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Untrustworthy Has Been Published!

Untrustworthy Has Been Published!

On the twelfth of December, my original novel, Untrustworthy, was published by Riverdale Avenue Books.

To say that I am excited about this development in my life is one hell of an understatement.

Untrustworthy has been published!
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

The novel is a wholly originally work of fiction, on a planet created by me, with a species developed by me.

This book was written during the 2013 NaNoWriMo event.

Here’s what the publisher had to say about my work:

Winner of the first Annual Riverdale Avenue NaNoWriMo contest, JR Gershen-Siegel’s first published novel Untrustworthy is a ground-breaking science fiction novel of Dystopian politics in an oddly familiar alien culture that pits gender “norm” against  gender-bend in an age-old battle.

Untrustworthy is old-school political dystopia in the vein of Brave New World: brilliant, gripping, frightening. JR Gershen-Siegel tackles gender politics and gender oppression with an unflinching eye. Untrustworthy is panned NaNoWriMo gold.”

Cecilia Tan, Publisher of Circlet Press, award-winning author of The Struck by Lightning series

Tathrelle is the only liberal in the Cabossian government. She represents the will of the people and is responsible for communicating with them about how the war with the Cavirii is going. She has a pregnant wife, and all seems well. The future seems promising, until she meets her new assistant. Something is off with the man.

When Tathrelle wakes up the morning after she first met him, she notices that subtle changes seem to have taken place overnight. She shrugs them off. 

But it happens again and again. Someone, somehow, is changing everything she knows, as Tathrelle begins to wonder if her memories are faulty or if her mind is going. Can she trust the face she sees in the mirror? Is Caboss winning the war or losing it? Why is she suddenly the one who is pregnant?

Only her dreams provide a clue, a small vestige of what came before.

Trust your dreams, not your memory.

Yeah, it’s like that.

I even have an Amazon Author page!

Best Genre Treatment 2

Best Genre Treatment 2

For the best genre treatment 2, let’s take a look at my best stories in four more genres. Hence these are what are (to me) my best Star Trek fan fiction stories in particular writing genres.

Historical

There can only be one for the Best Genre Treatment 2.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Concord | Best Genre Treatment 2
Concord

While I also love Crackerjack, and all of the HG Wells stories, I believe that, by far, my best historical fiction story is Concord.

I have never, ever worked so hard to get a story right, than I did with Concord.

From its cover (that’s the bridge leading from Lexington to Concord and, yes, there was an engagement on it), to determining whether men would tip their hats to women (yes), to figuring out Colonial Era market prices, to even deciding the name of one of the cows, Concord is an absolute labor of love.

The premise of the story is an interphase: Malcolm is transported to April 1775 Lexington, Massachusetts, and takes the place of an ancestor, just as a future time traveler, during the time of the Genesis Project, takes the place of his own ancestor, who is fighting alongside Malcolm’s ancestor. Injured in the fighting, Malcolm and the time traveler, Robert Lennox, are quartered in a home, where they meet, among other people, Benjamin Warren.

IDIC

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Future Matches | Best Genre Treatment 2
Future Matches

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations brings to mind LGBTQ story lines. In this genre, my favorite (which is also a reader favorite) is Detached Curiosity & Idle Speculation.

Working as both a prequel to There’s Something About Hoshi and a sequel to the E2 stories, Detached tells the story of how Dave Constantine and Frank Todd started dating.

With what is almost 20/20 hindsight, the men know that they were together and that their relationship worked out. But it’s still tentative and a little strange. But when they kiss, you want to cheer.

Romance

This was easily the most difficult decision, to figure out which was the best of these many stories.  Three stories get an honorable mention here. First is The Reptile Speaks, which is a Gorn romancing a Cardassian.  I loved the idea of putting together a rather different couple, and how someone who looks so menacing could, at bottom, be a truly good person.

Reversal has to be mentioned, as it is not only the love of the dark stranger for the light, but it’s also an amazing kick-off story. A ton of roads lead straight to Reversal.

The Honky Tonk Angel also deserves mention, as it’s another odd couple type of story, as Kevin O’Connor and Jhasi Tantharis go on their first date.

But the winner, the best one (and I might change my mind tomorrow) is The Three of Us .

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Three of Us
The Three of Us

All of the E2 stories were labors of love, but Three is really the big one. That is also due to, in part, its size.

Characters move from misbehaving and acting childishly, to acting criminally, to eventually maturing. Kindness, friendship, and togetherness, lead to more.

As you might expect from such a title, the relationship is an unconventional one.

But the parties persevere, and grow, as time pulls them along and they experience not just romantic love, but also brotherhood, fellowship, parenthood, and, ultimately, tragedy.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Sparrow and the Blue Jay
The Sparrow and the Blue Jay

This image becomes particularly important, and is a part of one of the story’s many high points.

I love this story, from its tentative, scared, damaged people, to its criminals, to its hopefulness, to its sorrow. As Lili O’Day says in Fortune, “There is something there.”

Tragedy

Nothing really comes close to Seven Women, when it comes to tragedy.  From the very start, I tell the reader that Tommy Digiono-Madden is going to die. A fireball is coming, the fire door is shut, and he cannot outrun any of it. He knows this is it. But instead of having his life flash before his eyes, Tommy instead thinks of seven pivotal women in his life. They range from the three women he called mother, to his first girlfriend, and more.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Seven Women
Seven Women

This was a character I had only written little snippets of, and very few as an adult.  As readers got to know Tommy, so did I. The best decision I made in that story was to not bow to internal pressure to give him a happy ending.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t get one.

Upshot

The best romance story was easily the hardest of these decisions to make. Tune in; I may do this again next year.

Best Genre Treatment 1

Best Genre Treatment 1

I  write in all sorts of genres. Hence I have put together what I think are my best treatments of them. This is in conjunction with all of the story reviews I have been posting, and future reviews.

I have written a good 200 or so stories. Choosing what is ‘best’ is subjective and certainly my ideas change over time. These stories are not necessarily the ones with the greatest reads or review counts. Sometimes it’s just the best in my mind. I don’t always agree with my readership.

Comedy

One of my favorite genres to write, comedy speaks to me.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before | Best Genre Treatment 1
Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before

I love to make people laugh, but I also don’t want to create mindless slapstick.  This is why I love Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before.

From the amusing title, to its start as Chip Masterson is busted by Deb Haddon for keeping Tripp‘s stuffed gerbil toy, Stella,  to their romance, to Chip’s nascent to friendship with Aidan, the story celebrates a number of below decks themes.

Canon characters abound, as the story is also one big shout-out to the canon First Flight episode. Jonathan Archer, Liz Cutler, AG Robinson, Soval, and Admiral Forrest all show up.  There are even very brief cameos by T’Pol and Jay Hayes.

The basic premise is a prank war. This all happens during the invention and perfection of inertial dampers. This canon piece of equipment is about the dullest bit of Star Trek technobabble, so it was the perfect backdrop for a ton of hijinks. After all,  this would mainly bore the inventors (it’s a competition). They would be itching for something to do.

And then there’s the goat ….

