IWSG: September

Hello and welcome to my first IWSG post!

A little about me: I’m a published author of speculative fiction romance, and winner of a PRISM and a SFR Galaxy Award. Which is enough reason to be perfectly secure, yet I’m not.

Partly because I don’t think writers are terribly secure as a rule, but also because depression lies. Especially about your self worth. It erodes your confidence.

My last story published was back in 2015. Writing has been sporadic since. 2016 was a year from hell. I’m slowly, slowly learning to write again.

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?

ARCHANGEL surprised me repeatedly. I started writing it for Script Frenzy, with a single scene in my head. And it just poured out. There was no outline, barely any plotting, just a character that I’d partly stole. Gabe turned out to be one of the gobbiest characters I’ve ever shared my head with!

I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable writing ARCHANGEL as it was my first venture into urban fantasy. It’s a modern day story (as opposed to faux Victorian or space-based) and it’s set in L.A.: somewhere I’ve been once for the sum of a weekend. All praise Google Maps for helping me out massively. Something must have gone right, though, because ARCHANGEL  is the novella I won a PRISM for…

But writing often surprises me. That’s to do with pantsing and having no real idea what I’m writing. A dear, departed friend called it “organic writing.” I’m not sure that’s a real term, but it suffices.

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The Master Rewatch – Logopolis

Written by: Christopher H. Bidmead
Original airing: BBC One, 28 February – 21 March 1981
Rewatched: BBC Store

Synopsis: The Doctor goes to Logopolis to repair the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, unaware that a shadowy watcher is spying on him. Meanwhile, the Master has a plan of his own for the planet; one that could mean the unravelling of the causal nexus and the end of the universe itself.


Logopolis is the first episode of Doctor Who that I vividly remember watching, and the reasons are threefold.

First, while episodes based in London are always recognisable, there’s something special about one where you know the scene intimately. The “Pharos Project” on Logopolis is a model of the Lowell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, which my parents had taken me to at some point before; me being completely obsessed with all things space. I’ve been several times since, and it remains wonderful in itself, with the added Whovian bonus.

Second is the arrival of the Master. For a seven year old, the wilfully naughtiness of the Master was an instant draw, and I quickly found myself rooting for him rather than the Doctor. That he brought about the third point was icing on the cake, which brings me to…

Third. The regeneration. This was the first I’d seen, though I knew it happened. (I honestly don’t get fans who moan every time the Doctor changes face. It’s the entire basis of the character for crying out loud!) News had broken on Tom Baker’s replacement, and it was an actor I already knew and loved, so was quite excited about it.

Rewatching Logopolis at 43, I was still very much Team Master, though his casual regard (or lack there of) for life impacted rather more than it had at 7. And his manipulation of Nyssa is nasty. Yet. His blithe attitude to everything is as intriguing as it ought to be off-putting. I wasn’t wondering what made him tick at this point, but the spark of curiosity was lit.

SFR Brigade Showcase – September


It’s been an age since I took part in the SFR Brigade Showcase, and the first time doing so here. I’ll try not to make it my last, but I’m a scatterbrain and one month sliding into another doesn’t always register in the ways it ought.

Anyway, Showcase. Who wants a snippet? I’m not sure why I’m asking, because there’s no other option – a snippet is what you’re going to get. So there.

Snippet in question is from my very rough, very in-progress, untitled steampunk-ish fantasy romance because the document is open right now. The story follows Rhiannon, a Sister of the Mother Goddess, who is ordained to be the Witch Adviser of Duke Elric. Her mission is to end his reign and restore the religion he’s abandoned. However, the following snippet is where she sees him for the first time, and rather sets the tone (spoiler: things don’t go to plan.)

Morning light streamed through the eastern windows and caught in the gems worn by both the men and women courting Elric’s favour. Most were dressed in the latest fashion – the women tightly corseted with wide skirts and their hair piled high on their heads, the men in long coats over tailored britches and knee-length boots.

Pressed against the far wall, Rhiannon watched their over-animated conversations and listened to peals of exaggerated laughter. They reminded of the peacocks in the gardens in their obvious attempts to gain the duke’s attention. She sighed to herself at how ridiculous they were.

