Review

Review – The Puzzle, A Tale Told in Pieces

Background

The Puzzle is an older story. When I was first writing Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction, and following the five senses, I got to sight last.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Puzzle, a Tale Told in Pieces

The Puzzle, a Tale Told in Pieces

So instead of writing just about sight, I decided to create a multi-chapter story and more or less go for broke.

I also disliked how little screen time Travis got, so I gave him a little love with a story all his own.

A Puzzle of a Plot

In the middle of the night, Travis is pulled out of his bed and dumped … somewhere. But he’s not alone.

Pieces of a puzzle

Pieces of a puzzle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are people from a few canon species – Andorians, Vulcans, Xindi sloth, Orions and Klingons. There are two of each, one male and one female. He doesn’t know the human woman he’s in a pair with; she is a far older woman, she speaks Russian and she is a librarian at the Lunar Colony Library.

And then they start to be prodded into working out a series of problems. For better or worse, they learn that they have to work together.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K.

Upshot

So the story is … okay. It’s not great. I have given it a bit of updating. (Lili makes a quick appearance), although I really should have done more. The plotting is slow in parts, and it can drag and be rather talky. There are original characters, and I’m glad that I felt confident enough in my world-creating abilities to add them. However, some are wooden and others are more three-dimensional but still pretty fuzzy. Not too bad for a mystery tale, but I now know it is better to give more information about  characters, in order to give the reader something to hold onto while reading.

It could be better, and probably a lot better. But it taught me a lot about story creation and pacing, and so I am grateful for its existence.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, In Between Days series, Interphases series, Review, 12 comments

Review – Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

Review – Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses is yet another multi-dimensional title. The rocks would be a shattering of conventions. The looking glass of course is a reference to the Mirror Universe. And the glass houses naturally are exactly where you don’t want to throw any rocks. Furthermore, I decided on rocks rather than stones as they imply irregularity and roughness. This contrasts with Paving Stones as there the action follows set patterns and traditions.

This story upends those traditions and it shows just how Hoshi changes everything.

Background

I wanted a transitional story, a power grab, showing Empress Hoshi getting where she wanted to be.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

This would take place between the end of the canon episodes, In a Mirror, Darkly and In a Mirror, Darkly II and before Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions.

Therefore, it had to be before Doug became a Lieutenant Commander, running Tactical (after defeating Chip Masterson and Aidan MacKenzie in a competition). Ian (Malcolm‘s counterpart) and T’Pol had to still be alive. Phlox would still be the doctor; this would be before Cyril Morgan.

But things would be changing.

Plot

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Hall of Mirrors | Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

Hall of Mirrors

Having declared herself Empress, Hoshi has to consolidate her power. She has to eliminate threats and pick up allies. This means ruthless Machiavellian efficiency.

Furthermore, she has to get rid of the Emperor, who I write as a descendant of canon mass murderer Philip Green. Green brings along only three bodyguards, foolishly underestimating her bloodlust – my original characters, José Torres, Brian Delacroix, and Andrew Miller.

The story is punctuated with quotations from Sun-Tzu‘s The Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated T.

Upshot

I like how it turned out. In particular, I enjoyed putting together Hoshi’s plan and showing her nastiness. Her impatience with science and with delays, her casual approach to murder and her lust are all on display. I really like the final product.

Posted by jespah in Hall of Mirrors, In Between Days series, Review, 13 comments

Review – More, More, More!

Background

More, More, More! was one of the fan fiction first stories I ever wrote.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | More, More, More!

It has some improvements, with a few character and situational changes. But it still shows, I admit.

For the first few stories, I based them on the five senses. This one was based on hearing. Therefore, it made sense to me for there to be music and dancing. But there’s a lot more (pun intended) going on than all that.

Plot

The captain is having lunch in his mess when things suddenly feel strange. He gets up, but he collapses. The steward, Preston Jennings (who has that job after Daniels and before Lili), expresses alarm, but the captain waves him off.

Then the captain barges in on a crewman. And then, in the hallway, he collapses again. But this time, he’s raving and he’s violent. Quickly, crew members bring him to Sick Bay (including, probably, Preston). And almost as quickly, he is temporarily relieved of command, by T’Pol and Phlox, with Hoshi as a witness.

