Series Review – Star Trek Continues

StarTrekContinuesThis will be an unusual post for me. I don’t remember the last time I reviewed a TV series. I may have done a post about Firefly years ago. I don’t watch a lot of TV, after all.

Star Trek Continues, however, is not on TV. They are fan-made webisodes. So this is a first. I watched these webisodes by hooking my computer to the TV by means of an hdmi cable. That way, we were all able to enjoy it.

Star Trek Continues is the brainchild of Vic Mignogna, who alsoSTCKirkMcCoy plays Kirk. It is unabashed fan fiction. It seeks to continue Star Trek: the Original Series (TOS) as if it were never cancelled. That means being faithful to the original set, equipment, make-up and costumes. This means heavily made-up men and styles reminiscent of the 60s. Don’t expect amateur performances. These episodes are engaging and highly polished.

It has attracted a lot of attention. Christopher Doohan–the son of the original Scotty–plays, well, Scotty.  The guest starts include Lou Ferrigno (who plays a green-skinned Orion!), Michael Dorn, and former Star Trek guest stars Michael Forest and Asia DeMarcos (who, I swear, has not aged. A day). Two of the STCMcKennahSpockepisodes, the first and the third, continue (and conclude) stories that began in the original series. For those, I recommend watching the original TOS episodes first.

The series features the same iconic characters–Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Uhuru, Sulu and Chekov. It adds a new cast member, McKennah, the ships counselor, pictured with Spock, at the left.

The first episode, Pilgrim of Eternity, continues the Apollo episode, Who Mourns for Adonais? In it, Apollo is now an old STCEp3man, played by the original actor. This is the only one that I think looks just a little rough. The makeup and the costumes improve greatly from this episode, so don’t let it put you off. The set, however, looks terrific, and the story is very faithful to the original. Including a godly wreaking of havoc.

The second episode, Lolani, is, as far as I can tell, is an original story. It is about an Orion slave girl who wants to be free. Except there’s this problem of other sovereign states with their own laws, and a little thing called the Prime Directive. This is the Lou Ferrigno episode, and he doesn’t play a good guy.

The third episode, Fairest of them All, is my favorite. It continues Mirror, Mirror from the last two minutes of the original story. In that story, Kirk–in one of those numerous transporter malfunctions–switched places with an evil Kirk from an STCUhurualternate universe. This story follows Spock in that original story, as he attempts to effect change in the the Empire.

And the fourth episode will be making its debut at the Phoenix Comicon.

Star Trek Continues has been funded by Kickstarter campaigns. The current Kickstarter is in a Fully Funded status. I expect there will be future Kickstarters, as well.

I really enjoyed the first three episodes, and am looking forward to the ones that are coming next. Michael Dorn is shown among the list of guest stars, so he must be coming up soon.

To watch, go to the webside, www.startrekcontinues.com. Before you dive in, I recommend you play around a bit. There are a lot of short videos, including comparisons showing scenes that took place in both TOS and Star Trek Continues.

I’ll be interested in your comments–did you watch them, or do you not care to see it? If not, why? If you watched them, what did you think?

Eight Things I Edited For. So far.

Over the last few weeks, I have been going back and forth over my manuscript, tightening up the language. Here are the things that I can recall looking for in particular:

  • Adverbs. This is always the first step, accomplished by looking for “ly “, “ly.” and “ly,” It has the added benefit of letting you see other word use problems, of which I seemed to have an abundance for this book.
  • “Going to”. Man, did I ever overuse this phrase. I noticed it when I did my adverb hunt.
  • “Well” to start a sentence. It took three nights to sweep the manuscript for this word. This was a problem in Magic Mirror, as well.
  • “As well.” Yeah, I overuse this one, too. See above sentence. I saw it so often that I paused my “well” search to look for this in particular.
  • Contractions in speech. I don’t tend to use contractions as frequently as I should when writing dialog. Everyone sounds terribly proper as they enunciate their words perfectly. So I have to go back and add a few. I also added contractions in stream-of-consciousness episodes, when you’re basically reading my character’s thoughts.
  • Colloquialisms. I also don’t use these enough. I believe this comes from avoiding colloquialisms with every other book I have written, which have all taken place in a medieval setting, where colloquialisms are inappropriate. They are appropriate in this story, where the main characters are from the present day, and are in their 20s. So I salted in some gonnas, gottas, ain’ts and similar words.
  • “Basically”, “Actually”, “Quite”, “Rather”. Depending on the decade or century of my characters’ origins, they tended to overuse these words. I purged them.
  • Grammar and Style Check. As Microsoft Word has matured, the grammar and style tool has improved. Even though I still often disagree with the problem or the suggested fix, it usually succeeds in highlighting sentences that need some kind of attention.

When I finished with all these sweeps, I found that I purged 1000 words from the manuscript. I now stand at 114,533 words.

