Thursday, December 24, 2015

A New Name

Just a quick note, since as I wrote tonight's chapter I realized what the name for the haunted house story actually needed to be. It happens; I have an idea at the start and then as things progress a better title presents itself (see Graduation Summer becoming Consequences). It just happened earlier than I expected it to, and pleasantly I was not far off the mark.

So without further ado, Hidden Heart now gets its official, non-working title of:

Hidden Hearts

Yes, I realize all I did was make it plural. But believe me, it fits perfectly well, and better captures the nuances of the story being told.

I never said it took much to please me.

That is all! Back to our regularly scheduled sleep time.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Blockages: A Progress Update

Have you ever had a time where you thought you would be able to get something done on a specific schedule but then when you actually started on it, things turned out completely different from how you envisioned it? Yeah, that's me now. It's not all bad, just unexpected.

I'm still plugging merrily along on Hidden Heart, the haunted house tale I started right before Thanksgiving. I just no longer think it's going to be done by Christmas like I first thought. Part of that is just the sheer scope of the story I'm telling that I never would have even guessed at when the idea came to me. This thing is constantly growing. Incredibly so. To the point that I've already reconsidered the original length estimate once, and am probably going to have to revise it again. Based on the progress meter, I'm at just over 77% complete; based on the story that's left in my head, that's higher than is truly accurate. This may well be the first horror novel I've done that tops the 100,000 word mark, at least on the first draft. That number was always something attributed to epic fantasy in my mind. I'll know in a couple of days whether I have to rethink that distinction or not.

Something else I didn't take into consideration was how the holidays were going to affect my writing schedule. As much as it pains me to admit it, I've taken more days off while doing this one than in all the others combined. That's not from lack of desire to tell the tale, though. It's just how things have panned out. The day job, work Christmas parties, shopping for the kids and the wife, visits to family for holiday dinners, all of it is enough to wear anybody out. Figure doing two full-time jobs on top of all that, and exhaustion doesn't begin to cover it.

I'm a little disappointed in myself for this, even though maybe I shouldn't be. I mean, since July I've finished first drafts on five novels (and am at least 2/3 done with a sixth, I think), second drafts on three of those, about halfway through the second draft on a fourth, and done a third and fourth draft on one of them. Two have been submitted to potential publishers, and I have laid the groundwork for self-publishing whichever ones don't get picked up by a traditional publisher. I also started revising another novel I finished years ago, and am about a quarter of the way done with that. That's a heck of a lot of work to get done in just under six months. And I'm proud of that. Maybe it's only right that I take a few extra days off; it just makes me feel guilty to do it. Not like I'm letting any of you all down--hard to do that when I haven't released anything for you to pick up and read yet, right? More like I'm letting myself down. Foolish maybe, but there it is.

On top of all that, in case you've been living in a cave for the last year or so, the new Star Wars movie came out. If you never picked up on it before, I'm a geek. That means I've been waiting on this for a while. Saw it today; that's why I didn't get any editing done on the second draft of One Last Dance. Totally worth it, though. Thank you, J.J. Abrams, THAT was the Star Wars I remembered from being a kid.

I'm hoping that once the new year rolls around and all the major holidays are over I can get back on my normal schedule where I do my first draft work every night and edit throughout the week so I can put the changes in the computer every Monday. Maybe it won't, but that's my hopes at least.

In the meantime, I'm now hoping to be done with Hidden Heart just after the first of the year, at which point I'll be starting on the fourth (and possibly last; we'll see) Cochran book. After that I have another idea for a standalone in mind, and after that, well, I guess we'll know when we get there, won't we?

And since I probably won't post before then, all of you have a very Merry Christmas, and a glorious New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Capaldi is Officially My Doctor: A Season Nine Review

I debated on holding off on this until after the Christmas special, but since that traditionally counts as part of the following season, I’ll just go ahead and do it now. Partly because it’s fresh in my mind, and partly because since the Christmas special isn’t going to connect to the rest of this season, it should be judged on its own merits.

Oh, and before I forget: "SPOILERS!"

