• When I started writing Tesseract, I never intended for there to be a triangle.  It grew organically out of a unique situation and now we have the I/M/J triangle of doom.

    Those of you who read Tesseract know that Maren and Icheb are deeply in love.  But Icheb really screwed things up, and John loves Maren, too.  I think we’ve got more Maren/John shippers on the site than Maren/Icheb shippers, actually.

    So, in true Maren O’Connor fashion, here’s a preliminary list of pros and cons to help Maren make a decision.  I’m going to link to a poll on the archives at the end so y’all can weigh in and tell me who you think she should pick and why.

    ICHEB

    Pros: Extraordinarily intelligent.  Sweet, brave, caring, selfless, sensitive.  Willing to die for those he loves.

    Cons: So selfless that he left Maren before their wedding in order to spare her the pain of watching him die.  Socially clueless.  Stubborn as hell.  Dying.

    JOHN:

    Pros: Smart without being weird about it.  Protective, smoking hot, great in bed, loves to have fun.  Not dying.

    Cons: Unable to match Maren’s freaky intelligence like Icheb can.  Hot-headed. Potty mouthed.  Has slept with countless women, which matters to Maren, who has only ever been with one person (Icheb).

    Those of you who have been following the story probably have opinions of your own.  Here’s your chance to weigh in.  The following link will take you to a poll and discussion where you can tell me whom, if anyone, Maren should choose, and why.

    VOTE HERE.

  • In reply to: falsebill wrote a new post, #Blog-Like-a-Boss 2014 Final Challenge., on the site FalseBill's Blog Site Well as the week of Blog Challenges comes to an end, Admiral SL Walker has set one finally prompt challenge […] View

    I never thought of using the themes as prompts. What a great idea!

  • In reply to: miranda fave wrote a new post, It’s All About the Characters, on the site Miranda Fave's Meanders In part a response to my own homework assignment and a response to TToT14 Blog prompt #4 where we’re tasked to t […] View

    Great insights here, Kev. I love that you took the extra step of designing a universe that made sense for the character when it comes to McGregor — you’re right, he wouldn’t make sense in a mainstream Starfleet story, but as a Border Dog, he works perfectly. A lot of people would have just stuck him on a Galaxy class in the center of an epic…[Read more]

  • In reply to: miranda fave wrote a new post, Day #7 Write a Letter, on the site Miranda Fave's Meanders A 30 Day Write a Letter Challenge Response Day 7 – To an ex This letter required the receiver to be an ex – an e […] View

    That was heartbreaking. Poor Molly. Really well done.

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    I’m combining the fourth prompt and Professor Miranda Fave’s homework assignment into a single post, since they’re both character-focused.

    Steff’s prompt was: What character do you love to write most?  What […]

  • So the question Steff posed was this: “Writing a summary, how do you do it?  And what about the story summaries of others draws you in?”

    I have to confess I have an advantage when it comes to writing summaries, or what, in the publishing world, they call “jacket copy.”  One of my majors in college was Communications, and I’ve spent the better part of my adult life (almost as long as a few of our Ad Astrans have been alive) in political lobbying, public relations and commentary, doing nothing but persuasive communications — opinion columns, speechwriting, fundraising and marketing letters, lobbying letters, advertising copy, you name it.

    What’s the connection?  Well, that’s really what summaries are, when it comes down to it — persuasive writing.  How are you going to convince people to give your story, out of all the other fantastic stories, a shot?  The first thing people will see when they visit your story’s title page is your summary.  It has to draw them in.

    Personally, the first thing I do is try to make the length, tone and complexity of my teasers match the length, tone and complexity of my stories.  If the story I want people to read is only 1,500 words long, I’m not going to make them read through 500 words of promotional copy before clicking on the story.  I figure I have a couple of sentences’ worth of space to make my pitch for a short piece.  (Maybe three or four sentences if they are short.)  For a novella or novel, I’m not afraid to write a few paragraphs worth of intro, similar to what you’d find on the back of a paperback book.  People deserve to know what they’re getting into before committing to opening up a 130,000-word document!

    So, for example, with my short fic Broken (3089 words), I kept the intro short, offering just enough information to give an idea of what the story was about without giving any plot details:  John Quigley’s life so far, measured by the noses he’s smashed in anger — and those he managed to refrain from breaking.

    Right away you know this is John’s story, and if you don’t know John, you now know that he’s got a violent streak — and that sometimes he keeps it in check.  What you don’t know is why he’s like that, what sets him off, and what holds him back.  To find out, you have to read the piece.