My overall impression is that I have gotten sloppy. The grammar and style check uncovered more passive voice than I can recall ever having let slip through before. Once, I had the habit of questioning every use of a “to-be” verb, not just passive voice. It made my voice so much richer. I need to get back into that habit.

Recent Research – 80s Jewelry and Old Highways

Silver Hoop EarringsAt left are a pair of earrings from the 80s. I remember these, but I never wore any, myself. I tried pierced ears when I was thirteen, but I always had ear-aches and I eventually decided it wasn’t worth the constant pain. So I let them close up and never re-pierced them.

I’ve known some women who wore earrings like these, and they no longer had holes in their earlobes–they had vertical dashes. {wince}

I had to research this just now because my character in 1915 needed an item from the future.

“What are you looking for?” Adele asked.

“A suitable anachronism to take you to the future,” Abe replied. He pulled out a pair of silver earrings. They were giant hoops—Adele thought she could wear them as bracelets. “I take it your ears are pierced?”

She lifted her brows at them. “Yeah, but I don’t think they can take that kind of weight.”

“Nonsense. Women from the ‘80s wore them all the time. And these will take you all the way there, if you ever need to go.”

Adele took out her tiny studs, and fastened in the earrings. She could almost feel her earlobes getting longer.

Sometimes, I research things only to figure out that I don’t really need to go into all that detail in my story. Here are some things I decided to leave out:

  • Inheritance laws regarding children in the foster system in South Carolina, in the 80s and 90s. Eventually, I decided that the story would not be enhanced by adding this detail.
  • Classifications of gemstones. Too much info, not enough relevance.
  • The interior configuration of a certain make and model of obscure older car. yes, a few collectors might still have one of these cars. But are they likely to be in my target readership? And if they are, are they likely to care about the nit-picky plot point that I was worried about?

US-1 in the 50s One thing I did research was which decade US-1 was widened from 2 lanes to 4. Yes, this information really was out there, and I was even able to confirm it from more than one source. This enabled me to write a nice, atmospheric little sub-scene.

Back when I first started writing this book, I researched the entire original route of US-1. Various parts of the road have been rerouted from that time, so US-1 now travels through towns that it did not travel through back then. I’m going to need to refind that bit of research; hopefully I kept it bookmarked, somewhere. Next book, I’m going to include a bibliography in my gazetteer.

Revising East of Yesterday – Plus Stuff

People's DrugstoreHere is a cool drugstore pic from the 1920s. Whenever I blog about East of Yesterday, I’m going to try to find a cool old picture to go with it, to get you in the mood. Click to enbiggen. Shorpy has another picture of the same store, restored and in high-res.

I took my three-week writing break and am now neck-deep in revisions.

I took a different approach with this revision, because I have already revised East of Yesterday quite heavily. I am reading the story aloud to my husband. In the process, it has grown from 111000 words to 115000. I have found some I can cut, and probably will do so tonight, but it won’t amount to more than about 2000 words, if that. All the scenes really do advance the story. I guess it is officially an epic. But historical fiction is often lengthy, so I think it should be okay.

In between read-aloud sessions–I can only go for about 2 hours at a time before my voice gives out–I am doing some revisions further along in the book that I know I need to make, such as rewriting a few scenes in another point-of-view.

~*~

Other than that, I read a fantasy that was very good, but the reviews on the 2nd book are not promising and it is a bit expensive, so I have not purchased it yet. This is the second such novel that I have read. (With the other book, I actually did purchase the second novel, but the plot crashed and burned half-way through) Both started out as self-published Amazon sensations. Hmm.

Does anyone know of a good Google Reader-like website, for reading blog feeds? I prefer RSS feeds to getting a bunch of emails from individual blogs, but have not found a replacement for Google Reader. Therefore, I don’t read blogs as much as I used to, and I’d like to get back into it. Neither Facebook nor Twitter a very good substitute, IMO.

7 Things I Did During My Writing Break

Well, it’s been two weeks since I took my “writing break” and I have one week to go. And what did I discover? I do a lot of writing. When I am not writing, I actually have some free time. Here are some of the things I’ve done over the past two weeks.

  1. Reread Petroleum Sunset Episode 3 – Prince of Hicksville – and contemplated whether or not I want to publish it by itself or bundle it up with the first 2 episodes. I do think I should rewrite the whole series, and keep the voice while eliminating the dialect spelling. On my ToDo list for when I have time. But hey! The cover is already done.
  2. Revealed to my husband a scheme I had been hatching to collaborate on an epic fantasy based on one of his role playing game plots. It really is a terrific plot with this highly claustrophobic setting. Plus, it has paladins. He is intrigued.
  3. Went over to my old Fantasy Debut site and spruced it up, removing the sidebar notices about it having moved to this site. No, I have not restarted that blog. This is in the “thinking about” stage. When I ran Fantasy Debut it was manageable alongside my fiction writing, whereas Debuts & Reviews was not.
  4. Reread my Christian supernatural and made a few edits here and there. If I move forward with this novel, I will self-publish. This plot is probably the most intense one I’ve ever attempted. Only The Sevenfold Spell comes close.
  5. Played a lot fewer video games that I expected. My Morrowind character seems hopeless, and I am daunted at the idea of starting over. Again. I tried Dragon Age, but I can’t get out of that stupid and endless Fade subplot. What were they thinking? And then my Xbox crashed (we have one of the bad power packs, and the replacement we ordered was just as bad) and I lost interest. I’ve played a lot of MineCraft with my daughter. We are building Elsa’s ice castle.
  6. Discovered Star Trek Continues. Watched all 3 episodes. Considering funding the next Kickstarter. Yes. It was that good. Review upcoming.
  7. Started to teach my daughter calligraphy. Bought some fresh marker pens, and a calligraphy ruler.

