Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Return to Cobault, More Blah and Extreme Writing

*

Far in the wild North, in the mining village of Lanrik, a young boy was born into unusual circumstances. He was naïve in all things, save for a singular gift his naivete led him to believe was commonplace.

*

Those are the very first sentences of Cobault.  I’ve come to realise that I need to get stuck into writing it again, otherwise I’ll never finish its second draft.  As I’ve mentioned previously I’ve been stuck in the middle of some fairly major rewriting, but I’m still feeling more confident in this novel than any of my others at the moment.

Yes, I still have my Writer’s Blah, but I need to get over that and just write – easier said than done!  I say that having just opened the document, scrolled to the last written page, read the last sentence… and then promptly minimized the screen to write this post instead.

Oh well!

Anyways, I’m hoping to get myself back into enjoying it again.  Writing my last novel I found a trick to keep myself interested in what I was writing (because if even I, the writer, can’t be bothered continuing, why on earth would any prospective reader?!) which was mainly to think, “Well what could happen NOW to spice things up?”

The only problem with doing that to Cobault is that, since I’m in the middle of a rewriting and not having my first go at the plot, I need to make sure all the plot lines can lead back to the end I’ve decided I still like.  It’s just this pesky middle bit, you know that silly bit in the middle of a novel with all the action and drama and suspense, that was needing a major overhaul.

You hear that noise coming through your computer screen?  That is me, screaming.

Anyway.

Ok, so here’s my plan:  1) Read the whole goddamned thing again, so I can get back into the swing of things and not forget important bits.  2) Make an actual OUTLINE (gaspshockhorror) of what I need to write in said middle bit, and how to tie it back to the end again.  And, 3) WRITE IT.

Sounds simple, yes?  If only it were so.

I’ll let you into a little secret of mine:  I never plan ANYTHING I write ahead of time.  It just happens as it happens.  And it’s exciting that way, because ever you don’t know what’s happening next.  Plot-twists can be as much of a surprise to you as they would be to anyone else.

It’s like Extreme Writing – look, Ma, no outlines!

But now I’m thinking there’s a time and a place for Extreme Writing.  Mainly, in the first exhilaration of a New Thing, when you’re giddy and lightheaded with the joy of new places to explore and new people to meet.  You get this Eureka! moment when things just naturally come together, or when you realise something that your characters knew all along.

It’s fabulous.

But then, perhaps in this second run of editing you need to be a little more circumspect.  You’ve had your wild run, and now it’s time to tame the Beast.  Of course, the wilder your first run was, the harder it is to rein it all in.  And if whole sections need to be excised, well then you need the delicacy of a surgeon to replace them with something new and connect it all up again.

And I’m about as delicate as a brick through a window.  I’m working on it, honestly.

So I know what I have to do.  But it’s so much harder to actually do it.  I’ve realised that my biggest hurdle in becoming a Real Life Published Novelist isn’t to do with my creativity or the actual talent I have for writing – it’s all about disciplining myself and teaching myself how to write a novel to the best of my abilities.  Getting through all the stages, not just the first initial, wild splurge of ideas that becomes a first draft.

So wish me luck – I’ll need it!

100 Word Story – A Competition and Challenge

There’s this competition that the Reader’s Digest is doing for a 100 word story, closing on January 31st, which I intend to enter.  The first prize is a cheque for £5000, and we are living the poverty line – it would be a Christmahannukwanzayuletide miracle.

The problem with things like this, obviously, is that even if you write the best goddamn story you’ve ever written, and boiled it down to 100 words, there’s still absolutely no promises that the Reader’s Digest judges will agree.  So basically it’s a crapshoot.  As with most things in life.

So I have no idea what to write.  I had an idea when I first heard about this competition a month ago and wrote some 100-word drivel.  It was lame, so I deleted it and was back to square one.  Then I forgot about it for a while.

But then I was reminded of it by reading Neil Gaiman’s post recently about a 100 word story he wrote and am back to the task with renewed purpose, taking that as inspiration.  His story works perfectly in its 100 word brevity, has an immediate concept that doesn’t need lengthy explanation, is pithy and to the point.

So yeah, I need to do that.

Anyway, I encourage any and all to enter this competition, though it’s only open to UK residents, and see what can be done with a limit of 100 words (including title!).  If you don’t live in the UK and still want to do it, feel free to post your best 100 word stories in the comments to be admired and judged by all and sundry across the Grand Interweb!

Let’s kick the ass of these 100 words!

“Home” – It’s Where the Boobs Are, and A Return to Normal Service

Many apologies for my absence – after a long weekend with the in-laws, followed by my second day as a volunteer falconer, I can now say that normal service will be resuming!  I’m afraid I haven’t had time to work on The Adventurous Time Adventures, or anything else for that matter, but I should be posting more of that in due time as well.

So onto today’s topic:  Where is “home”?

The Husband and I were talking last night about him being an adult yet craving the childhood home.  He feels a sense of loss when we get back to our own flat after spending time there.  Is it bad that, for all I adore my in-laws, I feel nothing but relief?

