Progress Report – February 2012

February actually began on January 31st, in the sense that that’s when I last put out a progress report. And it’s ending on the 28th, so, well, welcome to jespah time, I suppose.

Posted Works

The first new work was a response to the Ad Astra weekly free write about making a first impression, and is called Voracious. I have a more expanded view of that story in mind, but that will be presented at some later date, if at all. I then produced two separate ficlets for the Kill Your Darlings prompt. The first one is called Remembrance. The second, much darker one, is called One Last Gift.

Next I worked on the monthly challenge. This is a gauntlet that I had thrown down, about decisions and how they affect timelines. The natural subject, for me, was the Temporal Integrity Commission and the Empress Hoshi Sato. It was a great opportunity to better bridge the In Between Days and Times of the HG Wells series. I imagine it must look as if I had had the idea in mind when I instigated the challenge, but I truly did not. I just tossed out the challenge and then … hey … I’ll write about that. That one is called First Born. I ended up being able to post it on Trek BBS for their challenge, too.

I also gathered up In Between Days weekly free writes so that they could be placed into the archive with some chronological coherence. They were placed hereVoracious, Onions, Letters from Home, Waiting, Apple, Brown, Friday Visit, The Gift, Movie Night, All You Need is Love, Biases, Debate, Hearts in Time and Remembrance have been added. Plus longer stories like Paving Stones, The Light, Reversal, Intolerance, Together, Broken Seal, The Cure is Worse than the Disease, Take Back the Night, Temper, Coveted Commodity, Temptation, Some Assembly Required and Fortune have been linked to, so as to provide better context. I like this idea and will probably do something similar once I have more free writes in my other series, such as the Daranaean Emergence Series or Times of the HG Wells.

I also added a new chapter to Hold Your Dominion, called Stage Eight – Rituals. I hadn’t added to that one for quite a while, but the idea of Valentines’ Day appealed to me.

Speaking of Valentines’ Day, the prompt on February 14th was to do crossovers, so trekfan and I collaborated on what turned out to be a little time traveling dating service story called Hearts in Time. The whole thing was cobbled together in perhaps three hours, which included chatting, editing and lunch. I am so pleased at how well it all worked out. I suspect that that dating service could be conjured up again for another crossover, either wholly within my own universes or with another writer again. trekfan was a joy to work with.

For the altered states prompt, I posted an E2 ficlet called Fear.

On Trek BBS, I received four votes for Coveted Commodity, for their January challenge. This was not enough to win or even place, but I was glad for the recognition just the same, as it was my first time responding to a challenge there. I continued spinning out the PG-13 version of Reversal. I also added First Born as a response to their February challenge.

On TrekUnited, I added Paving Stones to their fan fiction section.

On Fan Fiction.net, I continued adding to the PG-13 version of Reversal.

TrekEmpire has closed, so I will migrate my few story topics (these were already posted on Ad Astra) to TrekUnited.

WIP Corner

The E2 stories continue apace. I’m still not happy enough with them to start spinning them out on Trek United, but I’m getting there. There’s a lot of research and a lot of interweaving between canon and my fanfiction, so it’s somewhat complicated. My inspiration level for them has improved, too, but I also want to make sure I’m not writing myself into a corner. Right now I am cooking along in the middle third or so of the second of three planned books.

One idea that is also kicking around a little is to gather up all of the mirror universe stories I have, of any era, much like the IBD Collection, in order to show the progression. The tentative title is Hall of Mirrors.

Another idea kicking around is a redux of These Are the Voyages. A lot of people hated the TNG holodeck framing device used on TATV, and I am one of them. I just feel that it detracted from the storytelling. Hence I have my own ideas. They are in a very rudimentary stage, and it is looking like it will be a multichapter work. I am holding off, for now, in favor of the E2 stories as they came first, and I am rather inspired in that area right now. But this story (which is right now just called TATV Redux although that will undoubtedly be changed) is also in my head.

Prep Work

I hunted around for a cover for Coveted Commodity, and I found an image I really liked. Fortunately, the ENT covers I have are pretty easy. There are top and bottom pieces that I just reuse, and then I put the actual image in the middle. Hence that one is all ready to go.

I also found some great pictures for Daranaean stories, and now have Vidam as an adult and Trinning as a young boy.

I also created a PG-13 version of Intolerance (it was easier than I had feared), so I am ready to post it on Trek BBS and Fanfiction.net once the PG-13 version of Reversal is finished in both places.

I spent some time on blog housekeeping and updating, including adding quotes to the side bar.

For the E2 stories, I began to find images that I should be able to cobble together into an image of a malostrea, although I might just attempt to draw one. That’s a preview – the name is Latin for evil oyster.