Which makes it sound a little like I’m going to not say very nice things, but that’s not exactly the case. This season was a complete mixed bag, if I’m honest. There was plenty to like, but there was plenty to not like as well.

That being said, I guess I can start with some overall impressions.

This season was different for the reboot in that we got multi-part episodes for the first time. This actually turned out to be a good thing, despite many Saturday nights spent cursing at Stephen Moffet for those cliffhangers. It was a return to the Classic era, where storylines might be broken up over several weeks before the payoff. A perfect example, and one with ties to this season as well, is the Fourth Doctor’s Genesis of the Daleks arc, which was a six-parter when it came out.

It needed this, though. It allowed the stories to breathe, to suck us in and make us care about not only the Doctor and Clara, but about the people they were helping as well. This was an advantage for the Classic Who, and it was put to good use here.

Another high point: Peter Capaldi. From the moment we saw him on that tank playing guitar, we knew he was proving his ownership of the role. And for the majority of the season, he continued to do that. This season was the one where Capaldi officially became my Doctor. After that speech at the end of The Zygon Inversion, how could he not?

Unfortunately, for all the good there was some bad, so let’s go story by story and break it down.

The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar: We were off to a massive start here. Michelle Gonzales was back as Missy, Davros returned, and we had a reference back to the aforementioned Genesis of the Daleks. The story played perfectly and enhanced the relationship between the Doctor and the Master / Mistress as well as showing why Davros is the Doctor’s archenemy, not his Time Lord counterpart. That Davros could play on the Doctor’s guilt and compassion in order to trick him into giving him what he wanted showed not only the Doctor’s inevitable fallibility, but Davros’s own genius as well. THIS is the man I could believe made the Daleks.

And learning that no matter what a Dalek said they felt, the machine they are in forces it to come out as “Exterminate!” was brilliant. Weapons fueled by pure emotion. For a Dalek, there is probably no greater threat.

On the other hand, this was where the first crack appeared in the overall story for the season. The prophecy of a hybrid was mentioned. The issue isn’t that the prophecy existed, mind you. My initial reaction that someone would create a Time Lord / Dalek hybrid was that it would be unstoppable and worth fearing. The problem was that Missy mentioned it in what felt like a throwaway line that indicated it was a massive, all-important thing. If that’s the case, why are we just now hearing about it for the first time in over fifty years of Doctor Who? All that time the previous Doctors spent on Gallifrey, all the angst 9, 10, and even 11 felt, and this never comes up? I think I could have even handled it being an expansion on the Valeyard from the Classic era, really make a connection back, but it was a standalone that felt a bit out of place here.

Otherwise, a great start to season 9!

Under the Lake / Before the Flood: The Doctor Who ghost story. Again, a well thought-out and executed story, even though it felt like it was better suited for seventy minutes rather than ninety. Seeing how the Doctor used his ability to play with time to solve a mystery was nice, and it took him away from Clara and allowed Capaldi to fly on his own for a while, too. Again, brilliant.

The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived: Maise Williams guest stars, and while it was strange at first to see Arya Stark in the Whoniverse, I managed to get over it quickly. She was able to show that she is quite a capable actress, and quickly managed to win me over as Ashildr. It was also nice to see how the Doctor’s best intentions could backfire, as he saved her life, but at the cost of her soul. A strange sort of vampirism, maybe? Still, to see him create an immortal who would come back to haunt him later on was a nice way to show that he shouldn’t meddle so much, but he’ll never stop.
And while it was rewarding to see the matter of Capaldi’s appearance in the Tenth Doctor’s The Fires of Pompeii addressed, and why that face was chosen, it felt like a bit of a let-down once it was all said and done. Still, they didn’t just ignore it like it could have been, so thanks for that. I just wish it had been more… impactful.

The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion: The story of returns, and on reflection one of the better stories of the season. We referenced back to the Fiftieth Anniversary Special and the Zygon peace treaty, we got the return of UNIT, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, and best of all, OSGOOD! At first it annoyed me that they didn’t let us know for sure it was the human version that was back, but once her personality reemerged in the second part of the story, I was willing to forgive them for that.