Drama

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Saturn Rise | Best Genre Treatment 1
Saturn Rise

I write a ton of drama and it can sometimes be difficult to sustain. Right now, today, as I write this blog post, I feel that one of my better, if not my best such stories, is Saturn Rise.

I had wanted to not only showcase more of Pamela and Treve’s relationship, but also to attempt to resolve some of the unfinished business in Intolerance, Temper, and Fortune.

Further, I wanted Malcolm to have to deal with introducing his parents to Lili, and possibly risk their disapproval.  Done within the context of introducing them to Declan, I also wanted to present an alternate point of view regarding the acceptance – or not – of Lili and Doug‘s open marriage.

Just as Pamela has to have it out with her mother, Malcolm has to have it out with his parents.

Holidays

One of the first Star Trek fan fiction stories I ever completed, The Light covers Chanukah on the NX-01 and a lot more.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Light | Best Genre Treatment 1
The Light

As Ethan Shapiro learns of his great-aunt’s death, young Jewish crew members are brought together. Part of this is to properly mourn the woman’s death, but another reason is a budding romance, as Andrew Miller is looking to ask out Karin Bernstein.

I introduced not only these original characters (plus Josh Rosen), but also covered the subject of the existence of a Starfleet Rabbi, Leah Benson. Because I love these characters so much, they all have fan fiction futures. And this includes Mirror Universe stories, as they meet dissimilar fates. Leah in particular is very different on the other side of the proverbial pond.

Horror

Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Day of the Dead | Best Genre treatment 1

I have never been a fan of slamming doors, zombies, things going bump in the night, etc. Plus I don’t like them as stories or films. I just plain don’t like terror for my entertainment. Hence I hit upon an idea, and that was to show what I feel is far, far worse. And that’s the Holocaust.

Taking place over the course of Halloween weekend, Tucker, a classic horror film buff, has helped Chip line up several classic horror movies. October 31st gets the old John Carpenter film.

Canon characters such as Phlox and Amanda Cole sit through the picture, as do a number of my own original characters.  And then Tucker disappears.

As a crossover story, he’s whisked to 1945 Upper Bavaria, and becomes a part of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, which includes freeing Milena Chelenska, her sister, and their neighbor. Furthermore, he witnesses a war crime. This is where the managers of the camp (by this time – true story – they were mainly just kids, as the real management had fled) are shot to death by firing squad, without trials.

It turns out that he’s been interphased rather deliberately, as Wesley Crusher and the Traveler work to get him back, thereby neatly tying into Crackerjack.

Upshot

Beyond the fact that I think these stories are some of my best work, my peers have agreed. Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before and Day of the Dead are both award winners.

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

In order to dovetail with my recent blog post about the Trek Blogging Community, here’s a post about the Writing Blog Community I hang out with that isn’t Trek.

There are non-writer bloggers who I follow, too (well, of course everyone who blogs is actually a form of writer, but what I’m really talking about here are bloggers who also dabble in fiction writing). But this post is only going to be about fiction writers who blog – with one notable exception. These aren’t really in any particular order.

Puckishwird’s Blog

Joshua C. is an experienced blogger – he’s been doing this longer than I have! I love the old-timey look to the pages. The prose is fascinating, but the writing samples are even better. Very well-organized, this blog is clearly the work of someone who’s been doing this for a while, and loves it. I know Joshua from a NaNoWriMo group on Facebook.

The Frog Blog

Katrin Hollister is a friend from Wattpad who is new to the blogging scene.  She’s a far busier student than I am, and is balancing a new blog, Pinterest, Deviant Art (she is also an artist), and of course her studies. One great use she recently made of her  new blog was for a cover reveal for her Wattpad epic, The Windcaster.

RAvishing Thoughts

Miriel of Gisborne is a writer who I’ve seen on several sites, both Star Trek and non, over the years.

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Currently, she’s immersed in writing Bilbo/Thorin Hobbit slash, and so her Tumblr blog is devoted to actor Richard Armitage.

Like most Tumblr blogs, hers is very visual. There are some great images of Armitage, mixed in with terrific covers that she has made herself. The blog also links directly to her fiction and acts as a cross-promotional vehicle.

Howlarium

SeeThomasHowell is another Wattpad friend. On Wattpad, he doesn’t just write, read, and review. Jason also conducts interviews of fellow writers. A lot of these interviews end up on the Howlarium, which is a mix of his own writings and promotions, interviews, and promotions of others’ work. It’s a grand and generous collection of cross-promotions.

Alex Karola

Another Wattpad friend, and another brand-new blogger, Alex is both a writer and a teacher. She is looking to break into the YA market.

Maniac Marmoset

Jessica B. is another NaNoWriMo Facebook pal and another new blogger. Her blog has been mainly devoted to writing snippets and all sorts of original poetry.  She is currently in the query part of the process of becoming a published author.

Special Guest Star Blogger

Give it up for my publisher, Riverdale Avenue Books!

A mix of promotions, announcements, and guest blogs, RAB’s blog is intended as a cross-promotional vehicle for their books. This blog feeds a number of their other social media enterprises, such as their GoodReads page.

Beyond Blogging

For me, this kind of a blogging community advances more than one purpose. It’s a place to cross-promote works, of course.  But it’s become more than that. For me, it’s become another vehicle to making friends. It’s a joy to be able to, just like with my Star Trek friends, be able to talk to these people about a lot of things. And for them to immediately get it.

Blogging Community (Trek)

Blogging Community (Trek)

As a part of Blog Like a Boss week, I wanted to comment a bit on the blogging community we have here, at both Ad Astra and also how it branches out a bit.

Keeping Up With the Bloggers

Blogging Community (Trek)

A dirty little not so secret bit of information is that there are a ton of abandoned or semi-abandoned blogs out there.

Hence I decided to showcase blogs which have at least one post in calendar year 2014. Fortunately, there were quite a few.

Been There, Geek’d That

Rogue Jawa is fairly new to the blogging community.  I like his attitude and his direct way of confronting the oddities that we often find in the Star Trek fandom. It may be a big tent, but there’s always going to be some sort of odd squabbling. He takes it on, head on.

Ramblin’ & Writin’

When SL Watson gets cooking, her blog can get very active. I know she’s been writing in the Supernatural fandom; I’d love to see her back blogging and back writing Trek but I know that blogs are the kinds of writing that are often set aside for a while. Plus sometimes, you just get into a fandom and it kinda swallows you. No sweat. It’ll still be here.

Full Speed Ahead

I really love how MD Garcia has put this blog together. It’s visually stunning and stuffed full of all sorts of interesting tidbits about process, characters, scene setting, and more.

FalseBill’s Blog

FalseBill keeps up with blogging well, and his content is often tongue in cheek but never stale. Much like at Full Speed Ahead, the blog is pretty to look at, and covers a wide spectrum of writing, including original content only found on the blog.

Trekiverse

Truth is, Trekiverse is a different animal, as it is the home of more than one blogger and is intended to support the Trekiverse site.  That site is an archive of much older Star Trek fanfiction, coming from the newsgroups alt.startrek.creative, alt.startrek.creative.all-ages, and alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, and/or directly submitted. Great to see a new home for these old favorites!

zeusfluff’s Star Trek: TNG Fanfiction and Prompts Blog

Another new blogger, zeusfluff has jumped in without fear. This blogger is doing a great job with cross-promotions, which is (shh, don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret!) one of the points behind these blogs.