This Month’s Productivity Killers

My husband was sick with a monster cold and so, of course, I eventually was as well. Otherwise, the only issues were with being at home and hearing too much of the telephone and standard neighborhood noises. I was also looking for work, so that took up a good chunk of my time, too.

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Review – Freak School

Review – Freak School

Freak School was one of these odd, serendipitous moments where suddenly all I do is type and it’s as if I’m taking dictation.

Review – Freak School
Freak School

Our story is told only in diary entries, and they are the entries of a teenaged girl. The whole thing is a project for her English class. Pretty soon the diarist – Rayna Montgomery – begins to reveal things about herself. Like, for example, that she’s only partly human. And that she’s been sent to a school for hybrid children because she couldn’t get along with the kids at her old school in Connecticut. She was the victim of some teasing and, because she’s a pretty big girl herself, retaliation was problematic.

Hence Rayna is sent to the Archer Academy at Oberon, a school for troubled hybrid children. In addition to her regular subjects, she’s required to attend Group, which is intended to be a sort of rap session/quasi-therapy. I well recall a class like that when I was in High School (it was the 70s; it’s just what we did back then), and how, in general, it was pretty dull but the dynamics of the group could be of interest.

Rayna deals with a personality conflict with a female classmate, a lovesick male classmate who she doesn’t feel the same way about, and a new student upon whom she has quite the crush. It’s also told with a very heavy Valley Girl type of an accent. I hear Moon Unit Zappa in Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl” song when I hear Rayna’s voice.

As Rayna herself says, “See – and if you’re some archaeologist digging this up in, like, a thousand years, you should know that there are all of these species in the Federation. Before we all had Warp Drive, we just went our merry ways, but now that there’s been peace for a while – ugh – there’s all this interspecies marriage. So kids like me are born.

I mean, it’s not like we all didn’t try. I tried while I was in Connecticut, but there were just too many rules. And, like I’ve said, I got the worst of both worlds. I’m too short and soft to be menacing, and I’m too freaky-looking to fit in, in Connecticut or anywhere else on Earth.

Let’s just say – despite what my Mom used to say – I am not a pretty girl.”

But she is crafty.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated T.

Upshot

It was great fun to write. I can see little typos but otherwise I’m happy with it. And there’s even a sequel.

Portrait of a Character – Gabrielle Nolan

Portrait of a Character – Gabrielle Nolan

Origins

Gabby started off as almost a plot device. I had been working on a series of ficlets surrounding the Breen attack on Earth, and I was analogizing them to the Five Stages of Grief. The Breen attack also felt a lot like 9/11, so I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a pregnant widow. Gabrielle is not the widow (Gina is); she’s the daughter. So she doesn’t show up until the sixth stage, which is healing.

While I wanted to move the story beyond grief, I also wrote the healing aspect in order to introduce Gabby. This was done as the response to a weekly free write prompt about art. When I saw the prompt, the first thing I thought of was art therapy, and I immediately got the image of a child’s red-colored rounded scrawl into my head, and that would not go away.

Art Therapy

As a part of the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Breen attack, Gabby’s school has its students draw, paint or sculpt their impressions of that day. Gabrielle isn’t the only bereft child, as she learns. For Gabby, it’s a day to make a friend, as it is for her  mother, Gina. A part of healing is, I feel, to go outside yourself, and see that others might be in the same boat as you. Art brings it all together, as Gabby’s piece and another piece bring them close to people with a similar bereavement.

Quote

“It’s a tomato.” (when asked about the red scrawl on her drawing).

Appearance

Gabby is shown as both a child and a teenager. For her time as a small child, I see MacKenzie Foy.

Portrait of a Character – Gabrielle Nolan

As a teenager, I don’t really have a visual for her yet. She’s a child of the twenty-fourth century, and a child of tragedy, much like any of the children of 9/11 victims, whether they were extant or in utero on 9/11/01. As a teenager, she is a lot like a typical human teenager – engrossed in her PADD, bored with slow-moving adult things, and intent on fixing up her friends with each other, a little like Jane Austen’s Emma.

In her eyes, her mother sees her lost father, Michael Nolan, much as I expect 9/11 widows see their husbands in the eyes of their children.

Inspiration – Films

Roll it, Aidan!

Films have crept into my Star Trek fanfiction in a lot of different ways.

Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer.
Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the most obvious manner, they have been the subject of the stories Movie Night and Broken Seal. I love the idea that Enterprise had a Movie Night. Canon puts it during a weeknight, but I have changed it to the weekends so that it can be the centerpiece of date night. I have also added a Master of Ceremonies, Chip Masterson, and a projectionist, Aidan MacKenzie. Chip even holds a discussion of the film afterwards if anyone is interested, but the talks are only sparsely attended. Every film in my stories, if it is shown on the NX-01, begins with, “Roll it, Aidan!”

Films also, often, reflect a plot or inspire a character name or even something else. Here are a few films, and where they’ve led me.

Gaslight

In Reversal, Lili goes on a disastrous blind date for Movie Night, but the film is important because it’s about a man trying to drive his wife mad with untruths. It’s an oblique reference to plot points to come.

Dirty Dancing

In Intolerance, Pamela uses the film as a way to determine who’s been sending her sonnets. The film also pushes in some music that’s germane to the plot, such as The RonettesBe My Baby.

The King of Hearts

In Together, Malcolm attends this foreign film – even though, in canon, he’d prefer films with a lot of explosions in them – in the hopes of seeing someone.

Grease

This film is referenced twice. Once, as a quickie Shakespearean reference to Arden (Eve Arden, invoking the Forest of Arden from As You Like It) in Intolerance, and again in Fortune, where it’s used to essentially babysit an ailing elderly character who is losing memory.

Casablanca

This film is the subject of a future date in Fortune, and is referenced as one of the most romantic films of all time.

Rashomon

This film, with its differing perspectives, is called upon to determine whether any portions of several conflicting stories make sense, in Fortune.

Back to the Future

The time ships in the HG Wells series are all named for various bits of time travel pop culture ephemera, including the Flux Capacitor, often called Fluxy.

The Graduate

Even though he’s about her age, in Ohio, when Sheilagh Bernstein says, “Agent Daniels, are you trying to seduce me?” that’s a reference to The Graduate.

Stalag 17

In Movie Night, Malcolm and Melissa make plans to watch this film – it’s one of the few times I have Malcolm going to a movie that he may very well have picked out. This film is also referenced in Day of the Dead and characters Herbie Shapiro and Stanislaus Kuzawa.

The Seventh Seal

In Broken Seal, Chip Masterson hypes this highbrow film, but not too many people show up. T’Pol does, though, as it’s intended to be a film that would probably be more likely to appeal to her than to anyone. Phlox talks throughout the picture as he and Malcolm try to figure out the symbolism, and then Malcolm talks to his girl about it, and asks a bit more about the symbolism.

Cover of "The Breakfast Club"
Cover of The Breakfast Club

Little movie references also abound – Claire Crossman is a reference to Molly Ringwald‘s character in The Breakfast Club. Jeremiah Logan Beckett is, in part, named for Logan’s Run. There’s even a small shout out to The Wizard of Oz in Reversal.

In a small way, too, the Terminator films are also an influence, as the temporally paradoxical character of John Connor is referenced a bit by the equally temporally paradoxical character of Jun Sato.

Undoubtedly, more films will creep in and I’ll have to revisit this topic. Why, I haven’t even mentioned Kramer vs. Kramer!

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Portrait of a Character – Bron

For Valentines’ Day, here’s a look at a character absolutely motivated by love.

The Unexpected Pairing

On Ad Astra, I swear I was only joking when I suggested a Star Trek fanfiction love story about a shy Gorn reciting poetry to a lovely, blushing Cardassian maiden. And then the gauntlet was thrown down – write it!

My first venture into the Bron-Sophra pairing was The Reptile Speaks. What I wanted to get across was the idea of a very unexpected lover. Currently, for us humans, an unexpectedly romantic person or partner might be someone who is of a different race or religion from us, or someone who we might not see as romantic (the stereotypical jock or soldier, perhaps).

Analogous Mixed Pairings Here on Earth

Back when I was a kid, a mixed marriage was considered, generally, as being between two people of different religions. And, a good hundred-plus years before that, technically, it was an issue for Jews if the one of the two parties to a marriage was Sephardic, and the other Ashkenazi. In that case, even a marriage of two Jews could be seen as “mixed”. And of course now you see a lot of mixed race marriages. A major, landmark case, Loving vs. Virginia (Supreme Court, 1967) declared any legislation outlawing marriage between differing races was unconstitutional.

As a Massachusetts resident, I have seen my share of same-sex marriages as well. I recognize that this is not the norm everwhere, but it is becoming so here. These examples are as close as we can get to the concept of interspecies romance and, perhaps, marriage.

