this time, the students have a real test . . .

 

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

“Today we participate in our first exercise.” Professor Chai stood in the middle of a large, blue mat, with a row of cabinets at one end of the room and a table full of what looked like wooden sticks along the wall at the other end. “None of your are no where near even slightly proficient in your skills, but sometimes proficiency isn’t what is needed—numbers are.

“Our exercise today is not about how well you can use on of the various weapons you’ll be allowed—it’s about how well you work together as a group. It is about how well you combine your meager skills to defeat a common enemy.” She felt the student’s mummers run through the Manor. It’s only natural they’re nervous: they don’t realize what is coming.

 

Of course they don’t, you crafty woman, because no one is talking.  Particularly the writer.

And just to turn the test up to eleven, there are weapons.  Not like really dangerous weapons, but, you know–weapons are weapons.

 

“Along the far wall—” Professor Chai pointed at the tables near one end of the mat and walked towards them as she spoke. “—are the weapons you can use. All are weapons we have covered so far in class and worked with to a limited extent during the last two weeks.” As she picked up each one, she gave a quick remedial. “Bokken, used in kendo and aikido. Most of you have seen people use swords; this does not mean you know how to use one properly. Remember that this weapon can do a great deal of damage to you or someone else if used incorrectly.”

She picked up a long pole. “Bō: one meter eighty, made of hard wood. Though they are available, the length will likely preclude its use, given the majority of you stand about one meter five.” The next pole was shorter. “Jō: one meter twenty-five, made of the same material as the bō. Most who will choose a long pole weapon will pick this, as it is more manageable for your height, though you must handle this with care.”

The professor moved on to a similar but even shorter pole. “Hanbō. Only ninety centimeters long, also made of hard wood. Easier to manipulate that the jō, and can cause considerable damage if used correctly.” She reached the last set of weapons, picking up two poles, one in each hand, that were shorter and thinner than the hanbō. “Yantok. Only seventy-five centimeters, designed to be used paired, like this, in eskrima.” She used them against an imaginary opponent, moving at normal speed instead of the hyper-quick speeds she’d shown the class before. “You may try to use both together, but if you aren’t careful, you may do more damage to yourself than to others.”

 

So, kids with wooden weapons–what are they gonna do?

 

She calmly move closer to the students, some who were visibly nervous now. “Your opponents are homunculi, artificial people who consist of flesh, internal organs, and fluids—which means they act like you, move like you, and bleed the same as you. The homunculi will be your size; this is so they won’t have too great an advantage over you.

“I won’t deceive you: the homunculi are difficult to stop, but if you work together as a cohesive team, it’s entirely possible to pass this exercise. That is the whole idea of this test: to see how well you work with others in a self-defense situation.”

The professor stood silently before the students, allowing them to absorber all that she said. Every first meeting that her A Levels had with homunculi always resulted in anxiety among the students, because this was the first time they were going up again a moving opponent that appeared human. And this year she’d thrown in an additional challenge—

There was no need to give them time to grow more anxious. “To make it easier to determine teams, they will consist of members from a single coven. All members of Blodeuwedd will form one team, Mórrígan another, an so on.” She clapped her hands. “As they are first in the English alphabet, our first team is the members of Åsgårdsreia.” She pointed to the weapons at the far end of the room. “Select your weapons and gather on the mat. You have five minutes.”

 

There you have it:  put a bunch of kids on a mat with weapons and turn human-looking creatures loose, and prepare for carnage–not all of it on the side of the homunculi.  I even know who’s in each coven because when I did all that work last year figuring out who all the New Witches on the Block were, I knew the time would come when I’d need those names, and know the tower where they’d been sent–

Always know your marks before you send them running into the sharp end of a stick.

Always know your marks before you send them running into the sharp end of a stick.