The Farthest Star

JayLR’s blog is mainly about Star Trek: Swiftfire, but he’s taken to answering some of our older blog prompts.  It’s neat to see a new take on an older prompt. And that reminds me: I need to come up with some fresh prompts!

Miranda Fave’s Meanders

MF’s blog is another visual stunner, just lovely and filled with great images. What I also like about his blog is how he gets into his posts. They aren’t quickies; they’re well thought-out. He’s also a thoughtful reviewer, and that shows in his blogging.

Boldly Reading

No tour of our personal Trek Blogiverse would be complete without a glance at Boldly Reading, which is our book club’s blog.

Blogging Community (Trek)

Miranda Fave and I have tried to make it visually appealing and keep it fresh.

We’re taking this summer off, though, so that we can turn our attentions more fully to the 2014 version of the Twelve Trials of Triskelion. Plus I’ve got schoolwork.

Fan Fiction Archive Blog

Every other week, I write a blog roundup post, to cover all of the above bloggers. Furthermore, I’ve been promoting the 2014 version of the Twelve Trials of Triskelion.  Fortunately, finding up to date content has been pretty easy this summer.

Whither Our Other Blogs?

There are a number of blogs that have gathered a bit of dust. And so I exhort you, fellow bloggers! Blow that dust off! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Or, something like that.

I love blogging, and I love reading others’ blogs. ‘Nuff said.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Writing Process Blog Hop

This is a somewhat different post, as I am (for the first time! Sound the trumpets!) participating in a Blog Hop. I’ve been tagged by Alex Karola, I’ll answer a few questions, and then I will tag three other folks to continue the chain. Those three folks, who I will mention again at the end are Jessica Bloczynski, Katrin Hollister, and MirielOfGisborne.

Without further ado, here are the questions.

1. What am I working on?

Egad, it feels like, what am I not working on? I have a WIP which is wholly original, that I am going to submit to my publisher. If all goes well, it’ll be a trilogy. Well, it’ll be a trilogy whether it’s accepted for publication or not. But I’ll be the first to admit that it could use some tightening.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I’ve got the Barnstorming series. It has stalled recently, in favor of schoolwork, wholly original work, and various short prompted stories. I have a wholly original work in progress for Wattpad that hasn’t been posted yet but I’d like some more chapters before I start. I have The Social Media Guide for Wattpad. The draft is technically done, but I’m always finding more to say.

Hence the answer is – ta da! – lots of stuff.

2. How is my work different from others of its genre?

Writing Process Blog Hop

I tend to add a philosophical bent to a lot of my work. Without getting into the details of what I want to present to my publisher, one of the underlying themes is: what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be sentient/intelligent? I think when we start to answer those questions, we will begin to understand our own selves better. I like to explore that inner essence (I’m mainly a science fiction author), and that generally isn’t explored while stars and planets are being explored. I try to change that.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Part of it is for my own purposes; I try to write what appeals to me as a reader.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Part of it is also for the purpose of creating art. I like to be creative.  A part of it is also to slip some philosophy in there. I think the study of thought and thinking is going by the boards. I see people spouting stuff all the time and it has no basis and no foundation. It’s not philosophy; it’s just a lot of posturing. The real thing is becoming rare.  This is not to say that I’m busily slipping philosophy into my works, much like someone might grind up carrots and shovel them into burgers in order to stealthily get people to eat healthier. Rather, it’s a part of the dish/story. Read it for the science fiction, read it for the philosophy, read it for both. I like to think readers will get something out of it, regardless of their preferences or foci.

4. How does my writing process work?

I am naturally overly organized and I wouldn’t be shocked if I were OCD as well. I keep an enormously long timeline (which is published on the site, in pieces) and that is an incredible help. I am able to do things like look at it to determine who is older than whom, who could meet, etc. I also keep a long list of every character I have ever made. These characters are paired with various actors/actresses. For canon, of course, it’s whoever really played them. For originals, I make judgments, and those eventually start to inform my work. E. g. if a character is short, that decides a few things but generally not major plot points.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I keep an idea bank, too, and sometimes it’s painfully scant. E. g. the Daranaean Emergence series was started with a two-word phrase: smart kangaroos. When I have an interesting dream, an idea for a name, a title, a series, a story, all of those are typed into the bank. While I do answer prompts, the bank helps when I am really stuck.

For longer works, I tend to flesh out the ideas, but I don’t go with a formal story line. I tend to have ideas of where I want to go, though, or sometimes scenes play out in my head. Funny thing is, sometimes a scene that I have been thinking of for a long time can end up far shorter than I had thought. In Reflections Down a Corridor, I had a vision of Jay swimming, swimming, swimming. That whole scene is maybe a few pages long, yet I thought about it for months. Was I sick of it? I can’t honestly say.

Sometimes scenes are written in order. Sometimes, they aren’t, although usually that’s because they are standalone short stories. But some of that can be laid at the feet of the timeline. I have ideas of where I’m going with this or that, and I need to go through X to get to Y so I’ll sometimes write Y and then realize, oops, I’d better prefigure that with X.

Blame Fortune and Reversal, too, as both of those stories, along with The Cure is Worse than the Disease and Release, have a lot of little gold nuggets in them that can be mined for even more stories. I’m finding  that Intolerance has become a gold mine, as well.

Upshot

And there’s my stop on the blog hop.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Please tune into the following bloggers as they continue the process:

I hope you like the plot bunny, at left, who is resting from hopping.

Thank you for reading!

Lessons from Fan Fiction

Personal Background

I have been writing (with considerable time off), in some form or another, for the past 4 1/2 decades, no exaggeration. My initial writings were crudely drawn images in old calendar books that would have otherwise been discarded. Inevitably, they were all about more or less the same thing – anthropomorphized dogs going on adventures.

I used to own (many of them are still in my parents’ house) little plastic farm animal toys.

English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st...
English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st…

Many of these came from my father’s business trips to Munich, and they were fairly well detailed. When not drawing picture books, I would play act stories for these toys. Usually, it was some sort of journey.

The toys still exist, but the old calendar books are long gone, in some landfill somewhere (they were discarded before recycling was really mainstream).

As a teenaged girl, I had diaries, but all of those are also gone to a landfill. I did not get back to writing anything resembling fiction until my senior year in High School, when I had an AP English teacher who encouraged such things. I took Creative Writing in college, and a Law School boyfriend also encouraged me to write. Then I set it all aside until maybe 2000 when I did some short works and then started writing fan fiction in 2004.

After a few more short works, I set it aside until 2010. Ever since starting up again (with Reversal), I have written something pretty much every day, whether it’s Star Trek: fan fiction, wholly original works, blogging and/or fiction outlining.

Lessons Learned (in no particular order)

Write to keep writing

While I suffer from writer’s block, just like every other writer, I suffer from it less than I probably should, because I make an effort to write nearly every single day. This keeps it all going.