Portrayal

For alien characters requiring a lot of makeup and/or prosthetics, it can be difficult to visualize them. But for me, Bron is a classic romantic lead in a difficult body. I think of Leonardo DiCaprio, Leonardo DiCapriowho has made himself somewhat less than attractive in a lot of roles, but has also been a romantic lead. Forget the hair. Forget the skin. Concentrate on the eyes, on the voice, on the body shape and size, on the posture, on the mannerisms, and let your imagination wander. Think of what it was like to be a teenager, or shy, or not fitting in. Think of longing, and of missed opportunities, and of insecurity.

Is there not a soul in the sentient reptile? Hath not the Gorn eyes?

Quote

“Um, I just, I don’t know if you would want to be, to be seen with, with a guy like me.”

A Gentle Dragon?

My hope with creating Bron was and is to put forth someone who is out of left field when it comes to romance and gallantry. Bron’s gentle nature is not readily apparent. You have to look past frightening teeth, claws and scales. You need to see what’s inside the person, and uncover the sensitivity within.

When a weekly free write prompt came up about crying, I decided to continue the Bron-Sophra story with Insecurity. I often have trouble writing characters weeping (and for the life of me, I have no idea why), but Bron’s crying, to me, rang true. He is a teenaged character, with a lot of the insecurities and highs and lows that come from being about fifteen or sixteen or so. And like a lot of less than good-looking guys out there, he worries about his chances with girls and is shy because he doesn’t want to be hurt.

You may not want to hug him, still, but I hope you can see beyond the teeth, the claws and the cold-bloodedness. We may very well find that some of our best and closest alien friends look nothing like us. Why, when you next hear a Shakespearean sonnet, it might just be recited by a guy who looks like this. Bron

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Review – Brown

Review – Brown

Background

I wrote Brown in response to a weekly free write challenge on Ad Astra where the subject was pests.

I had established a rodent infestation on the Defiant in Reversal, and had originally intended for the mice to be a bit of comic relief (after all, the Star Trek Mirror Universe can, at least in my fanfiction, be overwhelmingly negative and dark), but they took on lives of their own and became more of a symbol for the chaos and inattention to detail that I’ve laced the MU with.

Review - Brown
Terran Empress Hoshi

The Empress Hoshi Sato‘s sleeping around is partly, canon, partly my own doing. I envision her as a bit like Livia in Suetonius, who has unparalleled ambition for her offspring. But for Hoshi, it’s also a matter of survival. She seduces the upper-level men on the Defiant, has a child with them and, if they have even a shred of decency, they will work to at least ensure the survival of their own child.

Brown put the two concepts together as Hoshi is followed not too long after the end of the events depicted in Reversal, and she is pregnant by Aidan. But she’s not the only pregnant female aboard, as she has found.

I have experienced mice infestations, and they can get rather bold. There’s also a feeling of invasion, where it seems a bit like your home is no longer your own. For Hoshi, the mice also symbolize a breakdown in authority. All she wants is for the mice to be gone, and they just seem to be multiplying. For Aidan and Chip, shown here a little bit like two partners in crime – which is a role they often fall into in the Prime Universe – the presence of the mice symbolizes a bit of subversion. It’s a small victory for them to see Hoshi squirm.

Story Postings

Review - Brown

Rating

The story is rated K but there are some fairly adult concepts in there.

Upshot

Review - Brown
The Queen of the Mice

I like how it turned out, and I particularly like the economy of words.

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Spotlight on Original Drug – Tricoulamine

Origins

(229/365) Daily injection
(229/365) Daily injection (Photo credit: Sarah G…)

In my Star Trek fanfiction, Tricoulamine started off as a kind of garden-variety nerve toxin. It’s meant to be, in some ways, what a criminal would get as a lethal injection. Or it’s like the cyanide pills that you see in spy movies.

As I progressed with writing fan fiction, I found it was useful for a few other purposes. For one thing, it comes in several forms. For humans, it’s either in tablet or injected form. For Klingons – and it’s not fatal to them; it just knocks them out – it’s a sand-colored gas. For Calafans, it occurs naturally in their environment, and is meant to be akin to a form of cyanide being found in peach pits.

Formats

It first shows up in Reversal (injectible form), then in Intolerance (gas), then in Temper (naturally occurring), then in Fortune (tablet), then in Escape and The Point is Probably Moot (both times, it’s a tablet. Escape contains a missing scene from The Point). In Fortune and The Point, it’s understood that it is particularly difficult to get if you’re not a physician. However, since it occurs naturally in the environment of the Lafa System, if humans settle there, then there is the potential for people to obtain it without a prescription.

The name is, in part, meant to reflect the poisoned grain from The Trouble With Tribbles episode for TOS, quadrotriticale.