With all the exposition out of the way, all that’s left is writing about the carnage–I mean, the test, the fun, fun test.  And it’s going to be fun writing, because these homunculi . . . lets just say Professor Chai loves to give her new kids a bit of a twisted challenge:

 

With all eight Åsgårdsreia students finally milling about the center of the Professor Chai walked off the mat and stood next to the row of cabinets. There was a shimmering on both sides of the mat as the protective enchantments were activated. The professor didn’t waste time reiterating previous statements. “Prepare yourself, for your test begins now.” She waved her hand and three of the five cabinet doors opened—

A few seconds later two homunculi stumbled through the doors and onto the mat, and that was all the time Kerry needed to recognize their opponents. Oh, holy jeez—they’re Walkers.

"'Sup, kids.  Who's ready for their test?"

“‘Sup, kids. Who’s ready for their test?”

Harboring Sleep Within the Test

The last couple of days my energy has really been at a low ebb.  Now only has work taken its toll of late, but I’ve not been sleeping well–again.  There can be any number of reasons for being tired–though I think a large part is due to my hormone replacement therapy–but the sleep thing?  Damn, that’s been with me forever.

Now, something interesting came up in a conversation yesterday.  Never mind the umpteenth requests I received to get some sleep–I know I’m tired, you don’t need to tell me I need sleep–but this comment that caught my attention:  “Your novel is keeping you awake.  It’s on your mind all the time, and it won’t let you rest.”

Now there’s a secret that isn’t unknown.  I do get caught up in what I’m writing.  I get caught up in the characters.  Sometimes it driver me a little crazy, but I consider that par for the course.  But keeping me awake?  Well, now, that’s something that hasn’t happened before too many times.

Maybe there is some truth here.  I know I slept well last night, so maybe I’ll finish up this enormous scene tonight before Cosmos comes on.  In the meantime–Kerry asked Annie a question, which was, “Don’t you think we did a lot of goofy crap yesterday, and now . . .”  And now here’s the end of that question . . .

 

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

After her chat this morning, Annie had more insight into why she was sent off with the others without waiting for Kerry. Not that I can tell him— “I can agree with everything you said, but why do you think today is a test?”

“I just do.” He tapped his fingers on the table for a few seconds. “What time did she tell you she was called in?”

“She didn’t say—just that she’d been called in for a meeting.”

“But you both talked early, and she already had the debit cards. They could have been sent over, but even so, The Foundation would have made those last night. Which mean they knew this was going to happen.” He glanced out the window, something Annie noticed he did quite often. “There was a card for each of us—our names were on them. Someone went through all this trouble last night so we’d get them this morning.”

“And you think Ms. Rutherford planed this?”

“Not her: this Foundation. Though she probably knew about this and the stuff yesterday.” Kerry finished his sandwich and slowly pushed his plate to the side.

If only I could tell him what I know. Annie had heard about these things from her mother a few days before leaving home, and found none of Kerry’s suspicions shocking. She was also fairly aware of why Ms Rutherford was telling her about what she thought the other students would do today . . . “If it is a test—” Annie rested her head against her right hand and twirled her hair. “—I’m glad I passed.”

Kerry looked downward as he grinned. “I don’t know if it’s one we were expected to pass, but I do think Ms. Rutherford is keeping an eye on us.”

Annie didn’t what to hear Kerry go on about different ways The Foundation could follow them—she knew nearly all of them—so she moved the conversation in another direction. “I’m only asking because I’m curious, but . . . would you have left the hotel if I hadn’t asked you out?”

“I . . .” Kerry chuckled, then pursed his lips as he pushed air through them. “I don’t know. Yesterday wasn’t that bad because I didn’t have to go that far, and we were suppose to be doing things for school.” His sigh was loud, even against the background noise. “I’m glad I didn’t stay in the hotel.”

 

It’s not the sort of test you’re expected to pass?  Oh, Kerry, you poor sap, you’re being tested right now.  Only by someone different and for different reasons . . .

Now I should think about the sort of damage one little girl can do with access to a library full of deadly arcane knowledge.

Not that I don’t already know.

"Yes, I could use my shadows to follow Kerry everywhere--technically the shadows are the ones stalking him . . ."

“Draught of Truthful Submission?  That’s much better than a love potion–“

Twice as Fast Upon the Course

Writing isn’t always going to turn out how you want it to turn out.  Things tend to get a little crazy within the mind, and when that happens all hell tends to break loose.  It might just be hell inside your head, but that’s enough to make things crazy.

