Legacy #6: Three Night Engagement

Previously on LEGACY - Once Upon a Memory

‘Look at me

I opened a door I cannot close

I feel strange winds

Walk into here, open your door.

This is an introduction…’

 

Another night offered Brad a chance. ‘Philosopher’s Stone (or Lapis Philosophorum)’ was about to set up for their first night’s performance at Dante’s.  Formerly a Mongolian grill, Dante’s was a very small bar and musical venue. A plain bar counter, a stage raised about two meters, and about a dozen tables comprised the establishment.

The group was just about getting their drink on. Jacen was a whiskey sour man, Tobias a White Russian swiller. Brad didn’t sit well with hard liquor since he was in fact a dark beer and cannabis aficionado. Jessene, the sessioning violinist, didn’t show.

‘Guess what, man?’ Jacen chirped suddenly over the subdued din of the early bar crowd.

‘What?’ groaned Brad who was pretending to be dim for the moment.

‘I’m a whale!’ Jacen sprayed a mouthful of whiskey all over the table through his pursed lips.

Tobias slugged him forthwith in the bicep.

‘You want me to smack you in the ass, man?’ Jacen leered.

‘Oh, you wish!’

‘Yeah, well screw you, people. Jessene ain’t here and we’re going to have to do an improv show. Bitch’s probably tweaking anyway.’

Bradley was on fire and he didn’t care one whit.  This was it.  He swallowed the last of his beer and cruised over to the bar to check the time.

*

The flimsy curtain parted. With much gravitas stood Jacen with bass strapped on.

‘It’s so nice to see so many faces.  Good evening,’ he drawled, resplendent in his pressed business suit and neatly coiffured platinum blonde hair. His handsome features creased into a scowl behind the microphone as he began.

‘One thing I have to ask. Is it loud enough for you?’ The question was asked as a shrieking exclamation delivered in his baritone voice.

Thus commenced ‘Philosopher’s Stone’s’ first night at Dante’s. The set began with the stage being bathed in a lunar blue light which seemed to cool the feverish and smoke filled club.  Jacen began with a droning yet staccato series of electronically processed chords.  Then he began a simple Latin chant.

Ignit natura renovatur integra.’

Brad initialised a short series of pre-programmed samples as he also began an improvised synth fugue.  Tobias did his part in the proceedings by commencing a shamanic drum beat interspersed by a mighty gong strike.  Later, he would try out his set of Tibetan singing bowls.

Tobias was rude and often painfully surly in his interpersonal dealings.  On stage, his peculiar brand of magic was expressed in his percussion. Brad and Jacen, however, manifested total sublimity – something that pleased Brad no end.

Look at me.

I opened a door I cannot close.

I feel strange winds. The path I chose

This, but an introduction, no more.

Walk into here, open your door.

This is an introduction…

 

Brad sang one of his own songs that first night as well.

What dream has come

Where time has gone?

Stunned, unsummoned and still

Again, I tried to lift up my eyes

And not shield them from the sun,

Again…

*

A fetching and somewhat muscular young woman in an overly decorated bomber jacket turned to speak to her companion.

‘Professor!’ She had to shout over Dante’s PA system as the band played through a delirious second night. ‘Can I get a drink?’

‘Ace, I didn’t procure your ID so you could “catch a buzz”, or whatever you’d call it! Keep a clear head, please.’

Ace glowered at the Doctor.  A thought came unbidden to her of chucking a bar ashtray at him.  It would serve him right just to knock his silly hat off his head.  The Doctor had been so maudlin recently, ever since giving that little bit of life force away to his past self.

‘What are we looking out for, anyway?’ she asked. ‘I thought we were tracking the Master.’  She looked around at the dancing crowd.  ‘I don’t think this is his scene, Professor,’ she pointed out with a smirk.

The Doctor passed Ace a napkin with something scribbled on it.  Two names stood out in the message, whatever it had been.

Brad DeMars and Jacen J. Lewis.

‘What’s this, then?’

‘I’ve no idea. I found it a few hours ago before we got on that Tri-Met bus. It’s coated in temporal residue.’

‘But who are they?’ Ace had to shout again over the chorus of electronic damnation. The Doctor simply pointed at the stage in reply to Ace’s question.  The one with the dark hair caught Ace’s eye. A corner of her mouth twitched into a half-smile. That familiar feeling went through her body again. He was cute. It had been such a long time since she…

‘Can we meet them later, Professor? After the show maybe?’

‘That’s what the intention is.  Not that I really enjoy this sort of music, Ace.’ The Doctor’s tone was that of one discussing a particularly messy surgery. ‘It reminds of me a Ninhana symphony orchestra.  It’s like an incompetent dentist attacking a cavity with a rusty nail,’ he added while gritting his teeth.

