Finally, on Ad Astra, I posted a drabble taking place in Captain Sarine’s universe, Appearances. Sharp-eyed readers will see Pete Porter, a relative of Polly and the Barnstorming character Tamsin. The story was too short to be considered for the voting in the ‘Steal All the Toys’ challenge. I also worked with kes7 to advance our Tesseract/Times of the HG Wells crossover, Paradox, in the Collaboration Station challenge. I began to post the 7-day challenge and went with an IDIC theme, Infinite Diversity.
See the Stats page for individual read and review counts.
I continued perfecting the last two books in the Obolonk trilogy. I also worked on the Barnstorming-Times of the HG Wells crossover story, Time Out.
In anticipation of NaNoWriMo 2015, I began to really think about the shape of this year’s story, which takes place in a new universe (although some of the tech is related to the Obolonks) and is tentatively called The Enigman Cave.
This Month’s Productivity Killers
School, and the ever-present search or work both kept me from being as productive as I would have liked. I also trained to become an Ambassador on Wattpad.
In the elections for Alpha in Flight of the Bluebird, Vidam represents the liberals on Daranaea, and is known to the electorate as the man who, during Debate, first brought to a vote the issue of granting the vote to Prime Wives (he lost, by an overwhelming amount).
I need to write some female (and nongendered) politicians and political leaders, I think!
Tough but fair, Shaw is responsible for a ton of Vulcans and they are an endangered species. But underneath, he’s a bit of a softie. He watches over his charges like a mother hen. And he pines for reporter Julie Parker.
When we first meet Shaw, one of the things he is doing is mulling over a house that Julie loved. With no ties to her, he puts a payment stop on it. It’s a foolish thing, a lark, and he has no hope of anything happening between them. But he does it all the same. And when she learns he has done this, she is amused and then touched.
There are no impediments to Shaw existing in the Mirror Universe, either in the JJ Abrams timeline or the Prime Timeline.
I like to think he would be more relaxed, and would maybe have a family, despite the harsh conditions on that side of the pond.
“I’m lousy at this. But I don’t drink to excess, not any more than a beer or two after work. I don’t gamble. I don’t run around. And I, uh, I won’t look at anyone else. Hell, I haven’t since I met you.”
He could be better explored, I imagine. At some point, where Eriecho goes (and at some point I will marry her off to Sollastek), Shaw will follow. He’ll be back.
Phaseball was a fun invention! I needed something which would be a plausible way that two guys, not interested in each other romantically, might spend some time together. It would be a game which friends would play, and it could conceivably start up some friendly rivalries. In addition, it would play right into the idea of both Daniel Beauchaine and Tom Grant being somewhat macho guys.
I intend the game to be somewhat similar to paintball. However, it’s played with either phasers or even phase bows. Like paintball, it is a strategic type of game and the intent is to, in some ways, mimic warfare. Players form teams and work together to attain an objective.
With few details so far, I can’t say that even I know the rules of phaseball.
However, I can see it as the kind of game that could conceivably take hours. Yet with phased light, instead of paint, no one gets dirty. Or at least they don’t get dirty from paint. However, sweat and dirt from the outside are a different story, of course.
Will it be back? I can’t say. I do not honestly know a lot about paintball, and Beauchaine ends up incarcerated, so the chances of it returning are currently not so good. However, there is a small possibility of adding it to the Barnstorming series. Because it is a strategic game, it could be a smart outlet for that ragtag team.
I prefer Rankin for this; I just see a guy who’s a little bit younger.
This has more to do with how I’ve written his successor in Multiverse II than anything else.
Keep in mind, the canon character is Philip (one L) and lives during the earlier part of the Third World War. The character I’m talking about is Phillip (two L’s) and is from a bit later. But the idea that funngunner and I had was that the concept of a Colonel Green would continue as several men fill the role over time.
Ruthless and rapacious, Green has an appetite for the remaining luxuries in the ravaged Earth, power, and women, at least as funngunner and I write him. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, Green is the poster child for that.