I think it all has to do with what “home” is to each person.  To The Husband, home is still where his parents and brother are.  To me, home is wherever my belongings happen to be residing for the moment.  I have a hard time functioning in other spaces.

Don’t get me wrong – that could sound terribly materialistic, and maybe it is.  But it’s merely linked to my experiences of constant transatlantic journeying, and how I’ve been forced to reevaluate and reprioritise my life to fit into two suitcases for the past 6 years.  So when I begin to settle myself down somewhere, and have unpacked said suitcases, that place is immediately termed “home” in my mind.

This has some consequences.  Mainly that I hate to be relocated again once settled.  Moving is such a pain, it’s a universal fact, but even just packing an overnight bag can be an ordeal to me.  I can always be counted on to forget some random thing that becomes The Most Important Thing Ever and because  it’s not with me I get sad.  It reminds me, on a smaller scale, of how I have had to leave so much behind whenever I’ve moved countries.

I’ve done that a lot, especially when I was moving back to the US every summer while at university.  Because I had to once again fit my life into the two suitcases I’d arrived in, things were inevitably left behind.  Some left with flatmates and friends who mostly returned them, and others ultimately thrown out/given to charity shops.

I still have moments when I go, “Oh what happened to that skirt?  I loved that skirt, I want to wear it today – Oh crap I gave that away.  Damn!”  And then I feel ridiculously sad out of all proportion to the issue of a mere skirt.

So home is where my crap is.

But actually, this isn’t entirely it either.  We lived at the in-laws for a couple of months before finding our own place, and while it was homey it still wasn’t our home – to me, at least.  As a couple, I feel like our home has to be our own space where we can start our own lives.  It can’t be shared by any others apart from future pitter-patterings of tiny baby feet.  So there’s that aspect of “home” as it pertains to our current phase in life as well.

However, a friend and I have a saying:  Home is Where the Boobs Are.

And it’s true.  For all that I’ve placed undue importance on my belongings it’s really my self, my person, my thoughts, my boobs, that make me me.  And ultimately that’s the mark of home.  Home is where you are, with your boobs, and you decide it’s your home.

And my boobs are here right now.  This is Home.

“Merry Christmas”: A Story of Exclusion in our Multicultural Society

Every year, just after Halloween, I get this feeling of patient (and growing steadily less so as November becomes December) frustration.  I’ll have to endure yet another Christmas period.  Bah humbug, etc.

I was raised Jewish.  When I was little we used to go to the cinema as a family on Christmas Day because at that point it was the only day you could guarantee it would be pretty much empty.  Of course over time that tradition had to go, as more and more families decided on a Christmas Day cinema trip in a vain attempt to pretend their relatives weren’t in the same room with them.

But anyway, what I’m trying to say is that, apart from that little tradition while it lasted, Christmas was always just another day in my family.  Except that we knew better than to try to go shopping in the weeks before and after.  I was never really jealous of my Christmas-celebrating friends (especially because my best friend let me help her decorate her Christmas tree one year), and in fact I used to crow about how Hannukah was for eight whole days (and if we were lucky we’d get eight small gifts!) instead of the measly one day of Christmas presents.

And truthfully, I can see why everyone loves Christmas.  In fact, the feeling I get from getting together with family on Thanksgiving is probably exactly what people term “Christmas cheer”.  So I get it.

It’s just not my holiday.

In our ever-increasingly multicultural society I find it more and more unnecessary for all our lives to be ruled by the majority with their Christmas hype.  Celebrate Christmas, obviously, but stop assuming we all do, too.

And while you’re at it, let’s stop this vulgar consumerism, mmkay?

I don’t get (too) bitter about being forced to suffer through a holiday season (that gets ever-longer with the pre-Christmas sales, the Christmas sales, and the post-Christmas sales – and yes, its span is determined by these things) not of my tradition.  Telling me “Merry Christmas” won’t get you a slap in the face, not even a bitterly muttered “I don’t celebrate it” – I’ll probably just smile politely and move on.

But in that exchange, I’m confronted by the exclusion of Christmas.

So no, I’m not Christian and neither are about a quarter of the population in the UK, as described in the 2001 Census Report on religious beliefs in Britain.  In fact, there was a report recently, reported today in the Guardian, where in a representative sample only 42% of Britains identified themselves as Christian, and 51 “now say they have no religion.”  Statistics are by nature a flawed art, so we can take all of that with a pinch of salt.  But even if Christianity is becoming the minority, as that would imply, the celebration of Christmas seems to operate outside religious belief.  And that’s fine, too.

In a lot of ways I liken it to the fact that, as I said before, I celebrate Thanksgiving.  I don’t celebrate what Thanksgiving originally stood for – mainly the ravaging of an indigenous population – but I celebrate what it stands for today: family, togetherness and eating lots of food.  So do a lot of my non-religious friends who love Christmas, and it makes sense.

There’s a reason we have a winter celebration.  It’s also the reason why Hannukah, originally a minor miracle celebration, has become the major holiday it is today.  This reason is:

It’s freaking cold, the sun went away and we don’t know if it’ll ever come back.