Which is funny, because someone found a post I wrote during Camp Nano last year.  The post started out with advice from Henry Miller on how one should write when they are writing.  It’s a good time to bring back those rules:

 

1.  Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2.  Start no more new books, add no more new material to Black Spring. (At the time this was his WiP.)
3.  Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4.  Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5.  When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Number one has always been important to me, because when I start on a new WiP, I tend not to deal with anything else.  There’s no point to working on three or four different things at the same time, because you end up distracting yourself to hell and gone trying to tie together all these threads that have nothing to do with each other.  And then you end up with crap.  Lots of crap.  And who wants that?

Number ten used to be a problem for me.  I’d find myself in the middle of a story and then–“Hey, why don’t you think about this story?”  Oh, sure.  Why not?  Because this is just like Number One, only with a zero after.  Distracted, distracted, distracted.  You don’t need that.  It’s like the people who say they have trouble working on a story because they come up with ideas for ten stories they should write:  you end up writing nothing doing that, my friends.

I will cop to this:  Number five happened last night.  I was editing.  I was doing a good job editing.  Things were coming along nicely, and then . . . I started thinking about yesterday’s post, and the idea of the course I’d created for a story that, were it to happen, wouldn’t come around for a few years.  I mean, to me some future history on my kids is a little more cement in their lives; it’s world building and it makes them become more whole.

Things took a turn, however:  a dark turn.

I was working, but I was also creating, and the creating side sorta pulled me away from the working side.  I starting thinking about this test run I set up for Annie and Kerry, and my Muse was saying, “You know The Foundation isn’t all rainbows and happy unicorns, that one of the mottoes of Salem is they’ll push you to your limits, and then push you beyond once you’ve reached them . . . so if someone really wanted to know how good these kids were, how far would they push it?  Knowing, of course, that no one is watching the watchmen.”

It’s a good question, and it defines the character of some of the people who aren’t connected to the school, but who are also responsible for keeping the world running as best it can.

How far would they push my kids?

Answer:  all the way to hell and beyond.

Oh, what I came up with was glorious.  It was a layer cake of hardship and pain.  You have a couple of advanced students who are touted as the best of the best, and people behind the monitors thinking, “Yeah?  We’ll see how good they are.”  And then the hike becomes a battle of wills with my kids figuring out how to game the course they’re upon–which, if you know your magic, you can totally do–and the monitors who are becoming more and more frustrated by the minute that they can’t keep up.

When that happens, it won’t take much for someone to finally say, “Screw it.  Time to pull the trigger on this lot.”

"Wow, it's really beautiful out here.  Though it'd be so much better of people where throwing fireballs at us every five minutes."

“Wow, it’s really beautiful out here. This would be a much better hike if people weren’t trying to kill us with fireballs every five minutes.”

That is the way of my world:  it’s not all nice, and if you gotta put kids through hell to test them, there are people who will do such a thing.  Naturally, there is a lesson learned at the end by one person, and if I’m right–and sometimes I am–this does set up my dynamic for the D Level experience they begin in a few months.

Really, it’s not wrong to torture your characters–

Not if it builds their character in the stories to come.

Deconstructing Mindscapes

The Road Down Editing Lane went well last night.  Another chapter down and another to go tonight.  It’s relaxing to go over someone else’s work and think about how you can help make it better–but also, it allows you to see into the mind of another writer who is like you in some ways, but always different.  It’s a break from your own stuff–

Did I say a break from my stuff?  Surely I jest!

Yesterday was a slow morning at work, so I had time to think about–well, stories.  As I’ve said before, I’m always thinking about stories.  Even if I’m not working on anything, I’m thinking about my stories and my characters.  As I had time for thinking, I put it to good use.