In Multiverse II, Liesl is eventually revealed to be the kingmaker, that there have been several versions of Green and Phillip is only one of many. There are even three children, but they aren’t Phillip’s or Liesl’s, so the far-future descendant, Phillipa, who Richard Daniels meets and seduces, as is mentioned in Ohio, has someone else’s genetics.
The relationship with Liesl is more businesslike than anything else. There is no marriage – although she’s referred to as his wife. It is just an arrangement, and the two of them continue to do whatever they like. Donald Janeway eventually reveals that he kept a database of eco-warrior ‘volunteers’ and it was split up by gender, with obviously male names scouted for Liesl, obviously female names for the Colonel, and anyone unknown to be determined. And, once they were determined for sure, they would be set aside for either party. Then images would be scoured for imperfections and anyone imperfect would be eliminated from consideration. Anyone unlucky enough to be physically perfect would be ripe for sexual usage.
When Otra arrives, the Colonel only has eyes for her, and kicks Liesl to the curb. Liesl wouldn’t care, except she wants power. Plus Otra is an alien, and that bothers Liesl quite a bit. And then Otra plunges a knife into Green’s chest, just after he proposes marriage. It’s a nasty business, Chilo possession.
For the Mirror Universe, I go back to Phillip Pine for the portrayal.
In my Star Trek: Enteprise fanfiction, I see him as the Emperor of the Terran Empire, Phillip I. His true descendant, Phillip IV, is Emperor when Hoshi Sato, in canon and in Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses, declares herself Empress. Hoshi herself assassinates Phillip IV.
“The fool’s paralyzed, and he’s unconscious. He doesn’t need guards or medics; he needs pallbearers.”
It is great fun and more than a little satisfying to write a person who is more or less pure evil. It’s even more satisfying to try to find a way to make him even remotely sympathetic. Green is a trip to write, and there’s talk of there eventually being a Multiverse III. If there is, I want to write him again.
See the Stats page for individual read and review counts.
I wrote some more of The Obolonk Murders, a wholly original story, and transcribed quite a bit of it into Word.
I finished optimizing all of the posts and pages of this blog. This was somewhat slow going as there are a lot of posts! I was also rewriting, interlinking more, updating images, retagging, and otherwise improving the older posts as much as possible.
Also, I improved the look of the site, trying new things, adding images, changing keywords, and otherwise attempting to optimize it.
I have started to move the as-yet unreleased posts to HootSuite rather than SocialOomph as there are more tracking options on the former.
This Month’s Productivity Killers
Once again, I had a ton of school work at Quinnipiac University.
The semester was winding down and so my class partner and I spent time on our final project as it was about 30% of our final grades.
NOTE: If rape is a trigger for you, you may want to stop reading right now.
Shell Shock Background
In response to a prompt about crimes, I decided to forego murder and instead concentrate on the equally nasty crime of rape.
Hence, at the conclusion of the Earth-Romulan War, Star Trek: Enterprise canon character Malcolm and the remainder of the crew of the NX-01 are back on Earth. While seeking to forget a horrible incident with a dying crewman, Reed seeks solace by going to the 602 Club. While there, he sees the waitress-turned-proprietress, Ruby Brannagh.
Malcolm leaves early, but not before he sees some fellow crew members, plus an unfamiliar military fellow (this turns out to be Jay Hayes‘s replacement, Bud Dawson) and some protesters from Earth.
However, the next day, he is woken up by a knock on the door of his temporary quarters at Starfleet Headquarters. There’s been a crime committed. And he and other men are to report to the mess hall.
Slowly, suspects are ruled out, as male crew members from the Enterprise and the Columbia present adequate alibis. Or the forensic evidence rules them out.
Frank Todd presents proof that he was at a gay bar. And others are eventually eliminated. However, one of the last persons to stand accused is Malcolm, although Dan Chang is also in the final list. And so is a Columbia crewman, Josef Kastle. Kastle is a direct reference to the author Franz Kafka, who wrote The Trial.
Malcolm’s lawyer, Dash Nolan, works hard to get him off the suspect list. And Malcolm is humiliated and forced to dredge up embarrassing personal details, including about his relationship with Pamela Hudson. The story also sets up Saturn Rise as a way for him to heal from not only this experience, but also the experience of seeing a crewman suffer and die during the war.