    Now, here’s the thing: A lot of people simply won’t care enough to click through.  Broken only has a read count of 164, and that’s mostly due to the fact that it was a challenge entry that won, and then became a featured story.  It’s got a lot working against it — it’s about an original character that most people won’t immediately be familiar with, and there’s no mention of anything sci-fi in the description … it’s a character piece, not a space battle.  Could I write copy that would draw more people in?  Of course.  But I prefer not to be the Upworthy or Buzzfeed of Ad Astra.  More than anything, I want to satisfy my readers’ expectations (not through fanservice — that’s back in Upworthy territory — but I never want anyone to feel duped or let down by the promises I offer in a summary).  I write my summaries with my intended readership in mind.  The kind of person who’ll be drawn in by the description of Broken is exactly the kind of person I want to read it.

    For an example of a longer story and its teaser, we can look at the summary for Star Trek: Tesseract — Book II.  This is a novel-length work-in-progress, and if I want people to commit to 1) opening it and 2) sticking with it, I need to let them know what they can expect from it, without giving the whole plot away.  So here’s what I came up with:

    In 2378, the crew of the USS Voyager delivered a devastating blow to the Borg Collective when they destroyed a key transwarp hub to the Alpha Quadrant, and the Borg unicomplex.  They hoped it would be the end of the Borg threat.  They were wrong.Nearly eight years later, the crew of the USS Tesseract — the first official Starfleet mission of exploration to the Delta Quadrant – has found a quadrant in ruins, torn apart by the Collective and a new, more terrifying kind of Borg — the Borg Resistance.  They are free of the Collective, free of established protocols, without cohesion or unity, and operating under cloak.  Their new superweapon could put an end to warp society as the galaxy has known it – but it’s also the only thing standing between the Borg Collective and its ultimate goal of assimilating or destroying the entire United Federation of Planets.Now, while the Federation and its tenuous allies prepare for a full-scale Borg invasion, the Tesseract crew — alone in the Delta Quadrant — must find a way to finish what Voyager started, and one young ex-Borg Starfleet officer must decide whether to embrace his destiny … or boldly defy it.

    So what do we learn from this summary?

    This is a Borg-centered story, set after the events of ST:VOY’s series finale, Endgame.  The mention of the Borg civil war calls back to the two-part episode Unimatrix Zero, in which the Federation actually helped to start that war (it was never mentioned again).  We know one faction of Borg have developed a superweapon that threatens the stability of the galaxy, and we know there is just one Federation ship in the Delta Quadrant that has a chance to stop them.  We know there’s an ex-Borg officer on board the ship, and that his fate is somehow inextricably bound up in all of this.

    Now, if you look at the character list, you’ll quickly figure out that this is a story about Icheb, but I don’t even throw that into the summary.  Why?  Because he’s not a popular character in fandom.  If I had made him the focus of the summary, that would be an immediate turnoff to all the people who hate 1) VOY and 2) Icheb as they remember him from the show (let’s face it, he could be a bit whiny).  By keeping some details back, I’m hopefully able to intrigue people who might not otherwise be willing to give an Icheb story a shot.  And with the Tesseract series, it seems to have worked, as it is one of the top ten most read and reviewed series on the site. (THANK YOU, READERS.)

    My best suggestions for writing compelling summaries:

    1. Don’t give the whole plot away.

    2. Don’t tell me more about your original character than is relevant to the story.  If he/she is a relation of a canon character and their relationship is key to the plot, fine, mention it, but I personally find it a turnoff when people throw stuff like that in just to have a “hook.”  I’m not going to read a story about James Tiberius Kirk the VIII just because he’s a descendant of the original.  Likewise with PTSD sufferers, people with disabilities, people from Andor, or whatever.  If it’s not integral to the plot, then it’s just a detail that can be weaved into the story.  Let me find out on my own.

    3. Don’t promise what you’re not going to deliver.  Be realistic about what your story offers.  Just because a romance takes place at the height of the Dominion War doesn’t make it an action story.  And just because two characters are in love doesn’t make an epic space battle into a romance.  Sure, use the tags to let people know the story includes those elements, but don’t promote a story as something it isn’t.  People will feel cheated.

    4. If you can’t be compelling, be concise.  Case in point: Launch and Separation. That story is, at least on the surface, about two exceptionally awkward teenagers lying on the grass saying “I love you” for the first time, even though her parents object to their relationship.  There’s no way to make that sound compelling — for one thing, it’s been done a thousand times since Romeo and Juliet.  So I wrote: “There’s the family you’re born with.  And the family you choose.  Transitions can be awkward.”  Short, sweet, and addresses the true meaning of the piece, which isn’t just the romance between Maren and Icheb, but Maren’s coming-of-age and simultaneous decision to choose Icheb over even her own family if it comes to that.  And that leads me to ….