And that speech. Here we see the Doctor that lived through the Time War, who consigned two races to death or exile from the universe, and who understands more than any living thing what the ravages of war can do to someone. This is not the fun Doctor of the Matt Smith era, nor the emotionally scarred one of the Tennant era. This is what Eccelston’s Doctor would have been like if he never met Rose. This is the War Doctor, one step removed. And honestly? He’s terrifying. If there was anyone I would never want to cross, it’s this man.

The only real bad thing I can think of from this story is that the Zygon weapons turned people into electrified Brillo pads. Still, it hearkened back to the man-in-a-rubber-suit days of the Classic era, so I can overlook that as well.

Sleep No More: The only standalone episode of the season, and it felt like it. The concept of a monster made from the crust in your eyes after sleeping was a good one, and it also had the distinction of being something new for the series. I would have liked to have seen it expounded upon more, especially considering how disjointed the episode felt as it rushed through toward a conclusion. 

It stood out for that, and that’s not a good thing.

For the finale, I’m going episode by episode, rather than the arc as a whole.

Face the Raven: We all knew this was Clara’s last run as the Doctor’s companion, and for many it was a season too long. And here it was: the moment of her last hurrah. Or so we thought.

The setup felt like just that—setup. Its only purpose was to put Clara in position to meet her end. And Ashildr’s only purpose was to provide that. I would have almost preferred to see Missy play this role, but considering who was behind it all, that wouldn’t make much sense. No offense to Maise Williams here, but this felt like an excuse to include her character. At least it felt better here than it did later on, but I’m not there yet…

Clara’s death was actually well-done. For too long now, fans have been complaining that Clara thought she was the Doctor, and it was somewhat satisfying to see that it was this very flaw that got her killed. It was a fitting end for the Impossible Girl, even if the season-long foreshadowing felt a bit heavy-handed.

And the Doctor’s response to it, his statement to Ashildr that he had been lost long ago, showed a man who knew such a thing was inevitable yet was powerless to stop it. He knows he’s playing with fire, but does it because it’s his nature. He knows his limits as well, and knew Clara would never understand that concept. When he teleported out to meet his fate, he did so with anger burning inside him again, and that could mean serious trouble for whomever was meeting him on the other side.

Heaven Sent: That he was meeting himself, in a sense, was the perfect answer to that. This episode had moments of brilliance and a concept that was well-worth exploring. As a fan of his performance, I loved it: stick Capaldi in front of a camera and let him go nuts. Awesome.

Then we get to the ending.

This is the single most confusing, convoluted mess I have ever seen in Doctor Who. Timey Wimey? This is so far beyond that it doesn’t even warrant its own amusing catchphrase. Is the Doctor really the Doctor anymore, or a clone of himself? Is he over four billion years old now, or still the same age he was when his image was trapped in the teleport? And does Stephen Moffett even know? Somehow I doubt that last one. I think this was a case of throwing something against the wall to see if it stuck.

And it was all about this suddenly all-important prophecy of a hybrid? Of all the Doctor’s enemies, of all the reasons why someone would do this to him, we went with that? If you say so, but you can do better.

We all know the Doctor is unstoppable, but to show that he’s so stubborn he won’t even die properly has already been done before. Remember The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End? Shot by a Dalek, regenerated into the same face he already had. The Time of the Doctor? GOT TWELVE MORE REGENERATIONS! His tenacity is already well established. Let’s not beat a dead horse for four billion years here.

And yet, that ending. He was in his confession dial the whole time. Brilliant. The desert planet, panning up to see the city in the distance. Back on Gallifrey, at long last. Again, brilliant. “Tell them I’m back. Tell them I took the long way ‘round.” I’d run, what about you?

So. Much. Potential.

And yet….

Hell Bent: Clara’s alive and in the same diner where Eleven brought Amy and Rory and River after River murdered him? Okay, what? Must be in his head, right? Still, loved the guitar version of Clara’s theme.