As she moved along the edge of the room, her gaze was drawn to the flurry of activity around the main table. Even though she had not seen Elric except in passing, she knew him the moment her eyes lit on him. There was an aura of power around him that was only partially to do with his magic. It caught and drew one to him, as evidenced by the hangers-on gathered around.

His eyes were as blue and cool as a winter sky. Dark hair swept back from a high forehead and a short beard framed a mouth that seemed permanently twisted in a sardonic smile. The velvet coat he wore was unadorned and stuck Rhiannon as quite severe. Yet it suited him more than she imagined a more fashionable one would.

The thought startled her and she shook her head. Orlagh had warned her of his magnetism, but it was one thing hearing of it; experiencing it was very different indeed. She would have to guard against it better.

Thank you for stopping by! Please check out the other snippets here.

Stranded on the Sofa

Last Wednesday hubs and I went out on his motorbike (mine is still off the road) and we hit a pothole. And I felt something go in my back.

I’ve had sciatica before, so I know how it feels and how best to treat it. This time, though? Oh my gosh, it’s bad. I actually think I may have slipped a disc. The symptoms on the NHS site match up pretty well. But it also says that a doctor isn’t likely to send you for treatment until it’s been 4 weeks.

One has been hell. There’s no position comfortable. Sitting hurts. Standing up really hurts. I don’t so much walk as shuffle like a zombie.

Grr argh.

Alternating ibuprofen and paracetamol is kind of working, though “gentle exercise” is limited to when I have to go upstairs for the toilet. For the most part, I’m stranded on the sofa. I’ve taken to crocheting socks for a friend. Playing on Facebook and the Xbox. Swearing like a sailor when I have to move.

I’m also writing. ZERO HOUR is sort of ticking along, but I was attacked by a fantasy plot bunny and so that’s happening, albeit slowly. Having stepped back from publishing, I’m finding my pace to be doddering, which is nice in that I’m not stressing about writing, but also a little frustrating because I’m itching to be done.

I’m the same with crochet, to be honest – love starting and finished, slightly hate the bit in between.

I’m stranded on the sofa in between.

Ah well, the only way through is through. One small [shuffling] step at a time, and try and enjoy the journey or something.

Onward!

The Master Rewatch – The Keeper of Traken

keeper1Written by: Johnny Byrne
Original airing: BBC One, 31 January – 21 February 1981
Rewatched: Horror Channel

Synopsis: the Doctor and Adric learn from the wizened Keeper of Traken that a great evil has come to his planet in the form of Melkur – a calcified statue. The Keeper is nearing the end of his reign and seeks the Doctor’s help in preventing the evil from taking control of the bioelectronic Source that is the keystone of the Traken Union’s civilisation.


I don’t remember watching The Keeper of Traken as a child, though I most probably did. It has a very different feel to most Doctor Who stories; with its slow-burn plot and intricate costumes, it has more in keeping with an historical play than a sci fi series. It’s extraordinarily lovely.

The Master only reappears towards the very end of the last part, with Anthony playing the very sweet Tremas for the majority of the story. I like Tremas. He’s a decent bloke and I always feel a slight pang at his death.

There’s some debate on the Master’s physiology in the Ainley years. Is he Traken, Time Lord or a blend of the two? It’s not a question answered directly by the show. What is known is that Tremas gets visibly younger on being taken over by the Master. The fact he continues to pursue a new set of regenerations would suggest his DNA is altered enough to allow for one.

But what is a Time Lord? As far as the Doctor goes, he has two hearts and a stolen Tardis. It’s never clear that he needs to have two hearts to regenerate (if we look at NuWho, the Doctor’s daughter Jenny has two and can resuscitate after death, whereas River can regenerate in full but I don’t recall her physiology mentioned.)

As far as the Master is concerned, I’m not sure it matters. Even with a new body – and the ability to recall some of Tremas’s memories – he’s still the same selfish, power-obsessed person he was beforehand. The only difference is his sudden affinity for black velvet and a sharp line in snark.