Our Western society is mainly spread across this zone of changing seasons, and when winter comes it can depress us and make us despair that there was ever warmth and light.  So we gather ’round, sing cheerful songs and feast like gluttons.  It makes us feel alive, and pushes back the encroaching darkness.  This is a good thing, and necessary.

However, when there are complaints at the “political correctness gone mad” of having to wish each other “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry/Happy Christmas” – I say: well shame on you.  Sure, political correctness can certainly go mad at times, and does, but this is not one of them.  Wishing each other to enjoy the winter-celebration-of-choice/lack thereof, instead of assuming one particular inclination, is being sensitive to the multiculturalism we find ourselves a part of.  By wishing Christmas cheer upon non-celebrants you’re confronting them with a message that excludes them from participating.  Even with the best of intentions, you’re creating a barrier between you and that person.

I think part of the problem is that of those people in the majority they don’t know what it’s like on the other side.

For those with little imagination, I give you a small vignette to that effect:

*

Let’s imagine a holiday:  Bumblefest.

Bumblefest comes on December 28th, and the whole world seems to be obsessed with it.  Even those who don’t subscribe to the beliefs of the Mighty Bumble.  Shops put up their Bumblefest decorations, the flashing strobelights that mark the Mighty Bumble’s coming, tangled string to imitate the Vile Web that the Mighty Bumble struggled to free Himself from.  Everywhere you go, people wish you a “Blessed Bumblefest.”

You might even like it for a while, as a naive child.  It’s sparkly and cheerful.  Then you’re a disillusioned teenager, and let’s face it – everything pisses you off.  And then as an adult, you’re needing to shop for your holiday presents, as Christmas (a little-know minority celebration) happens to occur mere days before Bumblefest madness.  Only you can’t do your shopping, and everything’s insane and you go a little mental.

Finally fighting the traffic, the queues that go one forever, it’s Christmas Eve and you’re almost done with shopping – and the woman behind the till smiles at you placidly and says, “I see someone’s getting their Bumblefest shopping a bit early – good for you!”  You grit your teeth and smile.

“Blessed Bumblefest!” she shouts after you.

Back in the street, Bumblers sing their Bumblefest tunes – twanging tunelessly with all the best intentions in the world.  You stride past them quickly, shopping bags swinging.

You celebrate Christmas Eve with your family, and someone turns on the television.  It’s the Bumblefest Special Variety Show.  Nothing else seems to be on, so it gets turned off again.

Christmas Day, more family fun.  You celebrate the way you always have, going to religious services where you can feel a part of a community where Bumblefest doesn’t even enter the equation.  For a little while, you feel peaceful.  And then it’s over.  But life doesn’t return to normal quite yet – Bumblefest is nearly here!  Or so the news reporters crow.

No, your life won’t be back to normal until not just after Bumblefest itself, but also the post-Bumblefest insanity.  For a whole month your life revolves around this holiday, just like last year, the year before and in fact every year since you can remember.  Winter loses its magical charm, because you know exactly what you’ll have to endure.

And it does make you a little angry, a little bitter.  And the next time someone wishes you a “Blessed Bumblefest” you have to restrain yourself from throwing things.

And in the end, you can’t even show your displeasure publicly, or to your Bumblefest-loving friends, for fear of being named a “Grumble Bumble”.

“Bzz, grumpits.”

*

Ok, so that’s fairly silly.  And might have been my way of blowing off steam and the frustration I’ve felt every winter since my turbulent adolescence.  But it doesn’t make the point any less valid.

So, I say to you: surely it’s better to err on the side of caution, being all-inclusive in an expression of “Happy Holidays” (because even the non-believers and those who choose not to celebrate during the festive period are living in a society where these holidays are present), than to choose to make the other person feel excluded, bitter and grumpy.  It is a choice.

When you fail to acknowledge the possibility that the person before you might not appreciate your assumption of a shared celebration, you’re failing to acknowledge one of the basic principles of humanity – that of individuality.  Political correctness isn’t just there to piss you off, it’s a concept there to enlighten the masses to the fact that yes, you might be offending someone by ignoring their difference of opinion.  Do you take the path of self-righteous offensiveness regardless?

What Would Jesus Do?!

I have it on good authority, that of a Master of Theological Studies, “that Jesus would totally be PC.”

And thus I say, wholeheartedly:  Happy Friday.

Bzz, grumpits.

Being Young, Smart and Unemployed: A rant against the current state of things

I’ve decided to take a break from the silliness that is The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When and talk about something else for a moment.  This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought I might as well just get it out.  It is:

Being unemployed.

As I’m sure most of you are already aware, or could easily ascertain by my posting habits, I’m unemployed.  Have been since July, in fact.  “Oh how nice for you, like an extended holiday!” someone might say – well that someone has obviously never been long-term unemployed.  It most certainly is nothing like an extended holiday.

Maybe for the first couple of weeks it feels delightful, and you can sleep until whenever you want and go shopping during the day or just sit around – but then the months drag on, and it gets harder and harder to motivate oneself to even get out of bed at all.  I mean why would you?  There’s obviously nothing for you to do.