Back on Gallifrey, back where he and the Moment changed the planet’s fate. When he drew that line in the sand and then ignored everyone who came for him until Rassilon himself showed up, I was cheering. When he faced off against Rassilon and told him to “get off my planet”, again, cheering. 

Then we’re back on the hybrid bandwagon. He’s willing to tell them what they want to know, only he needs someone’s help.



You would think the Doctor never lost a companion before. Even the revived series has addressed it. Rose: trapped in a parallel dimension that is sealed to time. Ten got over it. Donna Noble: had to have her memories wiped or her brain would fry. Ten dealt with it. Amy and Rory: displaced into the past, which then becomes time-locked. Eleven coped.

But when Clara dies because she wasn’t smart enough to know she wasn’t the Doctor? He loses his mind, hijacks his homeworld, shoots one of his own kind and forces a regeneration (and can I just point out that they handled it a lot better than the Doctor ever did, despite having nowhere near the experience with it that he does?), kidnaps a dead woman, and tries to bring her back to life.

Again, seriously?

He then steals another TARDIS and takes her to the end of time itself where Gallifrey’s burning and who’s sitting there watching it happen? Not Missy, though in this case I insist it should have been. Ashildr. She lectures him on his stupidity, which was brilliant. His plan is to do a Donna on Clara and make her forget him so she can live a normal life. While that was a stretch, I can at least accept it.

Then it goes haywire and made me curse at Moffett for the wrong reasons.

Clara overhears, because naturally, and reprograms the neural device so it will work on him instead. He doesn’t believe her, and tells her they’ll take the chance together.

This could have been salvaged at this point. He begins telling her goodbye, and then she collapses. He’s visiting her at the diner in Nevada as a final farewell. That would be the best ending.

But does that happen? No. Clara manages to outsmart the Doctor, steals a TARDIS of her own, and flies off with Ashildr. In effect, she becomes the Doctor, even with her own companion.

No. Just, no.

Things began so well, then went wildly off-course. The season had its moments, namely those where Capaldi proved the role was his and who were those guys named Smith and Tennant anyway? We got stories that felt fleshed out and full. We got Osgood back, and Missy who was awesome as usual.

We also got a random rumor about a hybrid and Clara becoming the Doctor like she already thought she was, despite this already getting her killed.

And lest I be accused of Clara-bashing here, I'm not. Really. When she showed up as the new companion for Eleven post-Amy and Rory, I was willing to give her a chance. I ended up liking the entire "Impossible Girl" story arc, even if it did come off a little Mary Sue at times. When Eleven regenerated to Twelve, it made sense for her to stick around, give a little familiarity while all of us got used to the Doctor's new face along with him. It was here that she started to almost overshadow the Doctor, and since he's the titular character, that's not good. Had they left her alone at the end of Last Christmas, having aged without the Doctor, I would have been fine. She just held on a season too long, that's all. Her entire character arc this time around was "I'm just as good at being the Doctor as the Doctor, so watch what happens." No, you aren't, and it should have gotten you killed. The only reason you survived is... well... bad writing.

River Song is back in the Christmas Special (the interestingly named Husbands of River Song), and next season introduces a new companion altogether which means it’s a fresh story again, so this can be redeemed. Just please, for the sake of us who love the show, don’t play fan service with yourself anymore, Mister Moffett. Give us back the Doctor / Companion relationship that made the show work for over fifty years. Let the character not only think he's the most clever person in the room, but show it's the truth.

Above all, remember there’s only one Doctor.

And for now, thankfully, that’s Peter Capaldi.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


This one is something different for me, not simply an update on where I'm at with the writing, but a full-scale catch up on me and the things I've posted about on this blog before. In other words, a whole bunch'a ramblin' just because I felt like doing a post.