But then Daniels appears, and suddenly the story is not what it seems.

What is happening? The captain’s brain is a colonization site for a tiny species. Of course, this is affecting him, and that will simply not do. Furthermore, while the tiny species might not be important to the timeline, Archer most certainly is. Daniels must save Jonathan’s confidence while, at the same time, preventing the destruction of the tiny species. The Nokarid do not mean any harm. They have no idea what is going on.

Music and More

More, More, More by the Andrea True Connection

During the course of the story, it becomes apparent that there’s going to be a mixer between the Enterprise and the Columbia. It’s to be a disco party, and the sound system needs tests. Every now and then, Chip Masterson‘s tests come through, loud and clear, on the intercom (originally, I had Travis doing this). The entire playlist was not up until I wrote On the Radio.

Here are the songs from the story.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K+.

Upshot

I like it better now, certainly. There are a few parts that I would change, but I like the story enough to have given it a sequel. It’s redeemable, but I know my writing is better now. It’s pure fluff, and I rarely write pure fluff any more.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, In Between Days series, Review, 18 comments

Review – The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

Review – The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

A Stilton fulfillment? Don’t worry; I will explain

Background

After The Adventures of Porthos, there was a call for a sequel.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

I got the chance to provide one when the Trek BBS had a monthly challenge in December of 2012 for ironic wish fulfillment. Porthos would get what he always wanted – more cheese – but it wouldn’t quite agree with him.

Plot

Review – The Further Adventures of Porthos - the Stilton Fulfillment

The Caitian Ambassador and his family are coming to the NX-01 for dinner. The captain is anxious for everything to go right, and wants to perhaps convince the ambassador to become a more formal ally. The ambassador’s young daughter. Parenelsa, is shy and sweet, but she warms up to Porthos, who begs at the table. And so she feeds him.

And feeds him and feeds him.

The problem arises when Porthos has a reaction. That is, he breaks wind. Malcolm, who is at the dinner and is bored out of his mind, volunteers to take the dog to Sick Bay. For Malcolm, it’s also a chance to get his own treatment, as he is lactose intolerant, a revelation I first made in Intolerance.

And then the ship is attacked.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

The story works out well. A lot of little players get shout outs, including the idea that this is something of a sequel to A Single Step, too. Lili even makes an appearance.

My peers agreed with me, and the story won the monthly challenge.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, In Between Days series, Review, 7 comments

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

If You Can’t Stand the Heat is an old, old story.

Background

When I was first writing Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction, I began with an idea about writing stories about the five senses.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | If You Can't Stand the Heat

If You Can’t Stand the Heat

This story covers taste.

I despised the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, These Are The Voyages, but I had no problem whatsoever with Jonathan Frakes playing the NX-01‘s chef. An older man seemed right for the job.

Plot

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

The chef (originally named Paul Mayer – in later fan fiction, I call him William Slocum) starts  preparations for dinner like he would any other day, by deciding that he’ll make roast chicken. This is before Lili O’Day is hired and after time traveler Richard Daniels departs, so his main helper is Preston Jennings. The Xindi War has not yet started, so he has a multitude of assistants.

When he can’t find his assistants anywhere, and he needs a lemon, so he contacts the ship’s first Botanist, Naomi Curtis (Shelby Pike, like Lili, is brought in after the start of the Xindi War). She doesn’t know what’s going on, either. Because her own helpers are gone, too. So she heads to the kitchen. And when the door slides open it’s obvious that the hallways are freezing. Plus they smell vaguely of rotten eggs.

What’s going on?

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

Without giving away spoilers, the story does prefigure goings on in later stories such as The Mess and Reversal. One thing I do like about the story is that, although it’s really an alien of the week one-off, it does introduce Slocum pretty well, and it also provides the reader with some context about how things were before the Xindi. E. g. the Enterprise had unnecessary personnel. Replacing Naomi with the more skilled and versatile Shelby makes sense, as does moving Jennings to Navigation and replacing him and anyone else working for Will, with Lili.

As an older story, I can see the holes in the plot and would have emphasized the cooking a lot less.

