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Best and Worst of the First Week

8 Nov

So I decided on my National Novel Writing Month novel’s main characters and basic plot on October 31st:

It is a sci-fi Gothic horror/thriller/fiasco featuring mirror universe doppelgangers as well as bounty hunters, space cowboys, and politics.

Our narrator is Mabel, the finicky secretary to the mysterious Mrs. Beaumont, who is the CEO for Teleportation and Transportation Services, LLC (a high-falutin’ company with headquarters on the moon whose products include teleporters).  Some to-be-determined shady dealings and evil plots ensue.

With that introduction, I present to you the best and the worst of the first week of National Novel Writing Month 2013.

Worst:

The opening.

Mrs. Beaumont always insisted upon taking a morning constitutional while she read reports even though one might be tempted to think it would be difficult to walk comfortably and read comfortably simultaneously.  However, whatever one might be tempted to think would never presume to flummox or impede Mrs. Beaumont in any endeavor.  She had perfected her ways, and she was bound to them by duty, routine, and probably most particularly her own stubborn will.  She had not become the CEO of Teleportation and Transportation Services, LLC by shirking a well-established and efficient regimen, especially one she enjoyed thoroughly.  Even if she hadn’t enjoyed it, which I suspected she very much did, she most likely would have continued because it was what she had always done, and it afforded her not only physical exercise–which she prized–but also extra time later in the work day for other matters that necessitated being in her office, which she greatly prized.

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An Edith Piaf Stupor

29 Oct

Chapter 3:  In which White Trash Janeway sunbathes on her roof and the cavalry are called in.

White Trash Janeway, My One True Love

“Full disclosure: I did not want to call you.”

I looked at the squinting face of Tal Celes.  We were standing in Janeway’s frontyard, and both of us were squinting against the full and blinding sun.  The yard seemed to be squinting, too.  It was half green and half yellow, and just a tad overgrown.

“You don’t say,” I said.

“Well, I wanted to call Harry, but he’s on Deep Space 6, and I guess I could’ve called Tuvok, but she can’t even look him in the eye when she’s sober, and I absolutely wasn’t going to–”

I squinted harder, and she stopped talking before she could say that she hadn’t wanted to contact her former Astrometrics lab boss, which I was 100% certain was the next name she was going to drop.

“Well, you called me, and I’m here.  What’s the situation?”

She turned toward the front porch briefly and heaved a large sigh.  She turned back to me and put a hand to her forehead to shield her eyes.

“Um.  Well.”  She bit her lip, and it was like we were back on Voyager and she was telling me about how she screwed up aligning a sensor.  I squared my shoulders and acted like her boss’s boss again.

“Well?” I said, as gruff and Klingon-chief-engineer as I could muster.

“I–I don’t know how well you know the Admiral anymore… But social functions really take it out of her,” she said, shifting her weight.

“Ok…?” My voice was still sarcastic and annoyed, but something was pinging in my stomachs—something familiar and unpleasant and guilty and scared.

“Well, I thought it was that.  You know.  A usual bender after a social occasion.  Where she would hole up with some jazz and whiskey for a day and then be– Well, not herself, but– like usual.  Like asking me to get her Chinese at 3am and then telling me I’m stupid for doing it and that she didn’t deserve my charity.  You know.”  She shrugged.

I blinked.  Was this really Tal’s life?  She shifted her weight again and continued her monologue:

“But.  I– it’s bad.  It’s the same Edith Piaf album on repeat.  And so much whiskey.  And–well, the replicator.”

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Charm Is Irrelevant

5 Oct

The Continuing Adventures of White Trash Janeway, My One True Love

White trash janeway 4

Chapter 2:  Charm Is Irrelevant

When I was newer to humanity, I often espoused all manner of erroneous, Borg-influenced claims.  Many of them concerned emotion, beauty, subjectivity, and all were denigrated with sentiments like irrelevance, inefficiency, futility.