Take and Keep Notes

I have a large timeline for fan fiction, spanning a few millennia. I have other timelines for wholly original fictional universes. These are kept with MS Excel. Timelines are incredibly useful, as you immediately know things like ages, and if character lifetimes overlap.

Fiction Stacks
Fiction Stacks

I keep wikis (more like informal detailed outlines, as I am the sole contributor) for all major series, and separate ones for wholly original fiction. These are for world-building, and they contain everything from character heights to birthdays to naming conventions for various items. It’s all decided once and the references are at my fingertips.

I also keep a list of plot ideas, which also contains possible titles, species ideas, possible character names, etc. (Eriecho was originally going to be Klingon). This ‘parks’ new ideas so that I can concentrate better on the story I am trying to finish.

Don’t Throw Anything Away

Character names from 1986 have shown up in fiction written in 2011, no lie. A quarter-century later, and in a different universe, the names still work.

Your Work Should be Shared

I belong to several writers’ groups online, both for fan fiction and for wholly original work.

Fan fiction in the making
Fan fiction in the making

There are a lot of people who are terrified of sharing their work with others. These are not people holding back because it’s work they want to try to have published. They just plain aren’t ready to share anything.

And that’s unfortunate, as their work can stagnate with no feedback. Fiction isn’t meant to be hidden away, locked in a drawer somewhere.

 

Constructive Criticism is Gold

English: Crystaline Gold
English: Crystaline Gold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone providing constructive criticism of any sort is fantastic. Being told that I need to define a character better, or provide more details, or that a scenario is not credible – any and all of these criticisms makes me a better writer. Learning to take constructive criticism graciously was an enormous lesson I have learned.

 

Destructive Criticism is Dirt

While not everyone will love what I have written, I’ve learned to separate critiques into constructive and destructive, and can tell the difference.

Vermont dirt, up close.
Vermont dirt, up close.

There are those who go into reading a fan fiction who are biased against a particular series, or character or character pairing, etc. They might dislike a certain plot point (e. g. not everyone likes time travel), or they just might dislike all fan fiction.

Most of what these folks say is not worth reading, or repeating. Fortunately, I haven’t run into too many of these folks in my travels.

As for those who engage in personal attacks, they should be blocked without a second thought. No one needs to be trashed in order to be effectively critiqued. Ever.

Do Your Research

In one of my first-ever fan fictions (There’s Something About Hoshi), I misspelled MACO as MAKO, and was corrected by a reader. At the time, I was overly sensitive and felt it was petty. I have since come to realize that of course this person was correct, and they were only trying to help me get better.

Pay it Forward by Reading and Reviewing Others’ Work

Sitting back and expecting everyone else to do the heavy lifting of reading and reviewing is pretty selfish. Writers, of course, should take care not to steal from each other, or plagiarize. But the building, nurturing, and sustaining of writer communities means that you, the writer, need to also become the reader, and the critic. Always be a constructive critic.

Practice and Edit

Not writing does not make you a better writer. Only writing, and reading, can make you a better writer. So do both.

Don’t Crowdsource Your Ideas

I see this a lot, where potential writers, terrified that they have a bad idea, ask their peers for a judgment about whether something is a ‘good’ idea.

This is bass-ackwards. Instead, writers should be writing. Their ideas are, likely, perfectly fine. Why do I say this? Because most ideas are fine; it’s their execution that demonstrates quality, or the lack thereof. Consider the following story idea.

Kafka
Kafka

A suddenly disabled man is late for work one morning. Ignoring his new infirmity, he tries to go to work, as he is the sole supporter of his mostly ungrateful family. When they become, by necessity, more independent, they abuse and neglect him and, unappreciated, he eventually dies. They go on without him.

Don’t know that plot? It’s Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, easily one of the top 100 (if not 50) works of fiction ever written. Ever!

But that plot summary isn’t too promising, eh? It’s in the execution where Gregor Samsa comes to life.

Your ideas are fine, except for the idea that you need others’ approval before you can start writing. Nonsense! Write anyway.

You’re Better Than You Think

Unless you are out and out plagiarizing someone else’s work, there is probably someone out there who will like your writing. That leads to my next point.

Find Your Ideal Audience

Sites which cater to, say, only Star Trek: Enterprise will not appreciate Star Trek: Voyager fan fiction as well as sites that focus on it. That may seem obvious, but it’s a point that people sometimes seem to miss. If your work isn’t being read, try other sites. You might do better elsewhere.

Fix Your Technical Problems Before Posting

Always look over spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word choice (e. g. make sure you are using the right words, and they mean what you think they do), and grammar. A few stray errors are fine, but try to fix most of it before posting. This is a courtesy to your readers.

Not Everyone Wants to read your entire Saga

Readers’ time is as precious a your own.

Busy
Busy

Their not wanting to read your entire 10 million word saga is less a reflection on your abilities (or their love of your work), and more on their own busy lives.

Expecting your audience to read your entire saga is a discourtesy; you are not being respectful of their time. Respect their time by mixing in some short stories as most people can find the time to read something less than 10,000 words (even better, less than 5,000).

Compete With your Peers

This ups your game considerably. Put yourself out there, and don’t expect to win. Competitions are also a great way to get more people to read and review your work.

Keep Track of your Stats

You don’t have to be as analytical as I am, but it pays to at least have a handle on what’s popular, and what isn’t. These findings will probably differ from site to site, and having objective data means you’ll have a better idea of whether a story will go over well or poorly at a particular site.

Use Your Time Wisely

We all have lives, so writing time often has to be rationed. Determine what you want and need, and how well various sites satisfy those wants and needs. Do an informal cost-benefit analysis – does a site offer ease of posting? Better critiquing? A bigger audience? A better-matched audience to your work?

Build a Readership

Book reader
Book reader

When I learned I was going to be published, I told pretty much everyone in my network. A lot of people said they were excited about potentially seeing my wholly original work in print. This is not only ego-gratifying, it’s also, potentially, a source of reads (and even sales) and reviews for professional work. I’m not saying to become a writing mercenary.

Rather, cultivate and nurture your most loyal fans.

That doesn’t just mean being kind to them (which should be a given), and thanking them (another given); it also means listening to them. Do they want to see more original characters? A new horror story? More time travel? Do they think your last book dragged in the middle? Take them seriously. They are really trying to help you succeed. Let them.

Upshot

I have come a long way from picture books that I showed to no one, and stories that I left to rot in a trunk and are no more. Fan fiction has improved me as a writer, and has taught me to believe in myself. It has led me to becoming a published author. I owe it a lot.

Thank you.


You can find me on .

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Spotlight on a Meme – Pumpkin Pie #49

Background

Pumpkin pie was originally almost random. The creation of the #49 pie meme was a fit of amused inspiration by kes7 and me.

Radiation Bands

Way back in Temper, I established that each universe vibrates on a particular radiation band. We would be 21 centimeters, and the Mirror would be 20. This is rather close to canon. In the TNG episodes Parallels and Galaxy’s Child, it is noted that various universes have differing characteristics, and it is possible to match a person or entity to a universe, using a quantum signature (in Parallels) and all of the matter in the universe vibrates on a 21 centimeter radiation band (Galaxy’s Child), I put the two together, deciding that the radiation band would be the identifier. This is known as the Hydrogen Line.