Recipe for Roast Chicken

Ingredients

1 (6 pound) chicken
also, 1 bunch of celery
1 small bag of baby carrots or 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into half lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Paprika to taste
1 lemon, halved
1/2 head garlic
1 medium white onion, quartered, plus 1 onion, sliced in rounds

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out. Lay the sliced onion, the carrot and celery on the bottom of a roasting pan. Season the bird all over with paprika, salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic and the quartered onion. Place the chicken, breast-side up, in the roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes.

Turn down the heat to 350 degrees F. and cook for 20 minutes per pound. Hence for a 6 pound chicken, that’s 2 hours.

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Roast chicken

The chicken has finished cooking when an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F when you insert it into the thickest part of the thigh. The legs of the chicken should wiggle easily from the sockets, too. Finally, remove the chicken to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes, so the juices settle back into the meat before carving.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, In Between Days series, Recipe, Review, 9 comments

Review – Fortune

Background

When I first wrote Fortune, the idea was to tie up the In Between Days series.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Fortune

Fortune

I was not tired of the characters or of their situations, but it seemed as if they needed an end point. Furthermore, I was thinking about the canon episode, These Are The Voyages, and trying to make some sense of it. I came to the conclusion that the professional writers wanted some end of series closure and they also wanted some ownership of the fate of what was possibly the most popular character.

Therefore, I decided to create some closure for my characters. These would be the main characters only (at the time, Pamela Hudson was still not considered to be a main character), e. g. Doug Beckett, Leonora Digiorno, Melissa Madden, Lili O’Day, and Malcolm Reed. Four of the characters had already had a story more or less assigned (albeit not completely devoted) to them. Lili’s story was in Reversal, Malcolm’s was in Intolerance, Melissa’s was in Together and Doug’s was in Temper. Therefore, this story would go to Leonora.

Plot

When Temper ends, Lili has some surprising and wonderfully good news for Malcolm. When Fortune starts, Malcolm is processing it. Jonathan Archer asks him what’s wrong. But nothing is wrong – everything is very, very right, but it’s also rather private. A joyful celebration is held, and the family is then reunited for Declan‘s birth. The family sweetly dreams together, and the relationships are reinforced. These are between Melissa and Leonora, Doug and Melissa, Lili and Doug, and Malcolm and Lili.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Billie Holliday singing God Bless the Child

Billie Holliday singing God Bless the Child

Leonora in particular has a wonderfully vivid dream of Billie Holliday singing “God Bless the Child“.

It seems like everything is right.

But there are storm clouds on the horizon. There is unfinished business, and it needs to come to a resolution before the family can truly move forward.

Music

Story Postings

You can find Fortune here:

Rating

The story is rated M.

Upshot or, What’s Your Fortune?

Too many specifics will mean revealing too many spoilers. Suffice it to say, the story does not end the series. I am happy to continue these stories. Because I want to give these characters and their overall family their measures of forever. So that is either in this life or in whatever may or may not come beyond.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Fortune Cookie

Fortune Cookie

I am proud of this story and hope it does the characters justice.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, Hall of Mirrors, In Between Days series, Review, 102 comments

Review – The Adventures of Porthos

Review – The Adventures of Porthos

Porthos has such fun adventures!

Background

When I was first starting to write Star Trek fanfiction,

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Adventures of Porthos

The Adventures of Porthos

I seized upon an idea to write about the five senses. More, More, More is about hearing; There’s Something About Hoshi is about touch; If You Can’t Stand the Heat is about taste; The Puzzle is about vision; and The Adventures of Porthos, as would befit a story where a dog is the star, is all about smell.

Plot

The story starts off with Porthos narrating the action. Because he is a dog, he’s not too communicative in terms of language. Instead, the world divides into good smells and bad ones.

Review – The Adventures of Porthos

Most of the Enterprise is on the side of what Porthos refers to as good smells, everything from Sick Bay to the remnants of a cheeseburger that Hoshi ate for dinner. He listens to Captain Archer (Alpha) make plans about meeting a species called Azezans. Being Porthos, he doesn’t pay attention to every single syllable. He has acute hearing but, let’s face it, like many dogs, he sometimes only listens to what he really wants to hear.

The same scene is then repeatedly normally, and the story goes on that way throughout.