If I were asked to describe my perfect vision of the universe, many of these claims would still hold true.  But I realized now that the world in which I lived–the human world–could not and should not work on a Borg system. I had come to appreciate, if not understand fully, the merits of useless things.

I recalled thinking, early in my new existence, that charm–that quality of being able to discern what someone might want to hear and then give it to him with a luxurious smile–was irrelevant.  But I found this untrue almost immediately. Charm was not only relevant but essential. That was one of the first things Captain Janeway tacitly taught me.

And I almost hated her for it. And I hated her for that, too–that almost. In many ways I relished simple things–emotions that were pure and either love or hate, sad or happy. At least I could understand those. These complex emotions of anger and delight and frustration and confusion–I hated them, and I loved them because I always associated them with her.

Charm was hard for me to grasp but easy for me to recognize. Charm was artifice but also natural. Needless to say, it was not natural to me and completely natural to her.

One point four hours after having dismissed me from the ladies’ room, this woman could be regaling former crew members with tales they hadn’t even remembered, even though she was visibly inebriated.  This was the definition of charm.  She had it.  It was something she possessed and could use at her whim.  It was capital.  And she used it as such.

It was how she had beaten the Hirogen, the Devore, even the Borg to some extent.  It was how she beat everyone.  But now, watching her beat Samantha Wildman at pool, watching her laugh at Bolian jokes, watching her sneak drinks in secluded corners, it seemed to be all she had left.

It must be hard to live on charm alone.

I eased into her presence as she sat down next to Crewman Tal.  She looked at me.  I couldn’t even begin to deduce what her look might have signalled, the deep blue of it penetrating me in a way I hadn’t felt or been confused about in years.

“Seven.  Or–I heard a rumor you prefer Annika now,” she said as though we hadn’t had a confrontation in the lavatory preceding the party.

“That rumor is unfounded.  I continue to prefer Seven.”

“Shame.  I always liked Annika,” she said, her mouth rising on one side.  That was charm.  I hated it.

“Regardless.  I wanted to continue our previous conversation.”

She raised an eyebrow and smiled at Crewman Tal and then at me although the smiles were slightly different somehow.

“Well, Seven. I’m not currently smoking, so I’m not sure what we have to discuss.” She crossed her legs and broke eye contact to scan the room, a smile still on her face.

“I mean, of course, the matter we were discussing before you began smoking.”

She raised her eyebrows and put her tongue to her top teeth.  I took this to mean she did not recall what we had been discussing and opened my mouth to begin to remind her, but she cut me off:

“You’re not going to start reciting star dates and exact phrasings to me, are you?”

“No,” I said, although that is precisely what I had intended.

“Good.”  She winked at Crewman Tal, and the woman giggled briefly.

“If you will excuse us,” I said to the Bajoran.  My former captain crossed her arms over her chest and nodded.  Crewman Tal looked at both of us and then vacated her seat.

“So what now?” she said.  “You give me your old, ‘I prefer to stand line,’ and I sit here listening to your admonitions getting a crick in my neck?”

Silently I sat.

“Phew.  I’m a little old for that nonsense,” she said.

“You’re a little old for a great deal of nonsense,” I said.

“And just what is that supposed to mean?”  she said a little loudly.

“If you would only let the Doctor administer a hypospray.  You could–”

“I could what?  Be back to my old self?”

I stared at her, and she continued.

“Maybe I don’t want to be my old self.  Maybe my old self wasn’t all she was cracked up to be.  And maybe even if she was all she was cracked up to be, that woman is as dead as Chakotay.”

His name seemed to ring louder than the rest of the sentence, and we sat there in the echo.

He always seemed to come up in our conversations, and always as unpleasantly as this.  I had loved him in my childish way those many years ago, and she knew how I always reacted when she said unpleasant things.  This was the opposite side of charm: If one knew what to say, one certainly knew what not to say.  Perhaps the opposite of charm is spite, and perhaps Captain Janeway bore an abundance of both.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said finally.  She laughed once.

