Lilies and Lili! For a prompt about sweetness, I gave two answers.
This was the second one. I wanted to get across the sweetness of relationships, both the long-term and the fairly new.
In addition, in Fortune, one of the family photographs was of Joss and Jia at their prom. I wanted to fill in the blanks, the missing details, of that.
Joss, a little jumpy in a tuxedo, is cooling his heels before Jia and her parents arrive to take him to the prom at their little school on Lafa II. Marie Patrice is, as she often is, a little snarky. Declan even jokes a bit. Lili is of course more supportive. Malcolm is mentioned very briefly.
There is a little bustling as Doug arrives with groceries. The kids go out to help (after Lili tells them to), but she holds back Joss so that he won’t get dirty. There is a mysterious blue bag that no one is allowed to touch.
Once the food is put away, Doug opens up the bag, revealing a carnation boutonniere for Joss and a corsage for Jia. Jia’s parents, Mai and Geming arrive with their daughter. Savvy readers will recognize Geming’s counterpart as being Doug’s final deliberate kill in the Mirror Universe.
After they depart, and the other two children return to their homework, Lili laments that Doug never had a prom. He confirms that, at the time, he was finishing up at West Point and about to go into Basic Training. But he’s got one more surprise for her.
In response to a weekly prompt about painting a scene, I submitted Atlas. As far back as Reversal, I had described Titania as a kind of Southerners’ paradise. This story gave me an opportunity to showcase that.
In late April of 2133, Jay is a sergeant and is under a Major Ian Landry. Savvy fanfiction readers will recognize Landry as being one of Doug‘s kills, in the Mirror Universe, as described in Fortune.
The MACO unit has just gotten an assignment to Titania.
While Jay is an NCO, the military presence is new. Hence not all of the barracks buildings are up. Therefore, even though he isn’t supposed to, he must bunk with the enlisted personnel.
Jay meticulously sets up his area, following every regulation down to the minutest detail. His neighbor, Mercer, is a lot less careful. Plus the remainder of the enlisted men only imperfectly execute the unpack order. Only Jay gets everything right.
As a result, he gets Cinderella Liberty, and takes his time off to go to the Bar District of New Natchez. He has some small adventures, and even sees a woman who will eventually turn out to be Susan Cheshire, although he does not approach her.
I like the little look into Jay’s background. At the time, I was writing The Three of Us, and it struck me that I had very little on Jay’s background, and that needed to be rectified. There are a lot more stories I could tell about Jay; I have barely scratched the surface there.
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.
I wanted a transitional story, a power grab, showing Empress Hoshi getting where she wanted to be.
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.
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.
First of all, the Trek BBS held a Star Trek fanfiction challenge called “Out of Uniform“. So the idea was to show people not in typical starship settings. I seized upon the opportunity to show Lili and Doug first moving to Lafa II. Hence this is the morning after the end of Reversal; Local Flavor is the very beginning of “happily ever after”.
Travis flies Doug and Lili to the surface. Also, he makes a point of telling Lili that Captain Archer and Malcolm both expressed regrets at not being able to personally see her off. For the captain, it’s because he was busy with other duties. However for Malcolm, it’s because he’s beginning to realize that he cares for her. But he can’t say anything; she’s off to marry someone else. As he confides to her in Together, her life is just zooming along and away from him, and he can’t do anything to stop it.
Upon landing, they are picked up by Treve, who drives them to their new apartment, which is later seen in A Kind of Blue and The Gift. On the way, Doug asks about changing his surname. Treve reiterates that Calafans don’t have last names, so the only people on Lafa II who would care are him and Lili. Doug ends up simply declaring his new surname to be Beckett.
They see the apartment and then the action moves to an open-air market, where a number of Calafan delicacies are to be had, including linfep, tofflin and elekai. Even prako (procul) show up, but they are too expensive, as they have been brought to the market by Eska hunters, from Archer’s Planet (in my fan fiction, during the E2 stories, that world is called Amity). Plus the idea of the Calafans always being on the make comes out, as does Doug’s temper. Even some of the alien gesturing is explained, and the cake made at the end has a blueberry filling. Because that is a shoutout to my portrayal of Jay Hayes as loving blueberries.
A lot happens in a short amount of time. Doug and Lili are exposed to Calafan society through a fire hose. And the reader, in some ways, gets that same sort of treatment. In some ways, this story is like another “elevator pitch” tale (like The Light). This is because it serves as an introduction to a lot of disparate aspects of my universe.
Reversal got its name on a lark. I hadn’t written Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction in quite a while.
So I was, in all honesty, spinning it out from nothing. I had nearly no plan for the story, no outline and at first I wasn’t even saving it to Word. And so, when I was saving the first post, the topic had to have a name. On an impulse, I named it Reversal.