Pumpkin Pie?

Why pumpkin pie? Well, why not? Levi Cavendish notes that pie slices are smaller than sehlats, and make for a better demonstration. And he likes pie.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Pumpkin Pie #49
Pumpkin Pie #49

Beyond 20 and 21 cm

In Multiverse II, with characters from all sorts of fan universes and alternate and expanded universes, it made sense to expand the radiation bands. Further, as established in Temper, the 22 cm radiation band is where the dinosaurs did not die out on Earth. There would be a myriad of other universes, and they would not be confined to perfectly rounded-off centimeters, of course. The band is genetic, and can be passed down.

But there would be more.

The Experiment

As Levi attempts to fix the problem and find a way out of the current mess, he begins experimenting with finding a way into the other universes.

Pie, Pie, Me oh My, I love Pie!
Pie, Pie, Me oh My, I love Pie! (Photo credit: AlyssssylA)

After all, since the current universe is one being taken over by Chilo, his reasoning is that they might be able to exit through another universe.

Being a devotee of pumpkin pie, he hits upon the idea of throwing a replicator into catering mode and seeing how many different kinds of pumpkin pie he can create. Being the wacky guy that he is, he tastes most of his creations, except for #81, which is obviously dangerous (it pokes holes in space-time; his theory is that the Big Bang did not go off correctly there).

When Maren O’Connor is called over to fix the replicators, and that they can’t stop replicating pumpkin pie, Levi shows her a ton of specimens from various universes. #49 is described as being particularly good. It even ended up on Pike’s Enterprise.

Upshot

It ended up turning into a bit of a meme, and I confess I contributed to that. But we’ve had fun with it, and now I suppose I need to learn how to make pumpkin pie, for real.

Recipe for Pie Crust

The New York Times came to my rescue with a great recipe for pie crust.

All-Butter Pie Crust (With Variations)

Published: November 15, 2006

Time: 15 minutes plus one hour’s chilling

The Basics of Perfect Pie Crust

1¼cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably a high-fat, European-style butter like Plugra, chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 to 5 tablespoons ice water.

  1. In a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms chickpea-size pieces (3 to 5 one-second pulses). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until mixture is just moist enough to hold together.
  2. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out and baking.

Yield: One 9-inch single pie crust. Recipe can be doubled for a double crust; divide dough into two balls and form two disks before chilling.

Variations

You can experiment with textures and flavors by substituting 3 to 4 tablespoons shortening, lard, beef suet, duck fat or an unsweetened nut butter, such as hazelnut butter, almond butter or mixed nut butter, for 3 to 4 tablespoons regular butter. All should be well chilled before using.

Cheddar Crust: This crispy crust pairs nicely with apple pie or savory pie fillings. Pulse together 1¼ cups flour with ¾ teaspoon salt. Add ¾ cup grated sharp cheddar; pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add 8 tablespoons chilled, cubed butter and proceed according to the directions for All-Butter Pie Crust.

Prebaked Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie crust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp edges. Prick crust all over with a fork. If you have time, freeze crust for 15 to 30 minutes; otherwise skip this step. Cover pie with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (you can use pennies, rice or dried beans for this). Bake for 15 minutes; remove foil and weights and bake until pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes more. Cool on rack until needed.

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Filling

Here’s a likely candidate.

Directions for Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

Yield: It depends on the size of the pumpkin and the size of the pie plate. If you use a 6″ pie pumpkin and a full deep dish 9″ pie plate, then it should fill that pie to the brim and maybe have enough extra for either a small (4 inch) shallow pumpkin pie (or a crustless pumpkin pie – see step  11). 
Some people manage to make 2 full pies, especially if they use shallow pie plates and/or 8 inch pie plates.

Ingredients and Equipment

Equipment

  • A sharp, large serrated knife
  • an ice cream scoop
  • a large microwaveable bowl or large pot
  • 1 large (10 inch) deep-dish pie plate and pie crust – or two small pie plates (9 inch) and crusts (Metric:  a 10 inch pie plate is a pie plate with a diameter of 25 cm, and a depth of almost 5 cm)

Ingredients

  • a pie pumpkin (see step 1; you can use different types of pumpkin or even a butternut squash)
  • 1 cup sugar (see step 9 for alternatives, such as Stevia, honey or Splenda) (metric: 200 grams)
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon (metric: 3.8 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves (metric: 2 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice (metric: 2 grams. Other names for allspice are: Piment de la Jamaïque, Maustepippuri, Kryddpeppar, Piment, Korzennik lekarski, Ienibahar, Pimentovník pravý)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (metric: 1.25 grams)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon mace (which you’ll find in the very old pumpkin pie recipes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional) (metric: 20 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, I don’t use any)
  • 4 large eggs – to reduce fat and cholesterol, you may use egg whites (like Egg Beaters) instead, and vegans may want to use  Ener-G (see this page for more information about egg substitutes)
  • 3 cups sieved, cooked pumpkin (metric: 0.7 litre)
  • 1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (I use the nonfat version) for best results. (metric: each can is about .35 liter, or about a half liter total))

Note for the UK and Europe: Nestle Carnation has two sizes of cans in England: 170g and 410g – the large 410g can is 14 fl. oz. and the small 170g can is 5 fl. oz. (the same as the small can in the US). Use  one of each (19 fl. oz. total) in your pie.

Other notes:

  • If you can’t get canned evaporated milk, make your own from nonfat dried milk. Make it twice as concentrated as the directions on the box call for
  • If you can’t get nonfat dried milk, just use milk.
  • If you are lactose-intolerant, use lactose-free milk or soy milk.
  • One visitor tried fresh whipping cream (unwhipped) and reported  the pie “turned out wonderful!”
  • Another suggests using coconut milk, if you are allergic to dairy.

Note: if you do not have cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger, you can substitute 3 teaspoons of “pumpkin pie spice”.  It’s not exactly the same, but it will do.

Note: If you can’t get evaporated milk, you can substitute nonfat dried milk – make it twice as concentrated as the directions on the box say to reconstitute it. It won’t be the same as evaporated milk, but it ought to come close.

Recipe and Directions

Yield: One 9-inch deep dish pie or two 8-inch shallow pies

Step 1 – Get your pie pumpkin

“Pie pumpkins” are smaller, sweeter, less grainy textured pumpkins than the usual jack-o-lantern types.  Grocery stores usually carry them in late September through December in the U.S. In some parts of the country, they are also called sugar pumpkins or even “cheese pumpkins”.  Note: the Libby’s can of cooked pumpkin is just there for reference – it is the small can, so that gives you an idea of the size of a typical pie pumpkin.

pumpkin
pumpkin

IF you must use canned pumpkin, try organic.

They’re only about 6 to 8 inches in diameter (about 20 to 24 inches in circumference).  TIP: If you’re in a pinch and can’t find a pie pumpkin, butternut squash taste almost the same! And many farmers will tell you that “Neck Squash”, Jarradale Blue Hubbard, Cinderella and Long Island Cheese winter squashes are all considered to make a better tasting pumpkin pie.  Commercial canned pumpkin is from a variety of butternut, not true pumpkins! If you insist on using a regular Jack O’ Lantern type pumpkin, you may need to add about 25% more sugar and run the cooked pumpkin through a blender or food processor to help smooth it out.