“That makes two of us.”

It was at this moment that Tal Celes returned. I could have stayed, but I did not.

A Little Mediocrity and a Lot of Booze Later

30 Sep

So over on my quasi-clandestine tumblr, some of us have been discussing a possible Star Trek: Voyager fanfiction that would incorporate this idea:

White Trash Janeway

White Trash Janeway, my one true love.

That is, an AU piece in which Voyager comes home hella scarred, and Janeway is super depressed and drunk and ridiculous.

So here’s my first chapter.

***

I knew it’d been a bad sign when she’d grown her hair back out three years ago. Of course, it had started long before that. When we got back to Earth–a bunch of bedraggled targs with a Borg-loving p’tach for a leader, as my mother had said with half a sneery smile on her face when she embraced me for the first time in twenty years–it had been a whirlwind of debriefings and review boards and promotions, and she never should’ve accepted her admiralty.

But she had, and it had damn near killed her. A little mediocrity and a lot of booze later, she had finally retired. But somewhere in between she had grown her hair back out and started wearing buns again, presumably trying to regain some part of herself she had lost years and light years ago, something prim and Starfleet, something conventional and safe. But it was a sham. Even Seven–or maybe especially Seven–had recognized the stale, desperate smell of the maneuver.  Sure, it wasn’t the bun’s fault, but it was the easiest thing to blame.

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If Everything Were Written by Charlotte Brontë

30 Mar

What if everything were written in the same mellifluous, melodramatic style as Jane Eyre?  Wouldn’t life be glorious?

If Double Indemnity were written by Charlotte Brontë, that scene where Phyllis and Walter confront each other in Phyllis’s living room might go a little something like this…

venetian blinds stanwyck

Rather dimly do I recall the events of this evening, though it was not long ago.  Presently, as the very life blood pours out of me, the memories come to me as through a haze, some dingy fog that might be seen in a great coastal town on a moonless, dreary night–and understandably so as I look through my mind’s eye at the scene.

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Best and Worst of the 6th Week: In Which I Kind of Stop Trying

13 Dec

The good news is, I’ve written some things for the blog.  The bad news is I’ve written some things for the blog.  Zing!

But really, I haven’t been working on my novel much at all.  Like 400 words ish.  And pretty much all of those 400 words kind of suck.

Worst:

Lieutenant Aldridge begins to answer the review board’s question about how a dude came to be murdered.

“We–” I suddenly didn’t know how to proceed.  My mind had been wandering so much that it didn’t remember how to get down to business.  I placed all my focus on Stoljarov and her eager and concerned expression.  I remembered the day she had called me to tell me I was being placed on administrative leave, and I remembered that maybe she wasn’t on my side exactly but that she was the face on the board I trusted most.  She had given me an A even though I’d deserved a B.  Maybe she could be generous again.  I started again:

“Well, Captain Martel had made a deal with the marshals.  We were working with them tracking some outlaws.  We were on their trail–maybe a day behind them–and we ran into this…couple.”  Stoljarov nodded for me to continue.  “The male was human and the female was Martian.  They claimed they were heading to Fort Claire where they knew someone who would give them safe transport to Unter Grat.  This couple had been with the Doomers–” Franklin raised her eyebrow.  “The outlaws called themselves the Doonstown Doomers.”

 It’s lame, and there’s too much new jargon.  And it’s just boring.  Which is the general problem with this novel.  I’m pretty bored with it, and I’m sure if anyone were reading it that person would also be bored with it and also thinking, “When is anything going to happen?  When will this grand mystery be revealed?”

Best:

In this section, Lieutenant Aldridge talks about how her mind is wandering while she’s answering questions during her review board.