Porthos sees action when Archer learns that the Azezans are the victims of oppression. Captain Archer finds their predicament uncomfortably familiar, but he is initially unsure as to exactly why that is so. This ends up as one of my first links to Jewish characters and the Holocaust, as the reference is painfully close to the Judenrat.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

I love dogs and I believe that they truly think quite a bit like this, paying somewhat selective attention and continually being distracted by the various aromas around them. They apparently understand some 200 – 350 or so words, so it would follow that a lot of what Porthos hears is just so much semi-random noise to him.

Furthermore, the emphasis on scents prefigures the Daranaeans, and the switching between the scenes was altered to great effect in Reversal. I like the story but don’t love it; the Alien of the Week plot could have been stronger, I feel. But the story had an unexpected, award-winning sequel, The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Stilton Fulfillment. And, as I have explained, it showcases some concepts and techniques that I have improved over time. I think it’s a decent older story.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, In Between Days series, Review, 8 comments

Review – First Born

Background

First Born has an irresistible background, I feel.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | First Born

First Born (Jun Daniels Sato)

In response to prompts about disciplining and decisions, I wrote First Born, a story about Richard Daniels, the Empress Hoshi Sato and their son, Jun Daniels Sato.

The story works as a bridge between In Between Days and Times of the HG Wells. Other such bridges include November 13th and More, More, More!

First Born Plot

In Reversal, I established that the Empress had given birth to Daniels’s child, but she thought him (the elder Daniels) to be dead. But Daniels isn’t dead.

Therefore, there had to be another side to the story.

This story explores the fallout at the Temporal Integrity Commission, and in time itself. Eleanor Daniels, Rick’s sister, is a docent at the Temporal Museum on Lafa II. She begins by lecturing about Empress Hoshi’s five children, but suddenly she shakes very, very slightly and ends her sentence talking about Hoshi’s six children.

Uh, oh.

Fallout

Variant logo based on the Terran Empire symbol...

Rick is hauled into his boss, Carmen Calavicci‘s, office. She is, understandably, livid. Carmen has been looking the other way for a while as he’s been bedding women in time. She has been figuring that it’s a way for him to cope with the fact that there are often deaths, or he has to restore deaths. So she has been kind or, at least, indifferent. But this is something else entirely, as the Mirror government is breathing down her neck. They demand that Jun Sato‘s existence be wiped out, thereby restoring Aidan MacKenzie‘s son, Kira, to his rightful position as first born heir.

Rick and Carmen meet with a Mirror government representative and begin to sort everything out. Rick wants Jun to live, but how much of a pound of flesh with the other side of the pond extract in order to make that happen?

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K+.

Upshot

I like the interplay among Carmen, Rick, and the Mirror representative (Ray Jiminez), as they essentially wheel and deal the past. It makes you wonder if that might eventually really happen.

Posted by jespah in Hall of Mirrors, In Between Days series, Review, Times of the HG Wells series, 15 comments

Review – The Reptile Speaks

Review – The Reptile Speaks

A reptile speaks?

Background

I can’t recall the precise circumstances, but I was a fairly new member of Ad Astra and we were talking about mixed-species couples in Star Trek fanfiction.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Reptile Speaks

The Reptile Speaks

My point was, as we get deeper and deeper into the future, we’d start to see a lot of – to us – bizarre combinations.

Why wouldn’t a Gorn recite love poetry to a lovely, blushing Cardassian maiden?

And so someone threw the gauntlet down and told me, write this.

Plot

For teenaged boys Bron and Skrol, the upcoming Sadie Hawkins dance is an occasion for nerves. Skrol is trying to make time with his girl, Tr’Dorna. Skrol encourages Bron to ask out Tr’Dorna’s roommate, Etrina. But Bron will have none of that – he likes Sophra.

Oh, and did I mention that the boys are Gorn, Etrina and Tr’Dorna are Xindi Reptilian, and Sophra (and her roommate, Ylinka) is a Cardassian?

Perhaps that detail shouldn’t have been left out.

But, truly, teens are teens, wherever you go, and whatever age adolescence happens for a particular species (for Vulcans, it apparently happens somewhat later). And so there is a bit of a push and pull. Who will end up together? Will she accept or repel Bron’s advances? Bron’s got a secret weapon, but you’ll have to read the story in order to find out just what it is.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K.