So you start getting up later and later, feeling at once guiltier and more helpless about the situation unfolding itself before you.  But you can’t help it, your body betrays you with unwarranted exhaustion (how can you be tired? you do nothing all day long!).  And the days begin to blur together, and nothing separates one from the other apart from the changes of weather and what’s on the television.  You begin to lose track of days of the week, or when the weekends fall.  Trips out to the grocery store become the only highlight of an otherwise uneventful day, and this time of year you find it hard to even work up the motivation to do that before the sun begins to set, when darkness will dampen all your hard-fought enthusiasm.

And yet.

If it weren’t for a select assortment of variables I think I would have easily given into all that, would have become the sort of person that sleeps until noon, only to drag myself over to the sofa to watch Jeremy Kyle in a stupor until hunger forced me to go boil the kettle and eat another Pot Noodle.

These variables are as follows:

1) The Husband.  I’m nothing if not a lazy, self-destructive, angst-ridden overgrown teenager if left to my own devices.  And so is he!  Ha!  However, together we’re confronted by those aspects of ourselves and it makes us want to be better than that.  This is why we work so well as a couple – we’re identical in some of our faults, but also equally stubborn about allowing ourselves to be overcome by them.

Plus we can call each other out on those very faults when one or the other is giving in to them.  But we both hate being told what to do/not do, so that’s not always helpful!  Regardless, we’re a good team.  And The Husband is generally better at being motivated than I am, and does stuff like sets the alarm for 8 am (which we often ignore until closer to 9 but hey, at least we’re trying) and goes out running even through the snow and does the dishes when they overwhelm me (which is a lot of the time, let’s face it).

He is the #1 variable in my list of “things that make my life pretty damned good”, because let’s face it – we’re young newlyweds in love.  It can’t be all that crap, and truthfully it isn’t.  It’s merely frustrating at times.

Anyways, onto:

2) We live in a lovely little village in Fife.  The last time poverty threatened to overcome us, we lived in the poor, downtrodden town of Lynn, just north of Boston.  So we’re able to say from experience that it makes a huge difference where you live when times get tough.  Here, we can take our minds off our problems by taking long walks and seeing beautiful country vistas.  The people are friendly, often walking with boisterous dogs who come over to say hello, and it feels like a true community.  Unlike Lynn, where we felt like interlopers in our Russian-dominated apartment building, where we didn’t stray out late at night for fear of violence and the anti-social behaviour rampant in our neighbourhood.

But this variable wouldn’t have been possible without:

3) Edna the tiny purple car.  Edna was the best investment we made in our life here, which The Husband bought for a mere £500 (best gift ever!) and despite her age runs amazingly well.  Without her we wouldn’t be able to live in a small rural community, for the need of such things as buying groceries, nor enjoy the lovely drives through to neighbouring towns.

Also:

4) The internet.  It’s easy enough to lose contact with people who all live at least an hour or so away by car (or at most 7 hours by plane!) but without the internet I’d never get to do so at all.  Nor share all my nonsense with the world, as I do in this blog!  Being unemployed is a lonely business, so connectivity becomes priceless.  Especially in the job search, as most things are posted online.

So those are the variables keeping us from turning into the stereotypical unemployed loser, for which I’m entirely grateful.  And after my next visa arrives I can pursue jobs with the same gusto as The Husband’s tireless efforts.

It’s ridiculous that someone as smart and amazing as The Husband (and honestly, this isn’t me being biased – he’s actually just awesome) with his two degrees can’t get employed within six months.  And don’t think that he’s feeling too good for general labour because of said degrees; he’s applied to call centre jobs, a position on an oil rig (!), working at a local convenience store, and pretty much every major bank in the area offering an entry-level position.

Nothing.  He got one interview for a call centre job, but the competition was something like 50 people applying per position so he didn’t get it.

This is the current state of things (against which I’m ranting): that of the plight of the young, smart and unemployed.  If one of us gets a job soon it’ll likely be more out of luck than anything else, because we’re both at the bottom of any prospective employer’s list in terms of employable skills, qualifications and previous experience in this current climate.  The sheer numbers of better qualified applicants, many recently laid off from long-term positions, put us there – where in a different economic situation we’d be considered pretty damned awesome applicants, the bright future of this country.

And that’s just shit.

We are pretty damned awesome.  And we shouldn’t be in this situation, forced into poverty and unemployment by circumstances beyond our control.  When we went into undergrad we went with a couple of expectations in return for the degrees we hoped to obtain: 1) the essential bettering of ourselves, which we certainly got, but also, 2) that after the hard work and money spent on our education (quite a lot in my case, as an international student) we would end our time with a higher qualification to recommend ourselves into gainful employment.

That’s what we were promised and the real world, with all its financial fucked-uppery, has failed to uphold that second half of the bargain.

Inachronistic Danger, the Innocent Wheat and the Magic Sock Appeal

Yes, I survived yesterday (mostly)!  And now, continuing onto the Adventurous Time Adventures!

*

‘What was that, Wilburforce?’ Doctor When turned to ask, just in time to see the Dwarf lay a solid punch onto his reptilian enemy, helped by his spiked leaden knuckles. With the hiss of metal she drew her rapier from its sheath, and the Spaghetti Sisters behind her conjured daggers in each hand. Before them, a horde of anachronistic predators gained ground.