Selecting squash

Just like selecting any squash, look for one that is firm, no bruises or soft spots, and a good orange color. One 6″ pie pumpkin usually makes one 10 inch deep dish pie and a bit extra; or two 9 inch shallow pies! If you have extra goop, you can always pour it into greased baking pans and make a crustless mini pie with the excess (and the cooked pies do freeze well!)

If you live in the Far East (Thailand, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, etc.) and cannot get a pumpkin or a butternut squash, I’m told that Japanese pumpkins make a great substitute. Just cube the meat into small cubes and steam them for 35 minutes. The rest of the preparation is the same and I’m told the taste is great.

Step 2 – Prepare the pumpkin for cooking

Wash the exterior of the pumpkin in cool or warm water, no soap.

cooked squash
cooked squash

Cut the pumpkin in half.  A serrated knife and a sawing motion works best – a smooth knife is more likely to slip and hurt you! A visitor suggests using a hand saw.

Step 3 – Scoop out the seeds…

And scrape the insides.  You want to get out that stringy, dangly stuff that coats the inside surface.  I find a heavy ice cream scoop works great for this.

Note: save the seeds.

The seeds can be used either to plant pumpkins next year, or roasted to eat this year! Place them in a bowl of water and rub them between your hands.  then pick out the orange buts (throw that away) and drain off the water. Spread them out on a clean towel or paper towel to dry and they’re ready to save for next year’s planting or roast.  Click here for roasting instructions!

Step 4 – Cooking the pumpkin

There are several ways to cook the pumpkin;  just choose use your preferred method.  Most people have microwaves and a stove, so I’ll describe both of those methods here. But others make good arguments in favor of using a pressure cooker or baking in the oven. At the end of this document, I’ve included alternative instructions to replace step 4, if you’d rather use a different method.

Method 1 – Bake in the oven

You can also bake the prepared pumpkin in the oven, just like a butternut squash.  This method takes the longest. Basically, you cut and scoop out the pumpkin as for the other methods, place it cut side down into a covered oven container. Cover the ovenproof container (with a lid), and pop it in an 350 F (165 C) oven. It normally takes about 45 minutes to 90 minutes (it can vary a lot); test it periodically by sticking it with a fork to see if it is soft.

pumpkin baked in the oven, scooping
pumpkin baked in the oven, scooping
pumpkin baked in the oven
pumpkin baked in the oven

Method 2 – Steam on the stovetop

You can also cook it on the stovetop; it takes about the same length of time in a steamer (20 to 30 minutes).  I use a double pot steamer, but you could use an ordinary large pot with a steamer basket inside it:

pumpkin_steamingpumpkin_cooking_in_the_steamersteamer to cook pumpkins

Method 3 – Put it in a microwaveable bowl

pumpkin in a microwavable bowl
pumpkin in a microwavable bowl

Remove the stem, and put the pumpkin into a microwaveable dish.

pumpkin in a microwave
pumpkin in a microwave

You may need to cut the pumpkin further to make it fit.  The fewer the number of pieces, the easier it will to scoop out the cooked pumpkin afterwards.

Put a couple of inches of water in the bowl, cover it, and put in the microwave.  Cook it on high until it is soft.  That may take 20 minutes or more, so like anything else, try 15 minutes, see how much it is softened, then do 5 minute increments until it is soft

Cook the pumpkin until it is soft

Whichever method you use, cook the pumpkin until it is soft and will separate from the skin.

Step 5 – Scoop out the cooked pumpkin

Whether you cook the pumpkin on the stove, microwave, or even the oven, once it is cooked until it is soft, it is easy to scoop out the guts with a broad, smooth spoon, (such as a tablespoon).  Use the spoon to gently lift and scoop the cooked pumpkin out of the skin.  It should separate easily an in fairly large chucks, if the pumpkin is cooked enough.

Many times the skin or rind will simply lift off with your fingers.

pumpkin cooked, pickling off the skin
pumpkin cooked, pickling off the skin

Note: there are many varieties of pumpkin and some make better pies that other (due to sugar content, flavor, texture and water content.  Drier, sweeter, fine-grained pies; the small (8″ across) ones called “pie pumpkins” are best.

Watery pumpkin?

If your pumpkin puree has standing, free water, you may want to let it sit for 30 minutes and then pour off any free water.  That will help prevent you pie from being too watery. Beyond, that, I have not found that the water makes a difference. The recipe accounts for the liquid.

Tips

Tip on using the liquid: Comments from a visitor on November 26, 2009: “Any suggestions or use for the pumpkin juice left over after draining the cooked pumpkin? I keep thinking there must be some good use – maybe soup or in cookies or something?”

Yes! !  You can use it as a replacement for water, and in some cases, milk, in recipes, like soups, cookies, breads, muffins and even pancakes and waffles, where it adds a very nice flavor.

Tip from a visitor: “I make my own pumkin pies from scratch all the time. To eliminate watery pumpkin I strain my pureed pumpkin through a cloth overnight. If I use frozen pumpkin I do the same again as it thaws out. It works great and my pies cook beautifully.”

Another visitor reported success using coffee filters in a sieve to drain out excess water.

Again, don’t go to great lengths to remove water; the recipe accounts for the fact that fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned.

Step 6 – Puree the pumpkin

To get a nice, smooth consistency, I use a hand blender.  By blending it, you give the pie a smooth, satiny texture; rather than the rough graininess that is typical of cooked squashes.

A regular blender works, too. Or a food processor or even just a hand mixer with time and patience.

With the hand blender, it just takes 2 or 3 minutes!

Another visitor says using a food mill, like a Foley Food Mill, with a fine screen, accomplishes the blending/pureeing very well, too!

Step 7 – Done with the pumpkin!

The pumpkin is now cooked and ready for the pie recipe.  Get the frozen daiquiris out from step 6 and take a break! 🙂

Note: You may freeze the puree or pie filling to use it later! Just use a freezer bag or other container to exclude as much air as possible.  It should last a year or more in a deep freezer On the other hand, you may NOT “can” it:  See this page for the safety reasons why you shouldn’t can it.)

Step 8 – Make the pie crust

Yes, I know there are ready-made pie crusts in the frozen section at the store, but they really are bland and doughy.  A flaky crust is easy to make! Again, note that unless you use large, deep dish pie plates, you may have enough for 2 pies.

It is also time to start preheating the oven.  Turn it on and set it to 425 F (210 C, for those in Europe)

Step 9 – Mix the pie contents

All the hard work is behind you! Here’s where it gets really easy. If you start with a fresh 8″ pie pumpkin, you will get about 3 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin. The right amount of ingredients for this is as follows:

  • 1 cup sugar  (metric: 300 grams). Instead of sugar, you could use
    honey (use 1.25 cups),
    natural sugar (1 cup),
    agave (1 cup),
    brown sugar (1 cup),
    Stevia (1/3 cup) or
    Splenda (1.25 cups).
    If you are using artificial sweeteners (Splenda or Stevia) you’ll find that they taste pretty good, but you’ll get better results when you do a 50-50 mix with sugar or honey. And diabetics, you can use Stevia or Splenda alone, in place of sugar and get pretty decent results.
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • one half teaspoon ground ginger
  • one half teaspoon salt (optional, I don’t use any)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups pumpkin sieved, cooked pumpkin
  • 1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (I use the nonfat version) (note for those in France: evaporated milk in France is called lait concentré; lait evaporé is powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional) (metric: 20 grams)

Mix well using a hand blender or mixer.