There are future events in The Foundation Chronicles that happen in later school years.  One of the years I was thinking about is Annie and Kerry’s C Levels, which come in 2013/2014.  Hey, that’s right now, isn’t it?  Funny how that works out.  I’ve mentioned in another post that this year deals with a lot of loneliness.  You have both kids in the middle of almost all advanced classes, while taking a few new courses, and that’s keeping them apart and slightly stressed.  You have Kerry’s parents, who having discovered the truth about their darling little lad, are not happy to learn he’s another red headed bastard witch.  No, really:  they’re unhappy to the point where Kerry’s case worker pretty much threatens the parents with pulling Kerry out of the home if she feels he’s in any danger, or if she feels he’s being abused.  With this in mind the parents aren’t talking to him over Skype, and when they finally call, it’s to tell him they’re going to Australia for Yule holiday and he’ll have to stay at the school.

Then he has another near death experience, which makes him go all introvert.  A few weeks after that Annie–who’s under her own stress from being pushed to be a good little sorceress–flips out and attacks a student.  Kerry shows up to try and keep her from turning the student into black goo–which she can totally do–and they both have something close to a full breakdown–

But before that, they get to be lab rats.

The Foundation has some–let us say “interest” in my two kids.  And why not?  They’re some kick-ass witches.  So one weekend in February they get taken away for some examinations.  First they get a bit of a psychological test before they’re examined while they sleep.  The next day they’re awakened early–they’re on the West Coast–and sent to Georgia, home to hillbillies, zombies, and Foundation testing facilities:  in particular, a ten kilometer test course right in the middle of Deliverance country that Annie and Kerry have to negotiate before they can go home.

Don’t worry, it’s going to be an easy hike.  Sure it will.

Naturally I wanted to see this course, and naturally I have a tool:  I use the Daft Logic Advanced Google Maps Distance Calculator for creating routes.  I used this for creating the route of The Polar Express that Emma and Kerry fly, and I used it for creating a few other routes as well.  But, here, I switches Google Maps over to Map with Terrain, and began plotting out where my trail headed, up and down mountains and through the valleys.

"Over the river and through the woods, attacked by fireballs . . ."

“Over the river and through the woods, dodging fireballs . . .”

A Normal person wouldn’t make it through this hike, because there’s all sorts of nasty stuff along the way that can only be fought with magic and gifts–mutant powers, if you prefer.  But if you’re Annie and Kerry you’ll make it through–maybe.  No one said this was going to be simple . . .

This is what happens when I have a few hours to think and some characters in need of a story:  I give them one.

If only the rest of my life were like this.

The Magic Box

I came out of a bad dream this morning.  I was back at my last job, which started about a year ago at this time, I could hear the person I reported to at that position talking to another programmer about how a certain process wasn’t mapped out, and “they”–as in the company “they”–needed to get on this right away, because time is money, you know?  My dream self knew this was bullshit,  because I’d mapped said process out and I had the note to prove it.  So I spent a considerable amount of time tracking this fool down to show him that I had already done the work, and the program with whom he’d conferred was telling him lies if he said there wasn’t anything down on paper.

The comeback from this conversation is that while I’d done this, true, it wasn’t what he wanted, which didn’t seem surprising, because this asshole was the sort of person who’d tell you what he wanted, then change what he wanted based upon–I don’t know, maybe the wind had changed direction.  When I woke up I was pissed, because this dream summed up my time at that last position:  people would tell me what they wanted, they’d wait for me to do it, then tell me that wasn’t what they wanted, this was what they wanted and why couldn’t I see that?

The only good thing to come out of that dream was when I went through my notes I discovered a ton of outlines I’d made for stories.  I felt rather proud about that part.  The rest, though, I could have taken a flame thrower to and laughed the entire time.

Working there was like being in a box, and no one likes being inside a box, except maybe a cat:  they love boxes.  Creative people want out of boxes:  they want to move, to grow, to expand their horizons.  They become unhappy if they are kept confined and unable to express themselves.  And most of all, they want a certain modicum of success.  What is the point of doing all this if there isn’t some kind of payoff in the end?  If nothing else, give us a “Well done” pat on the back when it’s all over.

You know who else is kind of in a box?  The kids in my story!  See how I did that?  Smooth, huh?