First, the writing. As you can see from the progress meter, Blood Games is officially done with the first draft. The Cochran books are now an official trilogy. That won't last long, because book four is on the horizon once I finish the current project, but it's still an accomplishment, right? I am now working my way through the first draft of Hidden Heart, the haunted house story I had in mind. This one is pretty tough, but in a good way. I think. See, it was always meant to be subtle. Sometimes I have a hard time with that. I'm eight chapters in now, and honestly not a lot has happened. Some things have, enough that the reader will realize there's more to the house in question than the current owner does anyway, but the poo hasn't hit the rotating blades yet, to modify a phrase. Soon, I think, since we're closing in on the end of the first act and the start of the second, but not yet. Hopefully everyone will like it once it's finished, as it's a complete change of pace for me. I guess we'll see.

I've been sick the last couple of days, so I didn't get much done on the editing front, hence no change to the progress meter for it. I tinkered with both One Last Dance and Homecoming, but not enough to amount to anything. Hopefully I'm over whatever bug this is in the next couple of days so I can get caught up there.

Still no response on either of the two submissions I have out there. I did reach out to a friend on Facebook who's going to school for graphic design about a cover for Consequences should it come to that, but I'm still holding out hope for a good response from one or the other.

Let's see, what else is going on...

I guess the biggest news is that I'm trying to quit smoking again. I went to vaping, since my primary motivation was a desire to keep my chest from hurting so bad whenever I woke up every morning. So far, so good. I've been doing it for about three weeks now, and I've reached the point where regular cigarettes taste like crap. Three days now, and I've only gotten my nicotine fix through vaping. I also managed to drop from the 18mg of nicotine that I started on to 12mg currently. Hopefully I'll be able to drop that again soon to 6mg. I don't know that I'll drop all the way to 0, but it's been a huge improvement so far. I can actually breathe now, and that's really what I was hoping for all along.

On the geeekdom front, I finally got to watch Jessica Jones on Netflix, and I have to say I'm impressed. I'm not as stoked for a Luke Cage series now since I kinda got my fix for him with this one, but at the same time Marvel is doing well with their mature-themed series. The little nods to the MCU make it even better. If only DC could catch a clue with Arrow, Flash, and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. But I've already made that point, so I'll move on.

On the DC front, Arrow and Flash are both turning out strong seasons, with Flash easily getting over the sophomore slump and Arrow taking things in a new direction with Green Arrow and the addition of mysticism to the universe. Have to say, so far the highlight was seeing John Constantine show up in Arrow using the same actor from the cancelled Constantine. Love the actor in that role, now someone needs to pick the series back up and do it justice.

I caught the first episode of Supergirl, and while it wasn't what I expected, it was far from being bad. Still, a superhero show nowadays needs to do more than just "cute" to work, at least for me.

I wasn't too sure about this season of Doctor Who, but they finally won me over. The two-part episodes felt like a throwback to the classic series where it might take six episodes to tell one story. On the whole, it's been a strong season, with only one or two episodes that made me feel "meh" about the whole thing. We got Osgood back, and in a way that made sense, and Capaldi has proven beyond any doubt that he IS the Doctor. His speech at the end of Face the Raven actually sent chills down my back. And last week's strange, mindbender of an episode was the perfect intermission between the events of Face the Raven and the potentially massive season finale coming up this Saturday.

Ash vs. Evil Dead. What can I say? It's Bruce Campbell as Ash, it's got the Necronomicon, deadites, blood, gore, and cheese. It's thirty minutes of heaven every episode.

The last trailer for The Force Awakens actually got me interested. I still wish they hadn't canned the entire EU (although there's truthfully not a lot I'll miss from it), but I'm willing to give it a chance, and I'm going to be standing in line in a couple weeks waiting to see if it lives up to the considerable hype.

The Avengers 2.5... I mean the Captain America: Civil War trailer was incredible as well. I can't wait to see how this plays out, but they've got me involved either way. "I have to do this," Cap says. "He's my friend." "Yeah, so was I." Tony replied, his voice sad. Chills.

That pretty well sums me up for the moment. Once Doctor Who is done (including the Christmas special - can't leave out River) I'll do an overall season review on here. We'll see if I'm excited enough about Star Wars to do the same for it. Otherwise, I'll keep everyone updated on the writing progress and attempts at publication as the news comes in.

See you next time!