And the title proved to be perfect.
I had a dream. No, not like Martin Luther King!
It was a rather earthy dream, truth be told. And it was about a character on Enterprise. And I woke up, thinking – there’s a story there.
From such beginnings, I developed an idea. The septum between the Prime Universe and the Mirror would be thinner at one particular point in the galaxy. This was in parallel to the reality of the Earth’s crust. It is not uniform. Hence I wanted the separation to not be of uniform thickness/difficulty in crossing.
Bare Bones Story Line
The idea was for it to be possible to cross the boundary between the Prime Universe and the mirror through the dream state. The concept was that, for a certain species, the connections would be normal. And then, as the NX-01 Enterprise on our side, and the ISS Defiant on the other, enter that same system, the psionically charged atmosphere would cause two people to simultaneously start to pick up on that same wavelength. But for them, it would be a romance.
It starts off with a bang. The first line is – It didn’t hurt. I love this opening line, as the reader should immediately be thinking – what? What didn’t hurt? Was it supposed to? And then the story moves along from there. The first dream is a coupling dream, where a fantasy plays out in what seems to be a normal Freudian fashion. People kiss, their clothes fly away and of course more happens. It’s pitch black. They remain silent, although they can hear each other breathing. But then the heroine – Lili O’Day – breaks the spell by incoherently calling out loud.
And so we’re off to the races, for the next two scenes shift from her and her roommate in our universe to her fellow and his roommate – a woman – in the mirror. We know Lili’s name, but not the guy’s. He’s just referred to – and rather pejoratively at that – as the old man. His name is kept out of the first few chapters as he is a counterpart to a canon character.
Clues abound and some come from the characters’ speaking whereas others come from Lili talking in her sleep or references from the twin surfaces. Something is going on, in both universes. There is more happening than just the dreams.
From the beginning, I wanted the story to have symbolic meanings. For the title, the first half of the word, rêve, is French for dream. This also works as the second half symbolizes waking life. Plus there is the word itself and its connotations of reinvention and retrograde changes.
Other symbols abound. After the first dream, Lili – who is the sous-chef on the Enterprise – is ordered to make every meal with oranges for one day. When she goes to sleep that night, she reeks of oranges, and it’s the first word that her fellow says to her. So, not only can he smell her, but there is also what oranges kind of mean. They are of course different from apples (and apples connote temptation and the fall from purity). Oranges, I felt would symbolize sunshine and happiness, and warmth and light.
Another symbol or rather symbols is the quadruple star system. The largest star is a white giant named Lo, which should make the reader think of the phrase lo and behold. The second-largest star is a yellow medium-size star like the sun. It’s Abic (Ay-bick), a bit like abba, the Hebrew word for father. The third star is a small orange star, Fep. The smallest one is a red dwarf (yes, it’s a shout out to that TV series) called Ub. Hoshi herself explains that there are value judgments behind the names – Lo is for goodness, Abic is secondary, Fep is small and Ub is sinister.
The five main books in the In Between Days series are each about one of the five main characters (Pamela Hudson is essentially the sixth main character, but she isn’t connected with any book as well as she is with Intolerance). Reversal is, essentially, about Lili. From learning about the fire that killed her parents, to getting to know her as a chef, a lover and a friend, to even peeking at her finances, Lili is all over most of the pages, particularly in the dream sequences and the Prime Universe scenes. This is Lili’s tale.
It’s just the gift that keeps on giving; it’s so incredibly dense with plot. I am grateful to have such a pond to fish in. Apparently readers have agreed; on various platforms, it has racked up over 500,000 total reads.
Paving Stones was one of those stories that emerged nearly fully-formed in one quick session.
One thing that didn’t go so smoothly was the choice of a title. It evolved as follows – The first title was Paving Stones Made of Bad Intentions, as it is a Mirror Universe story. However, I didn’t like the idea of going with a straightforward opposite. Instead, I wanted for it to be a lot clearer that the centerpiece scene was an act of love, albeit somewhat misguided love.
The second iteration was Paving Stones Made of Good Intentions, which corrected the idiom and better evoked the undercurrent of it being the road to hell. But I didn’t love how it flowed.
The final title was Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions. This title brings together not only the fact that the centerpiece scene is happening because people mean well but also because this is the road to hell. Furthermore, the title effectively denotes that the road to hell is actually deliberately and actively fashioned from these good intentions. This is rather than them being somewhat more passively made of them. A subtle difference, to be sure. But the idea was that the intentions are somewhat more refined. There are good intentions but they are perverted and shaped into the paving stones. This is opposed to just laying them down in the roadbed.