‘I take it this is your anomaly?’ Vermacelli shouted over the sound of a dozen sharp claws tearing soil.

‘Ingeborg’s anomaly,’ the Chrononaut corrected the Sister. ‘But yes, this is surely it.’

Then the time for conversation was past and they were concerned with other matters, such as razor-sharp teeth and not dying upon them.

‘On your left, Doctor!’ Rigatoni warned from behind, and in due course the air beside Doctor When’s left cheek whizzed with the passage of a dagger. It hit a crouching dinosaur where it had sneaked towards them, unseen until that moment. Doctor When grinned at the girl’s reflexes, but was then swinging her rapier towards another foe. The air was full of daggers, reptilian blood and stalks of wheat that were the innocent bystanders in this battle.

When the last dinosaur fell beside its slain kin, the foursome had only a moment to catch their before they were aware of a new danger. A sturdy French farmer was making a beeline for their position, waving his arms and shouting.

‘Ah, I see we’ve gained the attention of the owner of this field,’ Doctor When remarked, crouching down to clean her rapier with a handful of strewn wheat refuse. The Sisters were busy gathering their daggers from their resting places in the thick skin of the defeated creatures, and Wilburforce picked bits of dinosaur meat from his spiked knuckle-dusters.

‘Bonjour, Monsieur,’ the Doctor smiled charmingly at the irate farmer as he drew close. He replied in frantic French, accompanied by sharp arm movements to punctuate his words and aghast expressions at the carnage around them in the very centre of his wheat crop.

‘What’s he saying?’ Vermacelli asked, bemused.

‘Mostly unkind speculation about the professions of our respective mothers.’ Doctor When replied to the man in French with the ease of fluency as she began to retreat, gesturing for the others to follow. She and the farmer continued their exchange, growing louder and more expletive on the part of the latter, until they were back at the site of the Time Machine. Doctor When opened the door and motioned the others to enter first before following through the doorway.

‘Je suis désolé, Monsieur,’ she apologised, closing the door on his reddened face. Inside the Time Machine, all was silent. The others looked at her, disheveled from the fight, somewhat glassy-eyed and confused.

‘We’re leaving?’ Rigatoni asked.

‘Yes, Ingeborg isn’t here.’

‘How can you be sure?’

‘The farmer told me.’

‘He said that?’ Vermacelli looked at the Doctor incredulously. ‘From what I gathered he was mainly swearing and talking about his wheat.’

‘Indeed. If Ingeborg was still here he would have had a lot more to say. Something along the lines of, “Oh God, help me now!”’ She turned her attention to the dials, levers and buttons. ‘And so we’re on to the next anomaly! We might even get to see something interesting this time.’

The Spaghetti Sisters exchanged glances, and Wilburforce might have looked equally skeptical if he wasn’t currently being pressed between two sets of shapely legs that were distracting his attention. At least the pay upon completion of this Mission would be excellent, providing they all survived.

*

So yes, my fingers and their typing ability survived the cold and predatory avian beasts of yesterday!  Aren’t you glad??

In other news, I’m not so sure my feet survived entirely.  They felt (or rather, didn’t feel as they were numb thoroughly) like solid blocks of foot-shaped ice for about 7 hours, and this morning I still have some tingling in my toes.  Ah well.  What’s a bit of nerve damage between friends (or rather, between a girl and her desire to fly gorgeous birds of prey at the cost of her extremities, squeamishness and exhaustion)?

You wouldn’t believe how cold I was, even in my bazillion layers.  Unless you live somewhere properly Arctic, and you’re just laughing at my crapness.  You heartless bastard.

So there’s this phenomenon in Scotland called “freezing fog”.  It’s fog, but frozen.  How does that work?! Regardless, it happened yesterday.  A misty aura of deathly cold vapour sat over the ground all around us, growing ever-thicker once the sun disappeared at around 3ish.  It was the shortest day of the year, and I can honestly say it seemed like the sun was only shining for a mere hour of blessed light and warmth.  Although it rose at 9ish and set at 3-ish, there was only this one hour just after noon where it seemed to do anything useful.

It’ll only get better from here on – longer days and maybe even some above-freezing temperatures!  Yay!  In the meantime, I’m accepting any and all donations of magic foot-heating socks with which to save my poor froze-y toesies.

😦

It’s a good thing I don’t type with my feet.

Next Thursday Morning, ‘Where’ as well as ‘When’, and The Anomaly.

Again, clicking on the tag entitled ‘The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When‘ will take you to a page with all the excerpts, of which today’s is:

*

The Time Machine was a box, roughly the size of a large wardrobe, made of metal, wires and strangeness. Or at least that’s how it looked to the three toughs, goggle-eyed at the complex systems of knobs, dials, levers and clock faces within. It was a tight fit once they were inside and Doctor When shut the doors behind them, shooing them into a corner where a stray elbow wouldn’t knock their trajectory off course.

‘This may be disorientating,’ the Doctor informed them, pressing, pulling, turning and winding various contraptions with no apparent hesitation. In the next moment they felt very much like that last bit of water in a bathtub, swirling violently through the drain. It seemed to go on forever; it seemed to last a mere eye-blink. Then they were still. ‘We’re here,’ the nonplussed Chrononaut needlessly pointed out.