Notes

Note: You may substitute 4 teaspoons of “pumpkin pie spice” instead of the cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger.  But I think you get better results with the separate spices.

Note: The vast majority of people tell me this is the best pumpkin pie they’ve ever had. It’s light and fluffy – however… if you want a heavy, more dense pie, use 3 eggs instead of 4 and 1 can of evaporated milk instead of 1.5)

Step 10 – Pour into the pie crust

Some people like to bake the pie crust in the oven for 3 minutes before filling it.  I don’t and the pies turn out great!
I like a deep, full pie, so I fill it right up to about one quarter to one half inch from the very top.

Don’t be surprised if the mixture is very runny!  It may start as a soupy liquid, but it will firm up nicely in the oven!

Note: the pie crust is brown because I used whole wheat flour! Tastes the same, but is healthier.

TIP: If you put the empty pie crust on your oven rack, with the rack slid partially out, you can fill it there and avoid making a mess while carrying the pie to the oven!

Extra filling

TIP: What do you do if you end up with more filling than will fit in your pie crust(s)?  Easy!  Of course, you can make another, smaller pie crust and fill a small pie pan… or just grease any baking dish, of a size that the extra filling will fill to a depth of about 2 inches (see the photo at right), and pour the extra filling in.. then bake it.  It will be a crustless pumpkin pie that kids especially love! You can also use it in making pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread!

TIP: You may want to cover the exposed edges of the crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Some people make their own crust cover by cutting the rim off of a disposable aluminum pie pan.

Step 11 – Bake the pie

Bake at 425 F (210 C ) for the first 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 F  ( 175 C ) and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Here is the finished pie, right out of the oven:

I use a blunt table knife to test the pie.  The one at left has already been stuck in the pie, and you see it comes out pretty clean, when the pie is done.

Step 12 – Cool the pie

… And enjoy! Warm or chilled, with whipped cream , ice cream or nothing at all – it’s great!

You can even freeze the pie after cooking it.  I just lay a piece of plastic wrap (cling film) tight on the pie, after it cools down, then pop it in the freezer.

Later, take the frozen pie out of the freezer, put it in the fridge for about 24 hours, and then either heat it in the oven (350 F for about 15 minutes; just to warm it up) or the microwave for a few minutes.


Alternative Cooking methods for step 4

If you don’t have a microwave, or prefer another method, try these:

Stovetop steaming

Place your steaming basket or grid in the bottom of a large pot.  Put enough water so it won’t boil dry in 20 minutes, and yet is not so high that the pumpkin is touching the water level. You may need to add more water during the cooking. Add the pumpkin prepared in step 3, and get the steamer going. The cooking time is only between 8 and 12 minutes, depending on the range (gas or electric), and the pumpkin literally falls off the skin.

Pressure cooker

Place your grid in the bottom of the pressure cooker.  If your pressure cooker came with directions, follow those for pumpkin and/or winter squash, like butternut squash.  If, like most people, you’ve long since lost the directions, try this: Add enough  water to just touch the bottom of the grid or shelf that you will place the pumpkin on. Add the pumpkin prepared in step 3, put the lid with the gasket, the weight and anything else your cooker requires in place, and turn the heat on  high. Once it starts hissing, turn it to medium or medium high.   The cooking time should only be about 10 minutes,  and the pumpkin should literally fall out of its skin.

Crockpot

Clean and slice the pumpkin and set the temperature to either high or low (depending on how soon you are able to get back to the kitchen). The crockpot is forgiving enough that the pumpkin can be left in it for a time even after it is tender, at least on the low setting. Turn off the crockpot and let the pumpkin sit in it awhile. A lot of liquid will be released as the pumpkin cools. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh, place in a wire strainer, and mash with a spoon to release additional liquid. Leave the pumpkin in the strainer and place in the refrigerator for several hours to drain off any remaining liquid.


Will it turn out wonderful, like #49? I don’t know.
Stay tuned.

In Character – Kevin O’Connor

English: HG Wells
English: HG Wells (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, now, Darlin’, my name is Kevin O’Connor and I have no idea why I’m here, but I’m a-gonna try to do this right, even though there’s a buncha stories in the Times of the HG Wells collection that I am not in. So you might see a story and I’m not there, but that’s all right ’cause other characters, they need to get their due, too.

And before I say anything, the blog owner really should mark the 2013 Blog Year in Review.

Now that that’s outta the way, uh, where were we? Yeah. I’m takin’ over this blog, even though God knows I’m not much of a writer. That’s a soft skill, yanno, like public speakin’ or sales. But gimme a time ship any day, or even a replicator.

New coffee maker
New coffee maker (Photo credit: scriptingnews)

The Commission sent me to pre-Warp a few times – I had to keep long sleeves and long pants on, and a high collar, all on account o’ my scales – you know my Mama was a Gorn, right? And I swear it was like them old coffee makers was speakin’ to me.

So in case you’re unsure, I am an engineer.

Anyway, damn your eyes, or maybe damn mine, but there are questions to answer, and here I am, wastin’ time even though time is my business, Darlin’.

It’s all, uh, here.

Transitions

How do you handle them?

So I’ll tell you about my biggest transition, which was when Josie went from bein’ her beautiful, vibrant, funny, sweet self to, well, you don’t wanna know. Damn Piaris Syndrome. Dammit all to hell. It just takes ever’thin’. It rips it out and it stomps on it and all it does it hurt ya.

But lemme start from the beginnin’, see? I met her, it was at this party, it was, uh, it’s all in a story called The Point is Probably Moot. And she was, well, here’s a pitcher of her.

Jhasi Tantharis (Josie O'Connor)

Ashley Olsen at Luna Park, Sydney
Ashley Olsen at Luna Park, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wasn’t she a peach?

She was Aenar, yanno. Blind as a bat. And I took her to a ballgame for our first date, and I messed up and I called her Josie even though her real name was Jhasi. But she laughed at that but she did grab a cap from the wrong team. I think that was a joke on her part, way back when. It’s all in The Honky Tonk Angel. That is, if you wanna look. I don’t mind waitin’, Darlin’.

But it all went bad, when she got sick. It was, see, in your time period, it looks kinda like lupus to start, and then it gets a lot like Lou Gehrig’s disease and then it just eats away ever’thin’. And then in the end, y’see, you lose your thoughts and your mind and your memories. Hardest part was when she didn’t know me.

‘Scuse me, I gotta take a break, okay?

=/\=

Okay, I’m okay now. It’s, see, there’s a story called Candy and it’s about when we renewed our vows. We did that on account that, well, she was a few months from, man, it was a few months before she died.