    5.  Try to hit at the true themes of your work in the summary.  Is it about destiny?  Self-sacrifice?  True love?  The value of diplomacy?  The necessity of war?  Try to look past the surface elements and grab readers with the promise of a story that will address themes we all identify with.  How will this story make your readers feel?  What will it make them think about?  That’s what you should try to hint at in a summary.

    Just my $.02 on persuasive writing, which I normally charge actual money for.  😉  Enjoy the freebie and I hope it helps.  If you disagree with anything I’ve said here or have anything to add, please let me know in the comments.  I would love to know what people think about this topic.

  • Thanks, jes. I agree — the harder it is, the more satisfying it can be when it all finally comes together.

    zeusfluff, if you’re enjoying the series, I really hope you’ll give me a review or two on the archives. You wouldn’t believe how much reader feedback encourages me when I’m having a hard time getting motivated to write.

    E1981 –…[Read more]

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    Hooooo, boy.  This ought to be painful.

    Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I’m not actually finished with the hardest story I ever had to write.  That title goes to Tesseract: Book II, and there are a […]

  • kes7 posted an update 3 years, 1 month ago

    Blogging like a boss ….

  • zeusfluff and Profile picture of kes7kes7 are now friends 3 years, 1 month ago

  • You guys.  How do I even answer this?

    Ficcing has meant so many things to me over the past five years since I started in the summer of 2009.  At first, it was a way to explore my creative side — I’d always been a writer, but I hadn’t touched fiction since my angsty middle school years (some of you might argue I’m still stuck there).  The encouragement and positive feedback I received from posting my initial attempts at TrekBBS and later, at Ad Astra, gave me the confidence I needed to begin seriously considering fiction as a career — a way out of a career path that had lost much of its joy, although I was very skilled at it.

    I-am-a-writer

    It wasn’t until I joined Ad Astra that fanfic became something more than a creative outlet — it became a social outlet, too.  It was wonderful to find myself among people who love the craft of writing just as much as I do, and what’s more, we all had this common universe to play around in, so there was an instant way to connect with people.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I found two of my very best friends through Ad Astra — one who needed a summer job when I was hiring a nanny and has been back every summer since (THANK YOU, you lifesaver, you), and one who was there for me during my cancer drama two years ago in a way not even my IRL friends were (THANK YOU, as well).  I’ve also made plenty of other connections and friendships through the site — everything from late-night brainstorming partners/drinking buddies to shoulders to cry on when things get tough … and I hope I’ve been that for some of you, too (I try!).

    Something else fanfic has done for me is to help me work through my own emotions and daily trials.  I remember lying in an MRI machine, channeling one of my characters and putting myself in his shoes as I mined the experience for emotions and nuances I could add to his story in the future.  It kept me from being scared, because I knew he wouldn’t be.  When a dear friend of mine died late last year, I took a short break from writing, but then I once again mined the experience for wisdom and insight I could use to give my characters more depth, and make their world more real.  Writing a few short pieces about death and the loved ones left behind has helped me to work through some of my own grief (even though it still feels fresh sometimes).  And of course, fanfic can also be an escape when I’m in need of one … sometimes it’s nice to just disappear into a completely different universe for a while and be in someone else’s head instead of mine, amiright?

    The fourth thing fanfic has done for me is gradually bring me out of the geek closet.  Once I started writing genre fiction (not just Trek, but some of my own stuff), I realized I wanted to go to conventions, meet other writers and just generally revel in our shared passion for all things sci-fi.  I’ve now been to several conventions, and they were all wonderful experiences that I treasure.  I’ve met dozens of IRL friends that way (and some of my favorite sci-fi stars) and made a lot of great connections in the publishing world.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great time.

    To sum up, what has fanfic meant to me?  Everything.  It’s changed my life for the better in so many ways.  Thank you all for being part of that — I hope this community will be around for a long, long time.

  • OMG! Secret Lives of Combadges got a shoutout! My day is made! XD

    This was a fascinating read. Sheds huge light on what makes MF tick as a writer. We’ve known each other five years and there’s still stuff […]

  • So, this month’s book club selection is An Accipiter Tale: A Question of Survival by mirandafave.  This was my own nomination — I’ve read it before, both in this form and its newer, expanded (and unfinished) form, and it’s stuck with me.  It’s exceptionally well done.

    I’ll go ahead and offer the obligatory disclaimer: This is a story about torture.  Real, awful, and visceral.  So if you’re squeamish or easily triggered, be warned.  But rest assured that it’s not torture porn.  Far from it.  It’s ultimately a story of strength, triumph and, if not resilience, then at least that pure survival instinct that allows people to get through pure horror and come out on the other side.  It may change you, it may break you, it may rebuild you as something you don’t recognize (for better or worse).  But in any situation short of outright death, you can survive if you set your mind to it, and the main character in this story cares for nothing else.