*

The ambulance arrived at half past two in the morning. The stressed out bar staff had been looking forward to going home for drinks and bed.  But Jacen had ‘collapsed’ while descending the stage steps.

‘I just tripped, man!’ Jacen screamed at a paramedic.  ‘No! I don’t have any damned insurance! Let me be!’

*

In the narrow alley behind Dante’s, a pool of turgid shadows formed in defiance of the nearby streetlight’s attempt to stand sentry against such things.

‘Tock tock tick,’ said one Dommervoy to its featureless mates.  In unison they softly clapped their stiff semblances of hands together and disappeared back into that portable umbra of theirs.  A solitary thread of violet tinged blackness congealed into the receding anomaly.

A homeless man, who happened to be crouching behind the dumpster, simultaneously went blind.

*

‘What the hell was that?’

The Doctor narrowed his grey eyes, and stepped gingerly into the alley, holding a hand out before him. ‘Temporal disturbance of some kind.’

‘And those puppet things?’ Ace asked.

‘I’m not sure,’ the Doctor growled, pulling his hand back sharply, as if stung. He sucked his fingers, and said around them; ‘thhs pase ss ahive wff tempul ennery.’

‘Come again, Professor?’

The Doctor removed his fingers. ‘This place is alive with temporal energy. Those things must feed off it.’

‘Are they following the Master, too, then?’

‘I have no idea, Ace! Will you stop asking all these questions!’

Ace stepped back in shock. She hadn’t heard him sound so angry since the army barracks in 1941. ‘Sorry!’ she snapped back, and noticed the homeless man stumble from behind the dumpster at the other end of the alley. She pushed past the Doctor. ‘I’m going to help that poor sod over there,’ she said and made her way to the blind tramp.

The Doctor watched her, and raised the handle of his umbrella to his lips. ‘Bradley DeMars, he’s at the epicentre. We musn’t get too close to him again.’ He turned from the alley and called back. ‘Come on, Ace, we need to find the Master another way.’

*

‘I can’t believe this… sea-change,’ groaned Jacen, sprawled on his studio day-bed.

His head had been shaved by the neurosurgeon’s nurse. He wore an eye patch since he’d lost muscular control over his left eye. During the past four months, he had suffered from several more seizures. An MRI scan revealed that a tumour the size of a golf ball was resting on his brain. Subsequently, Jacen endured radiation therapy and ultimately surgery to excise most of the growth.

Brad’s mouth was painfully dry.  He had to say what was on his mind.

‘I just want you to know that I love you. You’ve been my greatest friend and collaborator.’ A bead of sweat trickled behind his ear as he spoke.

‘I know, Bradley Boy. I know. Sorry I can’t return it. Shit, I had enough of a time dealing with Jessene before she went to rehab.  God! You need to give it up.  I hate to see you so frustrated and pissed all the time, man.’

They locked eyes and Brad took Jacen’s weak hand in his own.

Brad knew exactly what Jacen was referring to. The love he held for Jacen was so much more than platonic, sometimes it hurt, and sometimes it lifted him above the clouds.  But most of the time it just hurt ‘cause Brad knew that he could never have Jacen, but at the same time he didn’t want anybody else, either… it was a tough path Brad walked down.

‘It’ll be all right. You’ll be back to your old self soon. Look…’ Brad stopped speaking and took a deep breath in a concerted effort to slow his heart down a little. ‘I have to go before I break down again.’

His chest began to heave as the tears came.  Jacen tousled his hair and rested his good hand on Brad’s shoulder and said; ‘Remember, Requiem; Ignit natura renovatur integra.  The whole of nature is regenerated by fire.’

*

Almost two months later, in the TARDIS, Brad opened his eyes.  Regenerated? Yes! He had it…

*

The Doctor looked up from the console just as the inner door flew open and Brad entered the console room. He couldn’t help but notice that Brad had been crying.

‘Doc, I need your help. I have an idea about how to save Jacen.’

The Doctor was, not for the first time today, quite puzzled.  ‘Jacen? And just who is Jacen, Bradley?’

Next Time

‘You think I’m crazy, don’t you?’

Before Doctor Langton could respond, the young man appeared to slip rapidly back into quite floridly psychotic speech.

‘They’ve probably got the Doctor already. I’ve got to do something and I can’t afford to go to sleep. Do that and they’ve got me.’ He looked up abruptly. ‘You must have some kind of one-shot system stimulant?’

Doctor Langton could only shake his head by way of reply.  He wondered what age the man was. Early to mid twenties? It was a sad case. ‘I can see you’re under considerable stress,’ Doctor Langton heard himself say eventually.