So how did I handle that? Rick Daniels says I was brave. I guess; I dunno. I like to think that bravery is runnin’ and dodgin’ phasers or stuff like that. I just did what, you know, any husband would do, I think. I have to think that.

Do they frighten you? Inspire you? Sicken you? Amuse you?

So what did this transition do? Well, it scared the crap outta me to start, of course. I mean, you fall in love, you marry, and you make plans, yanno? And we wasn’t gonna have kids, but we still figured it would be, like my family motto says, it would be forever.

Whatever forever means, when there’s cruel mortality, I suppose.

"Forever"
“Forever” (Photo credit: seanmcgrath)

It’s a joke, or at least that’s how I saw it at the time. It just hurt like you wouldn’t believe. It was as if I’d been stabbed with a sword.

It was terrible until I met Yilta. She’s a Calafan, see? And they’re really open and kind, and they seem to, in some ways, it’s like they love us better than we love ourselves. I dunno how else I can describe it. But they do. I, uh, I should get a pitcher; I don’t have one right now. She’ll give me a playful punch on the arm when she learns I don’t have a pitcher to show you. But she’s a silver one, so she’s from our universe. She’s got hair and pretty well-developed calloo – that’s the pattern on their arms ‘n legs – so she’s, yanno, she’s been around the block a few times. She’s from Lafa V and her accent, it sounds like an Irish brogue. Very understanding about Josie, and very cute, she is, see. She’s made that transition so much easier.

And it gets me to wond’rin’, even though it’s not one o’ the questions, but I wonder what I’d’a done if I knew Yilta while me and Josie was married. Yilta, I know, she wouldn’t be a home-wrecker, but what happens when it’s all falling apart, anyway? Anyway, you didn’t ask that so I’m left to just wonder.

Tell us about a memorable transition. Maybe one that went well.

Anyway, so that’s the biggest ole transition in my life, or maybe it’s a buncha ’em. It’s going from lonely bachelor to husband to caregiver to widower to, now, heh, boyfriend.

I am over seventy years old in human years and I am a boyfriend.

Yeah, it makes me laugh, too.

Or, if you dare, one that didn’t go so well.

But it’s also, at the same time, it’s the transition that didn’t go so well. ‘Course poor Josie never asked for none o’ that. She was, I mean, she was a kindergarten teacher. She was unselfish and lovely and, man oh man they say God takes people like that young because he needs ’em but I still can’t help but wonder why sometimes.

Bonus Questions!

Let’s say you meet a character. It could be a canon person, or not. They might be from your universe, or not. What would you tell them about a transition that they might be going through? How could you help them with it? Would you help them?

I think ever’body goes through transitions, ’cause otherwise they’re not really characters, see? They’re just flat on a page. If they’re gonna live, they gotta have changes.

So I’ll look at somebody outside my time frame. See, I’m a time guy, so’s I can do that. And I’ll spin the big wheel and will ya look at that? I came up with Eriecho. This is my lucky day; I should play the Ferengi lottery next, I think.

See, Eriecho really had a big transition when she was let outta jail. She had never, ever been free before, and it was strange to her. I think it even kinda scared her, even at the same time as it thrilled her. So she was, you see, she was at a loss as to what to do. And I think she still is. Sure, she loves Sollastek and they’ll get married. And hey, maybe I’ll refurbish one o’ them ole coffee makers and send ’em one but I bet Yilta would tell me we should send somethin’ nicer, too. But she’ll pick out the doilies or whatever. You know how women like to do that.

I think I’d let Eriecho know that it’s not so scary, bein’ free. And you gotta fill up yer time, otherwise you just get bored. But it doesn’t have to be structured, and it doesn’t have to be other people’s ideas of what ya should do. See, we know the alternatives, and Otra sees ’em, and she tells me that that other timeline, you know the one you all call nuTrek or JJ Abrams Trek or whatever? She tells me it’ll resolve itself, and it’ll be better. And it won’t send Eriecho back to jail or anythin’ like that, so that’s good.

So all’s Eriecho’s gotta do – all any of us has gotta do – is just hang in there. And do what we think is right and best. What we feel is honorable or lovin’ or kind or artistic or well-engineered or even just interestin’. We can ride out the transitions, and let ’em wash off our backs.

And lemme tell ya, I weigh nearly a quarter of a metric ton and I got a pretty damn broad back, Darlin’. But Eriecho, see, and anyone else readin’ this? Just roll with them changes, and do whatever it is that you’re doin’ that feels right. ‘Cause I bet it is. You prolly know better ‘n you think.

Hey, mebbe I do, too.

Nice talkin’ to ya, Darlin’. Okay, I’ll give the blog back, now. Thanks for the soap box.

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Starts

Boldly Reading asks us, now, about Beginnings.

First sentences, first kisses, first missions, etc. – what are some of your favorite ‘firsts’ on Ad Astra? What sorts of openings and firsts and premieres get you to keep reading?

I enjoy a good beginning as much as anyone else does, I suppose. Crafting the perfect opening line is a challenge, and some writers do a better job of it than others, just like anything else. Here’s a great one.

“I was sure I was going to die, but was so afraid I wouldn’t in time.”

Little Black Dog’s Aftermath cuts right in, immediately, and you realize that something awful has happened, and is being (maybe) recovered from.

Here’s another.

He spoke flawless Federation Standard, possessed perfect visual acuity and hearing abilities unmatched by human ears.

kes7’s Year One opens not necessarily with a bang, but it’s obvious that whoever this is, he’s physically superior to humans. Is he an Augment, perhaps?

DHA Molecule
DHA Molecule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And here’s one more, if you’ll indulge me.

“I … I think … I need to see a doctor.”

trekfan’s While You Were Unconscious pulls two people together, although the details are a little … tricky. Yeah, there’s a good word for it.

Bonus questions!

How do you convert blank pages and blank computer documents into works of art? How do you get first ideas? What gets you started, or re-started?

I find that, for me, getting a story started is difficult but of course it’s necessary. Otherwise, nothing is ever produced! But sometimes the ideal opening is elusive. When that happens, I try to write the middle, or even the end. And I will go over and over again, in my mind, when it comes to the opening line of a story. I want the reader to continue, of course, but what I also want is to set the tone.

Reversal‘s opening line was written on the fly (as was nearly all of that story). It is, simply, this –

It didn’t hurt.

I really, really hope the reader’s question is – what didn’t hurt?

It is, possibly, the best opening I have ever written, and it colored the remainder of the story. Other stories have had good openings. I particularly like the ones for Paving Stones (“He’s too young.”) and for Brown (They were both pregnant at the same time.). Both of these opening lines defined the stories that followed, and shaped them.

The Week Never Starts Round Here
The Week Never Starts Round Here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often a good opening line can get me going, and can really sustain me. However, sometimes I need to get restarted, especially after I’ve had to leave a story for a while, for some reason or another.

One thing I try to do is to keep writing (this includes blogging). More or less continually getting ideas onto paper or pixels means that it takes a while for all ideas to dry up. But sometimes that’s not feasible. When it isn’t, I also like to just reread my work, and not necessarily the work I’m trying to finish. I just need to, I feel, review past successes, at times, to remind myself that I can still do it.

Here’s to new beginnings for us all.

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