Effects

For Klingons, it just knocks them out, and is not harmful. It’s unclear how long the unconscious state lasts. In Intolerance, the Klingons are out for a few days or so, but they are already in a weakened state, so it’s unclear.

For humans, it hits your digestive tract or bloodstream and you’re a goner. Fortunately, it’s fast enough that there is little to no pain. In Temper, a human victim of tricoulamine poisoning appeared to be sleeping.

It is unknown how it affects other species, and since it occurs naturally in their environment, it’s possible that it doesn’t affect Calafans at all.

Pronunciation Guide

It can be pronounced as either tri-coo-la-meen or tri-coh-la-meen.

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Portrait of a Character – Leonora (Norri) Digiorno

Portrait of a Character – Leonora (Norri) Digiorno

All characters are me, and I am all characters.

At least, that is, when it comes to the originals. And when it comes to Star Trek canon, there are plenty of things that I add, so those additions are me, too.

Roots

Norri was kicking around for a few years, even before I started writing Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction, which was back in April of 2005. Actually, it was just her first name. She was originally, actually, a kind of foundling, a girl from medieval times who was orphaned by the Black Death and saved (from a bear – hey, I like Shakespeare) by being plucked out for a time travel purpose. I modified the time travel series quite a bit in order to create a series of stories called Times of the HG Wells, but I brought Norri in earlier, for the In Between Days series, although she is seen a little during the Wells series. Confused yet?

I hadn’t originally written her as a lesbian, either, but the idea presented itself because I was looking for a parallel to a day/night concept that I had going on. The In Between Days series gives its main characters active nighttime lives (through the dream state) which are almost as important as their daylight lives. To really bring the point home, I created a bi character, Melissa Madden. But Melissa needed a lesbian lover in order to pull it all off, so Norri emerged.

Symbolism

Portrait of a Character - Leonora (Norri) Digiorno
Alyson Hannigan at a celebration of the 100th …

Norri is the most literary of the main characters in the In Between Days series, starting off as a book editor, eventually getting her PhD and writing a book of her own. At the time I was shaping her, I was working for a book publisher, so she partly evolved from that. Her last name, of course, means “of the day”, so she is not only an embodiment of daytime, she also parallels main character Lili O’Day (who is also “of the day”). Furthermore, five of the six main characters (everyone but Pamela Hudson) are associated with elements. Norri is outside of what we might think of as the four traditional “elements”, and so hers is the Hindu fifth element – communications (sometimes called the ether or the void, which makes sense in space).

Visualization

Portrait of a Character - Leonora (Norri) Digiorno
Alyson Hannigan as a Young Norri

It was important for me to see Norri as being “played” by an actress who has played at least one gay character already. I also wanted her to be young but wise beyond her years, and to be redheaded. This brought me to the idea of Alyson Hannigan.

Background

I also liked the idea of Norri being someone who is somewhat remote. Of all of the main characters in the In Between Days series, you learn the least about her, and that’s by design. Of the five big books in that series, Temper and Fortune have the most information about her, and even then she’s really just a sketch.

She even gets a second nickname which is a misnomer. Malcolm refers to her as “Lioness” or “the Lioness”, when the truth is that her name means “light”. So she’s a kind of double light/daytime character.

Personality

As a person, she is forced to rise to the occasion and commit some forms of self-sacrifice several times, whether it’s to become Neil’s sole caregiver in Temper, or to shepherd children away so that various couples can have their privacy. But she gets her due, and is the final commenter and recordkeeper when it comes to the lives of the principal characters in the In Between Days series.

Her sexuality is rarely at issue. She acknowledges that she was very aware of it certainly by the time she graduated from college, but that her parents were wary of it, and her father hoped she would grow out of it (this is explored in An Announcement). Of course, that doesn’t happen. Her scenes with Melissa are meant to be as intimate as those between the straight couples. Norri also begins her romance more conventionally than most of the others do – she meets Melissa in a bar.

Mirror Universe

Norri is barely seen in the MU, save for her death, which is particularly senseless.

Alyson Hannigan
Alyson Hannigan (Photo credit: Jessica Finson)

Her murder is recalled, somewhat remorsefully, in Bread.

Music

Not every character has a musical theme, but Norri does. As might be expected, it’s Elvis Costello’s “Every Day I Write the Book”.

Quote

“It’s not necessarily unfair. You’d be sleeping. Everybody sleeps. I can’t get into your dreams. All that’s changing now, really, is that I know, more or less, what those dreams are. But you and I, we have the big thing, the big love.”

Upshot

Book smart and funny, Norri is the essence of communication, holding everyone together, and making everything spin.

Portrait of a Character - Leonora (Norri) Digiorno
Norri at the start of the arrangement