So what do I do in my spare time when I’m not writing? Well, as it turns out, I’m … mostly writing.

East of Yesterday Complete!

Exciting news! I have finally finish drafting East of Yesterday!

Here’s some quick stats:

  • Genre – Time Travel Historical with light science fiction elements
  • Length – 111,000 words
  • Point-of-View – Third Person
  • Number of Points-of-View Characters 4 major, 5 minor
  • Number of Chapters – 46
  • Oldest file time/date stamp: 6/7/2009 for “brainstorming.doc”

This book is in a better state of polish than I have ever achieved with an initial draft, but that’s mostly because it isn’t really an initial draft. I have stopped resisting the impulse to edit as I draft, and I do think it worked out better for me this way. True, I sketched out the initial scenes back in 2009, but during that time, I rewrote and published The Sevenfold Spell, drafted and published The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf, wrote three Petroleum Sunset stories, self-published two of them, and wrote a significant amount for two other fairy tales (which I may get back to one day). Plus, I wrote a quarter of a Christian suspense that I have indefinitely shelved, and revised Magic by Starlight.

Obviously, I was getting nowhere. Last year, I stopped such a scattershot approach and picked the WIP that I thought had the greatest chance to succeed. Since then, I have been working on this novel exclusively.

The manuscript I have now is in much better shape than any other first draft I have ever managed. When I start a writing session, I go back to reread and edit what I wrote during the previous session.  This helps me continue on with the same tone/ voice (which I alter per POV). Another thing I do, is when I have a revision that affects another part of the manuscript, I drop a bookmark (the word “here” formatted with a special style), go make the revision, and then go back and reread to ensure everything is in sync.

Next steps:

  • Ship off to beta reader
  • Take a two or three-week break–until she sends feedback
  • Sweep the novel according to my manuscript clean-up process
  • Read it aloud/final polish
  • Write synopsis and pitch

I am hoping to be ready to look for an agent by March.

Edit: here is a link to my East of Yesterday page.

I’m Back! And Fun with Names

Wow. My last post was on Thanksgiving. I didn’t mean to take a hiatus, but I guess I did. Tomorrow I go back to work, so I guess life will turn back to normal. Which should mean fairly regular posts (at least weekly) once more.

~*~

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I realized I had written past the point where my book should end, and I decided to end my book at 100,000 words and use everything after that for book 2. Well, I have been hard at work carrying out that plan. I’ll be cutting about 5000 to 7000 words once I reach The End, but I wrote about 15,000 words over the last month, which is extremely prolific for me.

So I’ll likely end up with a novel of about 105,000 words, plus another book’s worth of material. I am thinking this will probably be only a two-book series, with Tinkering With Yesterday as the current working title for the second book.

Along with writing, I’ve been doing quite a bit of revising, so I thought it would be fun to blog about one of my writing tics.

What is it With Me and Names?

I almost always start my protagonists’ names with an A or an E. In East of Yesterday, I have an Adelaide and an Emmeline. I also had an Elizabeth. And for men, I have an Abraham and an Edmund. That’s five out of my eight major characters.

It got worse. Inadvertent alliteration is another problem. Elizabeth’s nickname was Betsy, and another major character’s name is Bethany. And whenever there was a scene with Betsy, she was always with Bethany. Even I was confusing them. Clearly, something had to be done. So Elizabeth became Josephine, with the nicknames of Josie and Sophie. And guess what? I already have a Sophie–a minor character, but she is there. So she will be renamed. And to add to this preponderance of Bs? I also have a Bradley and a Barthelemew, and my main characters’ last name is Blaine.

But I’m not done yet. Edmund’s nickname is Ned, a nickname that I am quite fond of. But I also have a Nathaniel. I am trying to decide if it would be acceptable to keep these names, as I am attached to both, and because poor Ned has already been renamed from Henry and Benjamin. It was hard enough to stop thinking of him as Ben, and sometimes I still do. I don’t think I could adapt to another name for Nate–that’s been his name since the beginning.

And the minor characters? I have a Marissa with an aunt by the name of Amanda, who has a sister named Agatha.  I did manage to get out of the box with the names of Felix and Lysander, but by the time I named those characters, I had recognized this little problem I had.

I know many of you are writers–do you have any writing tics to share?