‘Where, er, I mean when is here?’ Wilburforce asked, uncomfortably squashed behind the legs of a Spaghetti Sister.

‘We’re at precisely 11.03 Thursday morning,’ the Doctor replied.

‘Last Thursday?’ asked the Spaghetti Sister known today as Vermicelli.

‘I’m afraid not,’ corrected Doctor When, leaning over a dial. ‘Which is a shame, because last Thursday was particularly delightful. I would’ve liked to visit it again. But alas! It’s this Thursday coming.’

‘We’ve only travelled forward two days?’ the other sister, Rigatoni, exclaimed bemusedly.

‘Two days, one hour and eighteen minutes, to be precise. Shall we?’ With that, the Chrononaut reached around the others to open the door, and they tumbled out haphazardly.

To find themselves plonked in the middle of a wide, empty field up to their thighs (or Wilburforce’s neck) in wheat. The sun bore down upon them from a painfully blue sky, and in the distance conical green trees bordered the field geometrically.

‘Huh,’ Wilburforce said, wittily. ‘I thought time travel kept you stationary in place, and only time changed.’

‘A common misconception. We travel across time-space, which means that we move freely along all of the four dimensions. Time is only one of them.’

‘So where are we, then?’

‘Somewhere on the Continent, it seems,’ Doctor When looked around them. ‘I’d guess at Southern France.’

‘Don’t you know more specifically than that?’ Vermicelli turned to her employer with a frown. ‘Doesn’t the Time Machine tell you?’

‘I’m afraid the Time Machine only tells time, my dear. If it were a Location Machine, then maybe we’d be in luck. Or a Map Machine, instantly capable of drafting ones position upon arrival,’ the Doctor seemed to lose herself in the thought, dreamily continuing, ‘I’d call it the Cartographoid Spectrometer.’

‘Doctor?’ Wilburforce interrupted her reverie. ‘What do we do now?’

‘Ah, yes!’ Doctor When returned to the Machine, drawing a notepad from a coat pocket. After some furious scribbles, she returned it to her pocket and joined the others once again. ‘The anomaly we’re looking for isn’t far.’

There was a sudden rustling sound coming from the wheat, but Wilburforce ignored it as mere wind. But then he watched the still, distant tree-tops, incongruous with the rustling that surrounded them.

‘Um, I think we might have a probl-‘ but he never finished his sentence. The small man was too busy fending off the small dinosaur that was currently trying to eat his face.

*

DINOSAURS!  Did you see that coming?  HA!

Anyway.  It’s freakishly cold here, and will likely be -12 C (about 10 F) tomorrow morning when I have to go be outside all day.  Joy!  I may not be capable of posting afterward, dependent upon whether or not my fingers are still attached to me, either frozen off or eaten by a hungry raptor.  Either way, it sort of spells disaster for typing.

Pray for my fingers.

Wilburforce’s Smallclothes, ‘Are You Ready to Time Travel?’ and Eccentricity: A Discourse on Gender Roles

Herein lies the fourth snippet of The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When!  To read them all, merely click on the tag by the same name (I’m getting tired of making them each individual links on every post!) and enjoy.

*

‘So when do we begin, Doctor?’ Wilburforce cracked his knuckles in anticipation. He’d been getting bored of brawling in bars and alleyways for a while now, so a new challenge of this sort was exactly what he needed.


‘Good man!’ the Doctor exclaimed in approval of his apparent enthusiasm. The Dwarf blushed, unused as he was to praise or the term ‘man’ as a fair description of his person. He was much more familiar with ‘shortarse’ or even ‘gremlin’.   Doctor When continued, ‘We’ll begin at precisely forty-five minutes past nine tomorrow morning.’


‘Is there a reason for such precise timing?’ Macaroni wanted to know, still trying to come to terms with this Mission they found themselves on.


‘Of course!’ Doctor When twirled her riding crop, ‘That’s when I finish breakfast! No need for an unnaturally early start when one’s a Chrononaut – there’s always time,’ she chuckled to herself.


‘Must we come provisioned in any specific way?’ Lasange asked, sensing this discussion was nearing its end.


‘Sensible shoes would be a start,’ the Chrononaut suggested, ‘not to mention any assorted weaponry you possess. And it wouldn’t be unwise to bring a packed lunch, dinner or breakfast – you never know when we might end up!’


Indeed, the next morning they assembled at the laboratory ready for whatever the day might throw at them. Wilburforce was wearing his favourite knuckle-dusters, made of lead and formed into raised spikes across the surface. He was dressed in brown leather boots and vest, sturdy trousers, of surprisingly tailored fit, and shirt to match. It was an unknown fact that, due to his unusual size and proportions, he was forced to make his own clothing and had become rather adept at creating practical fashion for the smaller man. It would have pained him to admit it, but Wilburforce enjoyed the process of turning mere cloth into wearable garments. In his cups, the Dwarf considered giving up on fighting altogether and opening a little shop – he even had the name picked out: Wilburforce’s Smallclothes.