    The opening of this piece is extraordinarily well-played.  We’re dropped into the story on day 87.  Of what, we aren’t told.  A quiet woman is asked ‘what’ she is by a pleasant, soothing voice.  When she replies “I am a Starfleet doctor,”  we jump straight into WTF territory as her questioner declares her WRONG(!) and punishes her harshly with some sort of electric shock, sending her into violent convulsions accompanied by searing pain.

    The chastisement is swift and severe, and a total contrast to the initial description of her golden-tongued questioner.  We almost feel the shock ourselves as we’re so surprised by it.  By the time the doctor falls to the floor, gasping in pain, moments later, it’s dawned on us that this is day 87.  Day 87 of this torture chamber.  Unlike us, she knew what was coming, and she gave the ‘wrong’ answer anyway.  Whoever this girl is, she’s one tough customer.

    The story continues.  We revisit this same exchange, over and over.  The doctor’s  name is Caitlyn Ryan; her torturer is a Cardassian.  She’s alone in this cell, isolated from her crew and those she loves — even her unborn child, who has been cut from her womb and taken by her captors for reasons unknown.  Her torturer claims her fiance is dead, and that before his demise he betrayed her.  He tells her horrible things, things you know she wants desperately to be lies, but have the sickening ring of possible truth.  He wants her to believe them, and profess them as such.  He explains:  “No, you don’t get it at all. You are whatever I decide you are. You are a plaything. A hobby for me. An animal. My own sweet pet. You are nothing.”

    Day 138.  The relentless interrogation and brainwashing pauses briefly.  Caitlyn is offered a choice.  Some members of her crew are said to be outside the cell, playing some sort of sick survival game against other races in which the only way to win is to kill before you’re killed yourself.  She’s offered a weapon and the chance to join them — or kill herself.  She spends a long night in agony considering her options,  but ultimately, she’s a doctor, not a killer.  She’ll take her chances with the torture chamber.

    I won’t spoil the ending because I want others to read it, but suffice it to say that the morning of Day 139 brings a satisfying twist that offers a certain amount of justice and schadenfreude, while still leaving us to wonder what will become of Caitlyn.  In that respect, it is very well-played — no neat and tidy endings here, just an isolated moment of win and the desire to know what happens next.  It’s perhaps the perfect teaser for this character, while performing very well as a stand-alone piece.

    As far as characters go:  The Cardassian is sadistic to the core and seems to enjoy mind-fucking Caitlyn much more than he enjoys the physical aspect of the torture.  He’s an alien Hannibal Lecter, all mind games and smug self-superiority and dripping condescension/mock compassion for his victims.  The violence is almost secondary, although he clearly revels in it, as well.  Just as Lecter at his worst influenced his victims to perform their own mutilations and eat themselves alive as he watched, this Cardassian isn’t satisfied with telling Caitlyn what he thinks of her — he wants her to believe it and proclaim it herself.  He wants to turn her into a mirror of himself.  To her credit, she refuses.

    Caitlyn is in such dire straits here that it’s harder to get a sense of who and what she really is, other than a survivor.  We know she is an Admiral’s daughter, and that she was pregnant and engaged to be wed.  We know she is a doctor.  And we learn that she is smart, resourceful and very, very patient.  But we’re left to wonder what will be left of her should she survive this ordeal.  There’s a coldness to her by the end that is suitably chilling.  Something tells me that physical survival is about the only thing she has left to fight for.  If she’s not careful, someday, that may make her just as scary as her captors.

     

  • So, I’ve been AWOL from posting for a while, and during that time, a surprising number of comments have piled up on my approvals page. Please don’t be envious of my popularity. All of the comments were […]

  • kes7 posted a new activity comment 5 years, 6 months ago

    In reply to: MDg posted an update I’ve returned from Disneyland and it was awesome 🙂 View

    So jealous. Glad you had fun!

  • kes7 posted a new activity comment 5 years, 6 months ago

    In reply to: kes7 posted an update Hmm. Just had to reject my first spam comment on the blog. Some kind of milestone? View

    If anyone needs to know how to do … um, SOMETHING — I couldn’t really ascertain what, as the message was kind of Engrish-y — with an iPhone4, my spammer’s got you covered.

  • kes7 posted an update 5 years, 6 months ago

    Hmm. Just had to reject my first spam comment on the blog. Some kind of milestone?

  • jespah and Profile picture of kes7kes7 are now friends 5 years, 6 months ago

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