I took a deep breath and focused all my brain on the latest question Lieutenant Franklin had asked.  Well, that was a lie.  My mind tried to focus momentarily and then wandered again for a bit about Lieutenant Franklin and why people mistook us for each other.  Rather, how people mistook me for her.  I had never really talked to her and didn’t really know her life, so I didn’t know if this mistaken identity thing was mutual or not.  We didn’t share the same face shape, nor did we share the exact shade of blonde hair.  I supposed our noses were similar and our bodies were similar.  Anyway, I focused on her question.

But then I got distracted again when I glanced over at Stoljarov, whose grey eyes were holding a subdued and ladylike rage that wanted to assert itself but could not because Stoljarov’s primness wouldn’t let it.  Her hands were pressed tightly together, folded neatly in front her on the table, but she looked tense with her unexpressed anger.  I was worried about her.

I was also worried about myself.  I was only half paying attention to my own review board, after all.

I chose it as the best because I like doppelgangers, and I’ve given Aldridge one in Lieutenant Franklin.  She’s kind of a supporting villain currently, and if I ever do any more real writing on this thing ever again, she’ll probably figure into the conspiracy.

***

Current Wordcount:  40,974

Best and Worst of the Fifth Week: Still Chuggin’ Along

6 Dec

November is over, but my novel is not.  Still.

So I guess I’ll keep up with the best/worst of the week thing because I’ve got nothin’ better to do.

Also, I’ve gotta take a minute and say this:  This thing is getting lamer every time I look at it.  I thought it was picking up for a sec a couple chapters ago, but I think that was a convenient lie I was telling myself.

But I’m going to stick it out.  No matter how much I hate it!

Worst:

Here Lieutenant Aldridge is waiting around to be questioned by the Mission Review Board directly after Captain Martel.  Note: Captain Derek Martel = Captain Vera Martel’s ex-husband; oh, and our lady captain has a cybernetic eye that Aldridge can always hear making cybernetic noises; hippoid = a Martian horse

I arrived at 10:30 for no other reason than to pace outside the conference room.  My skirt looked all right, I supposed, but I still felt the residual effects of the panic attack thing I had had.  I thought I might still puke if provoked.  I didn’t know what exactly might provoke me, but I was sure I would know it if I saw it.

At 10:37 Captain Martel walked out of the conference room looking as casual as if she had just been in having brunch with a few old friends.  She saw me and walked over, taking off her gloves and smiling as she crossed into my personal space slightly.

“Don’t look so tense, Blondie.  They don’t bite,” she said.

“Or at least not if you don’t request that specifically,”  I heard a silky and leering male voice say behind me.  From the leeringness of it and the change of direction of Martel’s eye’s whirring, I knew it must have been Derek Martel.  I turned slightly, and sure enough, there he was, smiling unctuously.

“What are you doing on this floor, Captain?” she said to him, ice lining her voice, which had dropped to one of its lowest registers.  It was the tone she used on hippoid thieves and cheaters at cards.

“Just taking a stroll,” he said.  “Seeing if I could find any pretty girls in skirts to look at.”  He took a long look at me and then another, perhaps longer, look at his ex-wife.  She was running her tongue over her teeth and clenching her gloves in her hand.  She did not appear amused.

“Well, you found them, and you looked at them.  Time to move along,” she said, her voice still low in pitch and especially in temperature.  He smiled broadly at that.

“And what if I’m not finished looking?”  He was walking closer now, strutting even.

“I think you are,” she said, voice dropping another third.  He raised an eyebrow and looked at me.

“What do you have to say, Blondie?”  I kept my features as blank as possible.

“I was under the impression this was a private conversation,” I said, trying not to show how unnerved I was starting to become.  He laughed.

“All right.  I’ll take a hint,” he said.  He ran his eyes over me again before he said, “Have a pleasant review board, ladies.”  And he swaggered the rest of the way down the hall and disappeared around a corner.  Out of my peripheral vision, I could see Martel shaking her head.  She then turned to me.  She looked at me squarely and said,

“Keep your chin up, Blondie.”

