#SFFS – 09 January 2016

Welcome to my first SFFSat post of 2016!

Today’s snippet comes from my as-yet-untitled WIP. It’s part historical fantasy, part alternative universe… space opera? I’m not entirely sure what it classes as. I never intended to write it at all except I watched an old movie and one of the characters jammed himself in my head. *sigh*

So this is the end of the first chapter, which is the only bit of that I have written on account that writing historical naval battles requires research I can’t be bothered with yet. Meet Henrik Dietz, captain of the München, who isn’t having a very good day.

Smoke swirls around him, choking his lungs and hazing his vision. He blinks hard and squints – the light is directly ahead. München can make it. She has to.

Another explosion below decks rocks the battleship. She begins to list heavily to starboard. They’re taking on water. Are there still men down below? Henrik hopes not. He hopes they’ve gotten to the lifeboats and escaped. He will not. He is captain of this ship and he’ll see her to safety or else go down with her.

Light floods the bridge; blues and greens that shift not unlike the Aurora Borealis, but that phenomenon stays far above. It doesn’t waver like a curtain, its hem touching the sea. No, this is something else. Something unknown. The battleship cruises on, metal creaking as she leans over further, and the lights envelop her.

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Back to the Start

6 December 1989, and aged sixteen I sat with a heavy heart to watch the last part of the last Doctor Who story, unaware that it was going to sew a seed that would eventually change my life.

Survival is probably my favourite Who story. I’d watched the show since childhood, catching the last story with Tom Baker, then going through Peter Davison, Colin Baker and finally Sylvester McCoy. Ask me which of those is my Doctor, and I won’t be able to answer. I don’t have one – I love them all equally, for different reasons, as I love Christopher Eccelston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. However ask me who my Master is and my emphatic answer will be Anthony Ainley.

as the Master in Survival

It started with Legopolis. I might have seen replays of earlier episodes, but I remember this one clearly, largely because it featured the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank – a place I knew well and loved. I’ve always had stars in my eyes. But Legopolis also caught my attention because of the Master. A human shaped foe rather than a creature, he was unapologetically and gleefully bad, and I found that rather appealing.

He also had a habit of escaping Certain Death with absolutely no explanation whatsoever. He’d done it often enough for me to expect it, so when Survival closed with his fate unknown, I couldn’t let it be. I needed to either figure it out or, as what actually happened, invent a way for him to survive. I might not have written those ideas down, but they existed. I had my first muse and dreamt up my first stories for him.

Years later, I did the same and published them online as fanfic. The fandom was different, as was the character, but the seed had grown into a plant. Then the plant blossomed into a flower and I wrote original fiction with characters I’d created, usually as an offshoot from a show character who’d gotten my interest.

Baal (Stargate SG-1) and Bialar Crais (Farscape) both have echoes in my work, and both echo something more. Dark, handsome, bad, sarcastic, clever – they are my Type. I’ve known this for a while, but never figured out how deep it runs. That turns out to be back twenty six years and a man with blue eyes full of mischief and a half smile full of trouble in an impractical velvet coat he shouldn’t have pulled off but did.

Revisiting that first crush, I’m discovering a new appreciation for the man behind the Master.  Also that he wasn’t all that far behind, which amuses me greatly. In venturing beyond Who, I watched The Land That Time Forgot and acquired a new muse who’s currently driving me crazy. I’ve also gotten a DVD of his spy series Spyder’s Web, which I’m not watching yet because I’ve a feeling him might assault me from another angle and I can do without the distraction.

as Deitz in The Land That Time Forgot

But has has been interesting to discover how deep the roots go.It’s an old love and it’s stood the test of time better than I’d known. Other things have watered it and made it grow, and I’m as thankful for those, but nothing beats that seed, that initial spark.

#IWSG: Starting Over

Ah, New Year. Is there is better time? I love taking down the full calendar on its last page and putting up a new, empty one. All those days to come. All those possibilities. Nothing fills me with energy like New Year.

I took two weeks off from the shop over Christmas. It was great to relax and recharge, despite the usual stress over money, and spend time with family. It helped me re-evaluate my goals for the shop, my writing, and my crafting aims.