Upshot

Finally, Gorn are nearly universally hissing, sneering bad guys, and I wanted there to be a way to redeem them. After all, they’re not too terribly different from Xindi Reptilians, and that species saw redemption by the end of ENT. Plus, I would hope that, eventually, the entire galaxy will be at peace. That means breaking bread with Gorn. And if they are at all like Bron, and even Skrol, it’ll be easy.

Posted by jespah in Fan fiction, Mixing It Up Collection, Review, 7 comments

Review – Temper

Review – Temper

Background

I originally wrote Temper for two reasons.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Temper

Temper

One, I wanted to introduce a way into a vague idea I had for a Star Trek fan fiction time travel series. And two, I wanted to not only continue the story of Doug, Lili, Malcolm, Melissa and Leonora, but I wanted the kids to be older without aging Lili and Doug quite so much. After all, Doug is fifty-five when he meets Lili. Therefore, he would be in his sixties for any stories where the children could really interact and be an integral part of the plot. But a time travel story could rather neatly fix all of that.

Beyond that, I also wanted a way to continue the saga of the Empress Hoshi Sato and her son, Jun, the son of time traveler Richard Daniels. Furthermore, I wanted more kids in the royal family. For the Empress, it would be a Machiavellian move – she would have several children of different fathers, thereby diversifying genetically and, perhaps, given the tenderhearted paternal feelings that go along with the Y Chromosome Skew, she would get the male members of her senior staff to keep her alive, at least until her children reached the age of majority. And in Temper, they are just about all there.

Plot

The story begins with a snapshot into how the arrangement among Malcolm, Lili, Doug, Melissa and Leonora really works. Doug and Melissa are out hunting linfep, and then perrazin, with phase bows. Malcolm and Lili are going on vacation to Fep City. And the children are either with Leonora or are being cared for by Yimar. The occasion is that Melissa wants to have another baby.

But then Malcolm must return to the Enterprise, and Lili comes home early. Time Traveler Richard Daniels arrives and tells her that he needs Doug for something. She’s not so sure she believes him, and is a bit peeved that he’s landed his ship, the brand-new HG Wells, right on top of her day lilies. In order to fix this, he adds a drop of his blood to the soil but does not tell her that it’s spiked with stem cell growth accelerator.

Rick Steps In

When Doug and Melissa get in, and Malcolm is reached via communicator and Leonora arrives separately, Rick tells them why he needs Doug – the Empress is experimenting with what’s called a pulse shot. She’s looking to get over to our side of the pond, because she thinks that she can get more ships like the ISS Defiant.

But her few attempts are clumsy, and they wreak havoc with time itself, causing breaks in 2166 and 2161, including people from our universe crossing over to the Mirror and being trapped there (this includes the three eldest children, Joss, Marie Patrice and Tommy). Rick’s best information is on 2166, so he needs that part repaired first. Doug is the logical choice because, being from the Mirror originally, he sports a radiation band that matches that universe. Lili is chosen to accompany him because she’s considered non-threatening and, with false calloo tattoos on her arms and legs, she can pass for a Calafan. Rick explains that he cannot go as the Mirror government of his time period forbids it. This is due to the debacle about the siring of his son, Jun, which is explained in First Born.

Once Doug and Lili cross over, they find a totalitarian regime and just what’s going on with their children.

Music

Temper is less musically-driven than Together, but that makes sense as it is more of an adventure tale than a love story. However, there are still individual themes.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated M.

Upshot

I like, for the most part, how the story turned out, but it is deeper into my universe. Therefore, it can be a confusing read for someone who is not fully familiar with works that cover the earlier time periods. I do make an effort to create stand-alone stories, but I believe that the effect was somewhat mixed here. Temper is usually on the lower end of read counts for the first five big books (Reversal, Intolerance, Together, and Fortune are the other four), along with Intolerance, but in the case of Intolerance, it’s because it’s a shorter book. I suspect that Temper is a bit harder to get into. A pity, as it’s the lead-in for the HG Wells stories.

Posted by jespah in Hall of Mirrors, In Between Days series, Review, Times of the HG Wells series, 94 comments