The Master Rewatch Master Post

Ahh, the Master. As noted here, I grew up with – pretty much literally – Anthony Ainley in the role and fell deeply in love. It’s a feeling which abides despite him being long gone, and which I’ve decided to celebrate for no reason other than I can by rewatching his Who episodes. For those with less-than-perfect recall of said episodes (which is probably everyone but me), they are as follows:

The Keeper of Traken
Logopolis
Castrovalva
Time-Flight
The King’s Demons
The Five Doctors
Planet of Fire
The Mark of the Rani
The Ultimate Foe
Survival

So join me, if you dare, on a voyage celebrating villainous shenanigans, ridiculously convoluted schemes and improbable escapes from certain death, with a new episode every Monday.

WIP: Zero Hour

Writing has been… a struggle these past two years. Part of this is down to life being a pita, the rest is down to my mental health. I’ve started stories before with all the bright-eyed wonder of a child on Bonfire Night, only to lose momentum and the fire. And every time that happened, I lost a little more confidence.

So it’s with a touch of trepidation that I write this blog post. Silly as it might seem, I don’t want to jinx things. My muse is such an ephemeral spirit lately. I don’t want to frighten it off.

But my latest attempt to get words down seems to be going okay. I decided on a goal of 40K for August and am 30% of the way there. Zero Hour has no outline and little in the way of plotting. There are markers left, right and centre where I need characters or planets or places. It’s in yWriter because the scenes are being written out of order. The end is 90% done. There’s bits of middle. The beginning is a ropy affair, and the whole thing is going to need one hell of an edit.

But.

But it’s coming. And I’m enjoying writing it. So we’ll see what happens.

How I Write

Is there a snack you like to eat while writing?
Grapes are great (and non-fattening!) I also drink a lot of water.

What time of day do you usually write?
Last thing at night.

Where do you write?
On the sofa.

How often do you write a new thing?
More often than I should, but less than I used to. Writing is definitely dying off.

Do you listen to music while you write?
Sometimes.

Paper or laptop?
Laptop.

Do you have a special pre-writing ritual?
I think that classes as procrastination!

What do you do to get into the writing?
If it happens, it happens. I’m less bothered about writing every day lately.

Do you have a reward system for word counts?
No.

Is there anything else about your writing process your readers don’t know about?
It’s extremely chaotic. I rarely plan beyond the basic idea (kinda like a back page blurb) and often have no idea what’s actually going on.

WriYe Blogging Circle – Characters

How do you come up with your characters? Do you pull from real life and people you know or someplace else? Do you have a hard time with characterisation or find it a breeze?

My original characters tend to be a patchwork made up from the characters I love the most in various fandoms. Or, occasionally, the actors who play them – Gabriel Kemp of Archangel was based directly on Cliff Simon’s NCIS Los Angeles guest spot, though the novella was very different in genre.

Characters come first most of the time and my plots are always character-driven, so characterisation is very important for me. Creating them is easy. Pulling them apart can be a little harder, but necessary to give the reader a satisfactory character arc.

How do you come up with names?

I steal them! Kemp was lifted from NCIS LA, Hoyt from DUST (both characters played by Cliff Simon.) I have a Phoebe which is close to Phryne and she is very much like Miss Fisher (if she hunted werewolves instead of solving murders.) Anthian is a nod to my long love of Doctor Who actor Anthony Ainley.

I try to name characters for their personality in the first place and the genre in the second. For instance, Ironhaven‘s Genevieve was named for film which featured racers having to find inventive methods to mend their rally car, and because it was a popular Victorian name (Ironhaven has a steampunk feel though it’s not strictly that genre.)

WriYe Blogging Circle – Publishing

Is publishing something you aim for? Why or why not?

When I was writing fan fiction, I “published” on fan-fic sites such as fanfiction.net and AO3, but oddly when I made the move to original fiction, publishing wasn’t something I considered for a few years. I knew I wasn’t writing well enough to publish at that point.

That changed after I realised that fiction is a two-part process – writing is the first part, having your stories read is the second.

Which route would you choose, self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Since my comfort zone was novella-length, I was somewhere between the two. Few traditional publishers will take a novella from an unknown author, so I looked at smaller independent ones. Ironhaven was published as an e-book through Decadent Publishing, while everything else found a home at Champagne Books.