But of course it’s the gravely injured Ruby who’s got it far worse.
While there isn’t really a theme song for this story, I thought of New Orders’s Shell Shock quite a bit as I was writing it.
So beyond covering Malcolm and Ruby’s very different species of distress, the story also serves to convey the horrors of an accusation of rape. And even the innocent don’t come out of the experience unscathed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While not everyone will love what I have written, I’ve learned to separate critiques into constructive and destructive, and can tell the difference.
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.
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’sThe 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Boldly Reading’s prompt #7, Music and Writing, asks the following musical questions –
Music, for many of us, is a part of the writing process. It might inspire us. We might need it to get started, or motivated, or to finish. We might give characters their own theme songs or might follow along with the lyrics as they pull us into a different direction. We might even write songfics.
Your blogging mission is therefore to answer questions like this –
Does music inspire you in your writing? Do any characters have a song that just clicks for you? Do any character relationships have songs (e. g. they’re playing our song)? Do lyrics inspire you? Do rhythm, beats and instruments inspire? Is one genre preferred to another? Do any of your characters sing or play instruments? Do any of your stories or characters have play lists?
Have you ever used music to set a scene or a mood? Do you feel it was successful? Have you read others’ musical connections to fan fiction? Did the music help in your enjoyment of the piece(s), or did it detract?
Many of my characters have theme songs, or they share them in couples. In addition, the HG Wells stories are heavily musical, partly as a mood creator but also to evoke certain years. It would be a lot to repeat all of that. Hence, rather than doing that, I’d like to talk about a few times when I think music really was a part of telling the story.
Day of the Dead
For Day of the Dead, I wanted to evoke the mood of Halloween, spookiness and horror. In particular, I wanted to move the mood from jokey, unreal, fictional horrors, such as are seen on a movie screen, to the very real and memorable and gut-wrenching horrors of a concentration camp. Further, I wanted to end, not so much on a happy note as on one of a set of lessons having been learned. And so the music, which starts off with tunes like Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s Monster Mash, segues into eventually the Manhattan Transfer’s Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone to Golden Earring’s Twilight Zone to, finally, Ministry’s Everyday is Halloween.
The mood should absolutely darken, leaving the reader, when it’s all over, with a sense that Tripp Tucker‘s final days are pretty dark ones. The idea was, not only to tell the story, but also to give a bit of life to the explanation in the canon episode, These Are the Voyages, that he and T’Pol had broken up years earlier and had never reconciled.
While it doesn’t have music actually in the fan fiction itself, Crackerjack has always been posted with links to period music. Although Joe DiMaggio isn’t in the story, I’ve always posted Les Brown’s Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, as it’s accurate to the time period and is of course about baseball. I tend to use Artie Shaw’s Frenesi as the love theme for Geordi LaForge and Rosemary Parker. I also like ending with Frank Sinatra’s Oh, Look at Me Now as it’s an optimistic song with an eye toward a happy future.
This story has gone through a number of twists, and the soundtrack is somewhat complicated, but the song I particularly liked adding was Cream’s Swlabr, which absolutely, to my mind, captured Seymour Sonia’s drug trip.
I know I have sometimes allowed lyrics to dictate my writing a little too much. I will be the first to admit that. And I’ve also added music sometimes where, maybe, it didn’t need to be. On the Radio had a ton of music listed, and it followed Donna Summer’s lyrics a bit, but I also wanted to use it as a direct sequel to More, More, More! which is a disco party. Further, I wanted to evoke a dance, not so much tripping the light fantastic but, rather, the dance of two people and their attraction. One step forward, two steps back, as it were. But I know it didn’t quite work out as well as I wanted it to.
For every song, and every lyric, the results are, I think, mixed. Do they add to the mood? Sometimes. But they can sometimes threaten to overwhelm it, and I know I can sometimes use them as too much of a crutch. I like using music in my writing, but the effects aren’t always as I intend them to be.
Then again, Otra D’Angelo got this song. And, at least to me, it feels just right.