The Spaghetti Sisters wore identical fighting leotards (much the same as normal leotards, only with hidden back- and breastplates made of aluminium – not much use against a solid blow, but turned the blade of a knife a treat) over identical striped leggings, which terminated inside boots with small wicked heels. They had always caused an uproar whenever they went about in public, dressed as they were, with gentlemen shouting, ‘Well, I never!’ and ladies gasping behind handkerchiefs. Each carried several pairs of daggers sheathed in various places around their respective persons, which did wonders for putting off unwanted attention when it turned from merely aghast to menacingly opportunistic.


Doctor When met them, dressed in much the same manner as the day before; the only new addition was a rapier hanging at her belt.


‘Ah, good,’ she said, ‘you’re all here. Ready to time travel?’


*

 

It’s snowing with vigour here, joy of joys – we just got rid of the last batch!  Oh well, at least it’s picturesque.

 

Weather aside, let’s discuss something!  Have you noticed that there are hosts of eccentric male characters portrayed in writing and on screen, but very few women?  And I’m talking the kind of ego-centric eccentricity that charactises the like of the new remake of Sherlock Holmes, BBC’s Sherlock, and Dirk Gently.  I love  those sorts of characters!  However, this tends to be the realm of men, to which I say, “Feh!”  Women can be eccentric the way an old cat lady is “eccentric”, which is to say closer to madness than genius.

 

Is this fair?  No!

 

Thus, Doctor When is my attempt at a female character with all the characteristics of true typically-male-dominated eccentricity.  She’s totally in control, a mad scientist with a Mission, and doesn’t appear to care much for cats.  I’m not trying to make her any less a woman for it, for all that she dresses like a Victorian gentleman (it’s purely practical in her line of work), but neither does being a woman have to define her entirely.  She’s more than just bosoms and hips, she’s a Chrononaut – capable, confident (sometimes to excess) and more than a little nutzo!

‘When do we begin, Doctor?’ Wilburforce cracked his knuckles in anticipation. He’d been getting bored of brawling in bars and alleyways for a while now, so a new challenge of this sort was exactly what he needed.

‘Good man!’ the Doctor exclaimed in approval of his apparent enthusiasm. The Dwarf blushed, used to being called more derogatory terms than that. ‘We’ll begin at precisely forty-five minutes past nine tomorrow morning.’

‘Is there a reason for such precise timing?’ Macaroni wanted to know, still trying to come to terms with this Mission they found themselves on.

‘Of course!’ Doctor When twirled her riding crop, ‘That’s when I finish breakfast! No need for an unnaturally early start when one’s a Chrononaut – there’s always time,’ she chuckled to herself.

‘Must we come provisioned in any specific way?’ Lasange asked, sensing this discussion was nearing its end.

‘Sensible shoes would be a start,’ the Chrononaut suggested, ‘not to mention any assorted weaponry you possess. And it wouldn’t be unwise to bring a packed lunch – you never know when we might end up!’

Indeed, the next morning they assembled at the laboratory ready for whatever the day might throw at them. Wilburforce was wearing his favourite knuckle-dusters, made of lead and formed into raised spikes across the surface. He was dressed in brown leather boots and vest, sturdy trousers, his least-stained pair, and shirt to match. As usual, it was rolled up above his elbows to reveal sinewy forearms, scarred and scabbed from his nighttime profession. It was an unknown fact that, due to his unusual size and proportions, he was forced to make his own clothing and had become rather adept at creating practical fashion for the smaller man. It would have pained him to admit it, but Wilburforce enjoyed the process of turning mere cloth into wearable garments. In his cups, the Dwarf considered giving up on fighting altogether and opening a little shop – he even had the name picked out: Wilburforce’s Smallclothes. The double entendre made him chuckle.

The Spaghetti Sisters wore identical fighting leotards over identical stretchy leggings, which terminated identically inside boots with small wicked heels. They had always caused an uproar whenever they went about in public, dressed as they were, with gentlemen shouting, ‘Well, I never!’ and ladies gasping behind handkerchiefs. Thankfully there wasn’t likely to be much of that wherever, whenever, they were heading this morning. Also, each carried hidden pairs of daggers sheathed in various places around their respective persons, which did wonders to putting off unwanted attention.

Doctor When met them, dressed in much the same manner as the day before; the only new addition was a rapier hanging at her belt.

‘Ah, good,’ she said, ‘you’re all here. Ready to time travel?’

Doctor When’s Most Important Mission, and the Mysterious Ingeborg

Continuing from yesterday’s excerpt, which had its beginnings on Thursday’s post:

*

‘I have a Most Important Mission,’ the Doctor began, settling herself to face the others. She flipped her coattails out of the way before perching upon a corner of her laboratory table, and let them take in her formidable appearance. Doctor When wasn’t particularly large or menacing as such, but her intensity of expression emanated through her clothed form, dressed as it was in a lace-cuffed shirt and smart waistcoat beneath her signature tailed coat, down through legs clad in finely-tailored jodhpurs and tall leather boots. Every atom of her person was imbued with most certain purpose. ‘It is such: to find Ingeborg.’