Writing is going to take a backseat this year. I’ve signed up for WriYe again, but with a much lower goal. My aim is for 125,000 words. If I finish a novel, then great, but really my goal is just to write on a regular basis. Re-establish that habit in my new life.

I’m currently working on… well, I’ve no idea what it classes as. It’s set in an alternative universe in the near future, and it has time travel, Nazis, airships, possible krakens, and an inappropriately timed romance. It doesn’t have a title as yet.

Right now, I’m not feeling very insecure about writing. I’m actually – gasp – having fun. Even if there’s a constant battle not to fall into the Rabbit Hole of Research. I’m perfectly happy plodding along and letting the story blossom. Doing this has already thrown up a spot of foreshadowing for a scene I’d not planned (honestly, there’s no plot or plan anyway). It’s kind of like doing NaNo where you throw every idea into the pot, except at a slower pace.

I’m more than happy with that.

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#IWSG: Getting Back Up

Happy Insecure Writer’s Support Day! Writers from across the galaxy join on the first Wednesday of the month to shout our hopes, dreams, fears, and wishes into the void and support each other – join us!

So this is my first IWSG post… HI! *waves*

Halfway through November I posted about falling over. Well, I never got back up. I didn’t hit 50K for NaNo.

Note I didn’t say “win”. I won. I wrote a lot of words – more than I’ve written on any other original project this year. My beta tells me what I have is good, with solid emotional beats. I’m taking that as a win.

So what now? Honestly I’m just trying to juggle the shop with home life and the rapid approach of Christmas. I doubt writing is going to happen – at least not in large amounts – until January 2016. Once this would have stressed me to the max. Now I’m just wryly acknowledging I can only do so much and when something has to give, it has to be the writing.

I’m not down. But I’m not quite back up, either. I think I’m on my knees, still gathering my strength and regaining my breath, in readiness to stand. It’s not a bad place to be. I’m reflecting a lot on what I want to achieve next year. About what I want to write, and how to go about it.

I’ll share when I’ve figured that out. *smiles*

An Ugly Ducking Responds

The very wonderful Gareth Powell has written an open letter to ugly ducklings. I needed to read that today (actually, I needed to read it a long time ago, but today will do).

It’s odd that I’ve been thinking about the ugly duckling narrative in media over these past few days and then Gareth posts this. I’ve not mentioned anything on Twitter, so it’s clearly a crazy random happenstance.

I’ve worn glasses since I was very young. In those days it wasn’t cool. I got name called at school. You know the ones. It got worse when I hit my teens. I’d greasy hair and skin that defied shampoo and spot creams. Horse riding made my thighs too thick, genes my shoulders too broad. I’d no breasts to speak of. I dressed masculine because dressing feminine just highlighted the fact I wasn’t a girly girl. I was an ugly duckling.

When I was in secondary school, the soap Neighbours ran a storyline: Melanie, the quiet, mousy girl with her hair in a ponytail and thick glasses on her face. An ugly duckling. Then she got contacts, had her hair done, and hey presto! A swan was born. People told me I should do the same. Told me that I’d be pretty. And I fell for their lies.

There was far too much I needed to “correct” to be conventionally pretty. It hurt me to realise that, but it also released me because I stopped being with people that expected that. I dropped “friends” who weren’t, really; the ones that kept me around because I made them look good. But it took me years, decades, to reach the point where I reclaimed myself.

I’m still not there. I still wonder what the hell H saw in me that day in college. I still hesitate in putting my photo online (my Twitter avatar has rarely been me). I was terrified by the panels at BristolCon this year, just as I was last. Hopefully next year, I’ll go on stage with my head held high. It’s something to aim for.

Because I’m not a swan. But Gareth is right and it doesn’t matter. I love what I love, and the people I’m closest to share that love. I didn’t need to pass a beauty test to geek out about Doctor Who with Paul Cornell. What I’d done was far more important to Cliff Simon than how I looked.

These are the things I cherish, and need to remember more.

Thank you, Gareth, for reminding me of that.