When I wrote Reversal, one of the things I had Doug describe was his early childhood and how he was sent off to boarding school. But I didn’t go into a lot of detail. Hence I wanted a little more about that. In addition, this is Doug’s first real meeting with Lili. So, while he doesn’t necessarily sugarcoat things, he doesn’t go into a lot of excruciating detail. Plus, for Doug at the time, his going away to school occurred over four and half decades previously. Hence some detail or another may have been forgotten.
In Reversal, Doug also briefly mentions that he received his promotion to run Tactical in a manner where he did not have to murder his superior officer. It was important to me, given the way that the overall story arc was to go, that he not be the killer of Ian Reed, Malcolm‘s mirror counterpart. And so Doug had to be put in charge of Tactical on the Defiant, somehow.
Furthermore, the story was written as a response to Ad Astra’s January 2012 Pathways challenge, wherein the writers were challenged to come up with stories about formative stages or scenes in an older character’s life. I had originally considered writing about Lili O’Day and the house fire that had killed her parents, but I was thinking about that and suddenly one word hit me, and it wouldn’t let go. And that word was indoctrination. Once the word grabbed me, writing the story was a lot like taking dictation. I made very few changes, apart from minor cosmetic ones, after completing the first draft.
The Five Signs of Weakness
I wanted a kind of distorted version of the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Over time, I had already written several mirror universe stories, so there was already a framework. And in Reversal, Doug acknowledges that there are signs of weakness and that he cannot show them, for that’s a confession of vulnerability that could cost him his life. The signs, at that point in the progress of my writing, were somewhat underdeveloped but they did include not acknowledging an injury and not admitting to love. Doug himself sees the development of his nascent conscience as probably being what the mirror would think of as the ultimate sign of weakness. After all, in the mirror, how can you act if you’re tripped up by guilt?
A Child’s Memory Device
In order to convert these somewhat incoherent ideas into lessons digestible for a child, I created a maxim of five signs of weakness for all mirror children to learn, and have to repeat back to their elders.
I will never show physical weakness.
I will never show weakness in trade.
(and) I will not show mental weakness.
I will not show weakness in my dealings with others.
(and) I will never show weakness when it comes to justice.
During the course of the story, Doug and his parents explain what each of the signs really entails. For example, mental weakness not only involves not knowing how to do something, but also not keeping apprised of rumors and intelligence. They tell Doug to keep his eyes and ears open, and not wait for people to impart lessons. They encourage him to have intellectual curiosity, but it’s not about books or mathematics. Rather, it’s about the various whisperings around an encampment or a barracks or a starship. In many ways, they are telling Doug to eavesdrop, as not knowing certain things could harm his career or even cost him his life.
Jane’s Lowood School and the school in Tom Brown’s School Days serve as models for the Triton Day School. This is where Doug would be, essentially, indoctrinated into the ways of the mirror. He was to forget he softness of his mother, Lena,. Or, if he remembered at all, that would be ridiculed and dismissed with a sneer. I even had a Mister Brocklehurst take Doug to school – a direct reference to Jane Eyre. The school was also portrayed as a place where Doug’s beloved stuffed toy would be taken from him and used to harm him. In Fortune, Doug confirms that gentler children were bullied and harassed. And so in order to survive, he had to become hardened.
Originally a giraffe, the stuffed velociraptor represents childhood innocence, but with a cruel twist. The toy shows up at the beginning. It is Doug’s sole comfort as he listens to his parents argue about his fate. The toy’s banishment from the breakfast table, and Lena’s inability to find it signify that Doug’s innocence is already, irretrievably, lost. Finally, I chose a velociraptor is not only to show menace behind the plush. It also foreshadows his predecessor at Tactical’s fate. That was death after a mauling by a Gorn, who resembles a velociraptor rather closely.
For Doug, running Tactical is a useful promotion. However, he did not originally seek it. If Ian Reed had lived (in canon, there’s an even shot whether Malcolm’s mirror counterpart would survive a Gorn attack), Doug would have remained as CO of the MACOs on the Defiant. Instead, Doug is in direct competition with Aidan MacKenzie and Chip Masterson.
As is true in my fanfiction, the Defiant is a confusing mess, and Doug must figure things out quickly. Hence the flashback to his his parents sending him off to school. That’s because this is where he clearly also had to do a lot of fancy footwork to get up to speed in a hurry.
One thing that Doug learns from Lili is forgiveness, and so, off-screen, he does eventually forgive his parents. By the time of A Kind of Blue, they are already naming their first-born son after Jeremiah (Doug’s father) and Lena.
And by the time of Together, that son, Jeremiah Logan Beckett – who they call Joss – is carrying around a stuffed dinosaur of his own. But in Joss’s case, it’s a much gentler stegosaurus.