And she left down the same hallway.

I don’t know why I keep dragging Captain Martel’s ex-husband into the proceedings:  He shows up every five or ten chapters to say yucky things and be creepy, and this section’s appearance is one of the least relevant episodes.  I really want to come up with some clever way for him to be an intricate bad guy, but I end up just writing stupid/weird scenes with him that I don’t really like.  

Best:

Our narrator currently is Admiral Stoljarov, who–as head of the Mission Review Board–is questioning Captain Martel about the happenings on The Persuasion.  Martel has just given an overview of the mission and her account of Commander Jeffs’s untimely death.  Also joining us in this section is Lieutenant Franklin, a board member picked by the string-pulling admiral while Stoljarov was recovering from xylenium poisoning.  Lieutenant Franklin doesn’t know she’s supposed to leave the questioning to Admiral Stoljarov.

“Thank you, Captain.  And is that all you know of the circumstances of his demise?”  Her eyes bore into me.

“Not entirely,” she said.

“Please elaborate,” I said.

“You’re not interested in suppositions,” she said with a hint of amusement.

“You’re correct, Captain.  If that is all you know that can be corroborated, we will move on.”  She ran her tongue over her teeth, perhaps in thought, or perhaps idly.

“I also know that logs indicate he had seen Dr. Dalsgaard on the evening of the fifteenth.  And that encoded transmissions were being sent and received before his death but not after from various workstations to which he had access.”

“To which he had access?” I said a little more scoffingly than I had meant to.  “Excuse me, Captain, but the vessel was not exactly on lockdown.  Almost anyone had access to almost any work station.”

“Of course, Admiral.”  She smiled.  “What I meant was logs indicate he was in the vicinity of the workstations in question when the messages either arrived or were sent.”

“And you suspect he was sending them?”  Lieutenant Franklin asked.  Martel looked at her with her eyebrows raised and then looked at me, as if asking me whether she should answer.  I nodded to her.  I was not personally interested in suppositions, but I supposed others on the panel might be, especially unseasoned people of whom I knew very little.

“Yes,” Martel said.  “And if you’re wondering, I did not kill him, and I do suspect someone.”  Before Lieutenant Franklin could take the bait, I said,

“Thank you, Captain.  Let’s move on.  On June twentieth, you employed the Red Line.  What precipitated this?”  She actually laughed at this.

“Admiral, what else is a starship captain supposed to do when both of her engines fail?”

“Please.  The facts.”  She licked her lips, perhaps trying to smooth away her smile.

“On June twentieth, Engine 2’s carburetor malfunctioned and caused a fire in the engineering room.  Henley and Lieutenant Aldridge effectively contained the fire and vented the smoke so that the engineering team could return safely to their work environment.  Within an hour, Engine 1’s carburetor also malfunctioned.  Henley engaged generator power so that the ship could have life support systems, and I deemed it necessary, as per Space Service Regulation 8.1.7, to use the Red Line to make an emergency landing.”

“And why weren’t you at Hangar 6?” Lieutenant Franklin said.  I was glad that I hadn’t sat her closer to me on the panel, for I wasn’t certain I would have been able to stop myself from slapping the presumption off her.  Martel turned her eyes toward Franklin and spoke slowly, as if to a child–a bright child, but a child nonetheless.

“Well, when both engines are offline, and you’re down to bare-bones emergency power, you don’t exactly have the requisite navigation for a perfect landing.  Lieutenant Aldridge calculated and locked in our trajectory, and I took over helm control, and we all crossed our fingers that we would land in one piece.”

I chose this as the best of the week because we get some exposition, and it’s hopefully not the most boring thing ever, and we get to know Martel a little better.  We also get a little internal drama with the board members and their interactions.  Also, I just really like writing both Stoljarov and Martel, and I giggle incessantly writing scenes with both of them.

***

Current Wordcount: 40,502

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