The last was pronounced with such precision and determination that the three gathered toughs merely stared at their new employer for a moment. Then Macaroni (as she was being called today by her sister Lasagne) spoke up:

‘Who’s Ingeborg?’

‘Aha!’ Doctor When lifted her index finger, as if a sudden epiphany had just blossomed in her illustrious brain. ‘The question is: what is Ingeborg!’

When it seemed no further exposition was forthcoming, Lasagne decided to bite on her sister’s behalf, ‘Very well, what is this Ingeborg?”

‘Indeed,’ Doctor When nodded gravely, as if by asking the question this particular Spaghetti Sister was offering an answer in its own right. ‘All I know is that my dear old classmate and rival, Doctor Inga Ekstrom, has let loose this Ingeborg into the aether of time-space where it’s wreaking untold chronological havoc. My mission, and by extension yours, is to locate said Ingeborg and stop it from doing further harm.’

‘Pardon, Doctor,’ Wilburforce spoke up with unexpected civility for a man, Dwarf or otherwise, with his violent history, ‘but how exactly will we locate this Ingeborg in all of time-space?’ Even he, as untutored as he was in the arts of the Chrononauts, knew that time-space was infinite, a concept which boggled his mind in an unpleasant fashion. Normally such unpleasantness was followed by pain, usually of his making, and he unconsciously clenched his fists.

‘Aha!’ Doctor When repeated her earlier exclamation, and suddenly a riding crop appeared in her hand. She leapt from her perch and strode over to the blank face of a double-sided chalkboard, flipping it so that a complex diagram now faced the queer assembly. ‘This is time-space,’ she pointed with the crop for emphasis, ‘with its four dimensions: the three spatial dimensions plus the temporal dimension of time. We must follow the distortions currently present in the very fabric of time-space,’ here she pointed to an anomalous bend in the diagram, ‘where it can only be assumed the Ingeborg has performed some mischief or other.’

‘How do we find such a distortion?’ Macaroni asked, pursing her lips in contemplation.

‘That’s one of the varied pursuits my Time Machine is capable of. I have programmed it to locate and bring us to each distortion in turn, where we can search for clues to Ingeborg’s whereabouts.’

‘And once we find this Ingeborg?’ Lasange added her query.

‘We find a way to either shut it down or destroy it,’ she waved the crop in the air emphatically. ‘And I can only guess that dearest Inga won’t be inviting me to her Christmas Luncheon this year.’

*

We’re currently in the grip of rather freezing temperatures, which meant that my ancient little purple car (her name’s Edna, like the elderly lady she is) failed to start yesterday.  After two mechanic visits and a tow later, she roared back to life!  We may have literally cheered.  In this little village in Fife, having a car is pretty damned essential.

Anyway, as it’s so damned chilly there’s really not much else to do but sit around and write.  I suppose this is a good thing!  Only it really means that I’ll be spending most of my time procrastinating/slacking off/bothering The Husband as he tries to get things done.  Oh well, at least I got the above excerpt written this morning, so that’s something.  Something that means I feel perfectly justified in slacking off – huzzah!  *Goes to poke The Husband*

Doctor When Finds Associates, and Writing as Mental Illness

To carry on from yesterday’s snippet:

*

It was this proclivity of her mechanical associate which prompted Doctor When to put out an advertisement in the local newspaper:

‘Toughs Required: peculiar individuals interested in peculiar adversaries, must provide own weaponry.’

It was thus that Doctor When began to interview the likeliest candidates, putting each through an hour of ‘on the job experience’. Of those that survived only three such ‘peculiar individuals’ acquitted themselves to the level required of the position. They were:

Wilburforce, a man deprived of sheer bulk and size by the accident of his birth to parents of the Dwarf persuasion. It had been his life’s work to fill every fibre of his considerably compact body with as much killing power as was humanly possible. By such headlines as: ‘Ten Men and a Dwarf Enter a Pub, Only Dwarf Leaves Alive,’ it seemed he’d succeeded.

And the Spaghetti Sisters. The two Sisters were previously employed as contortionists in the Theatre of Implausible Amusements, but had taken offense to the Director’s suggestion of how they might employ their skills elsewhere, such as in his personal chambers of an evening. The Director was never heard from again, and the Sisters found themselves in need of new employment. No one knew their real names, for the Sisters had the habit of only referring to each other by interchangeable pasta varieties. One might say to the other, ‘My dearest Fusilli,’ to which her sister would reply, ‘Oh indeed, Farfalle, in very deed.’ The next day, the one called ‘Fusilli’ would then be called ‘Penne’ or even ‘Yakisoba’ if the mood took her other sister to do so.

Doctor When was pleased with her new associates, never were such peculiarities so desirable in an employee, and they met in her laboratory to discuss the work at hand.

*

I have to say I’m in the high of this new hilarity right now.  I always get like this in the beginning when everything’s still all shiny and new and exciting, before the crumbling lows of defeat as it starts to get complicated and strange and I wonder “WTF, self???”  Oh, the bipolarity and schizophrenia of writing (you try keeping a whole cast of characters in the confines of your mind, especially when they don’t all get along).  It’s enough to make you a realise that no, you’re not sane at all.

You’re a writer.