It’s magical lab time, and all the students in my spells class have a sealed box before them with an object inside.  I’ll let Miss Wednesday explain:

 

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

Once everyone was inside and seated Wednesday began speaking. “What we are going to do today is a simply exercise that will allow you to work your will. You’ll see that each of you has a small box with a object inside. The boxes are locked onto the table surface so they can’t move, and they can’t be opened. The tables have also been calibrated so they are level. The object inside cannot roll on its own, so there is no fear that it’ll move on its own.

“What you have to do is simple: you will use magic to move it from one end of the box to the other. You will visualize the object moving, you will pull out energy to power you spell, and you will combine the two with your will to complete the task.” Wednesday giggled. “Yeah, I know: I make it sound easy. So let me break it down for you.

“The visualization part is easy. I can bet that every one of you can imagine the thing inside your box moving from one side to the other. You can imagine that over and over. Simple, yeah?

“Pulling the energy in from mysticspace—that’s a little trickier. We know you can do it, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Some of you have done something that made The Foundation believe you have it in you to be a will worker. The thing is, you likely have no idea what it is you did, so you’re completely unaware of how to do it again.

“Mysticspace . . .” Wednesday spread here arms wide and slowly turn. “It’s all around us. It’s everywhere. You don’t know it, but you’re accessing it right now, because it partially powers your aura. But that’s something even Normals do, so it’s not really magic; real magic would be controlling your aura.

“To pull in that energy—you can feel yourself doing it.” She paused for a moment, thinking about when she performed her first spells. “It’s like you’re reaching into a dark space where you can’t see what you’re looking for, but you can feel everything. Getting a grip on mysticspace makes your fingertips tingle and the hair on the back of your neck stand up for a bit. You’ll actually know you have it, because it’ll feel solid, it’ll feel like a tangible object.

“Then come the combining of your visions with the energy you’ve tapped—that is the tricky part. You’re basically trying to bring together the right amount of power with the correct visualization—which is sort of like trying to make a cake for the first time without knowing how much of each ingredient you should us. Sometimes you’ll use too little energy and nothing happens, other times you’ll use too much and blow everything to hell.” Wednesday allowed the mummer to die down before going on. “And then there’s time times when you just don’t quite have a good image in your mind . . .

“And then there’s the cases where you’re just not able to use your willpower to bend ol’ reality the way you’d like. Some people have the ability to visualize and tap into the power, but they lack the will necessary to slap reality around—instead, it’s the one doing the slapping. When you get Blowback, you’ll know: it hurts. Trust me—” She nodded with extreme seriousness. “I know.”

Wednesday waved her right hand in the air and all three video monitors came on. “I’m tracking each student, and the boxes are monitors to see how well you do. Right now you’re all in the red because your object hasn’t moved. The boxes are thirty centimeters long—that’s about a foot for you Americans still not hip to metric—” Lisa huffed as this was something that didn’t bother her in the least, while Emmalynne appeared embarrassed. “—and the monitoring is divided into thirds, or ten centimeters each.

“If you find it impossible to move your object out of the first third of the box, the monitor under your name up here remains red. If you move it more than ten centimeters but fewer then twenty, then your monitor turns yellow. And should you get it into the final third of the box, you get a green. And should you smack the object against the far end—” Wednesday pointed at one of the monitors and a random name began to flash. “Then we see your name in lights and you can sit out the rest of the class in the library while enjoying punch and cake—”

Kerry’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Yes, Kerry—” Wednesday winked at him. “The cake is not a lie.” She clapped her hands together. “Okay, lets everyone get relaxed and in the proper frame of mind. Limber up, settle down, and start getting your mojo workin’.” She looked about the room with a smile on her face. “You can start any time from . . . Now.”

Yes, I made a bad Portal joke.  GLaDOS can come after me if she wants.

Almost fifteen hundred words were added to the story, and I’ve up the target goal to ninety thousand words.  When I hit that, it’ll be the largest novel I’ve written since the first I started all those years ago.  I see this scene finishing in another thousand words, and maybe the next will end up about that much as well.  Then a little astronomy and then to the next day, and Formulistic Magic, and a meeting with one half of the most cantankerous couple on the campus.  Really, though, she’s a pussy cat.

Sure, she’s killed a few people, but her partner’s killed a lot more.