‘Oh go on, say it,’ muttered the man in a dejected tone.

‘Say what?’ wondered the doctor.

‘I’m mad,’ said the man, running a hand through his black hair. ‘I am, you know.’ And he smiled, a little unnervingly. ‘If I understand it right, I go to sleep now and the whole of reality buys the farm. Me too, come to think of it,’ he finished a little disconsolately. ‘Oh well.’ He held out his hand, which Doctor Langton took a little uncertainly. ‘It’s been fun. Have a nice life.’ With that, he turned on his heel and was gone.

‘Yes, well…’ Doctor Langton continued to lean against the wall for a moment, regaining his composure.  Eventually he sat down and pressed the intercom on his desk. ‘Jean, could you come in here a minute?’

A few seconds later his secretary, Jean Brooker, entered the room, smiling enquiringly.

‘Is everything all right, Ian? We could hear raised voices in reception.’ She lowered her voice confidentially. ‘He left in ever such a hurry you know.’

‘That’ll be reality running out,’ said Ian Langton, nodding sagely to himself.

‘Oh.’ Jean looked flummoxed.

‘I’m sorry, Jean.’ He rubbed his eyes tiredly, aware he still had another six patients to see. ‘Chap was definitely a few cards short of a full deck.  I need to put a call through to social services before I see anyone else. What was his name again?’

‘DeMars,’ said Jean with a frown. ‘American I think. He didn’t give a first name.’

‘Okay, thanks, Jean.’

‘No problem.’

As he began to dial, Ian Langton smiled wryly to himself. He’d only agreed to see the chap as a favour; he wasn’t even on the books.  Ah well, no peace for the wicked.  He stared out into the reception area.

*

Unseen by Doctor Langton, Jean Brooker or the bored patients in reception, a needle limbed creature hung upside down from the reception’s wall mounted clock by its feet.  Button eyes stared as it mouthed a soundless ‘Tick’ then ‘Tock’ in an absurd call and response.  Swinging serenely to and fro, a malignant pendulum, it grinned a rictus grin.

To Be Continued… Sat 6th November

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
Three Night Engagement © 2001, 2010 by Christoph Lopez,
Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.

 

Advertisements

Writers’ Wednesday #4: Learning to Self-Promote

After the accidental lack of post last Wednesday, we’re back with a special guest blog by Sam Stone.

Sam Stone is the winner of the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel 2007 with Foreword Magazine and British Fantasy Society Award Nominee for Best Novel for ‘Futile Flame’, she has just had the third book in her Vampire Gene trilogy published by Murky Depths, and has several other projects on the horizon. She’s here today to talk about publicising your work, and offering a few helpful hints for both new and old writers on the dos and don’ts of social networking.

Learning to Self-Promote: A Writer’s Journey

This week I deleted my MySpace account. Myspace was my first dabble with social networking, and despite having over 12,000 views, I just didn’t think it worked for me anymore. Facebook has taken over as my preferred social network, but I also have GoodReads and my blog, and between them these seem to cover all the bases.   But why social networking? I’m a writer … and writers write. Indeed, lot of people think that when you’ve written a book, the hard part is over. To some extent that’s true, but these days a writer is almost obliged to promote the book that they’ve been slaving over. Your responsibility begins in earnest on completion, but really you need to start telling people before you finish. How to do that, of course, is the million dollar question. Promoting is hard. You have to be confident without appearing arrogant and getting the balance right between promotion and spamming can be difficult. I’m never sure if I have it quite right, so I always lean towards ‘less is more’ because I’ve seen so many people go completely over the top with it. However I do have a sort of formula which seems to work for me.

Some Social Networking Dos and Don’ts

What not to do …

  • One of my pet hates is people leaving adverts on my Facebook page. I never do that. I think it’s rude and disrespectful. Often I’ve had new people come onto my page and immediately post a link telling me all about their book and how wonderful they are without even saying ‘hello’. That is a big no-no.
  • Another faux pas is posting your website in every single comment you leave. Or even a full blown advert for your latest book. Okay! We get it: you’re a writer too – but please don’t do that because it won’t win you any friends or new readers – it will just annoy them.
  • Don’t harp on all the time about how wonderful you are.
  • Don’t stalk other people’s pages and then just talk about yourself all the time on them – engage in conversations, you might just enjoy yourself and make some real friends.
  • When sending out events – don’t keep resending the same one. If friends have refused once you won’t make them say they are attending by re-inviting, but you might encourage them to delete you for spamming.
  • Spam emails/private messages – OMG! You wouldn’t believe how many of these I get. Just this morning I received the same PM on Facebook three times! Don’t resort to it. It doesn’t work. Event invites are enough, if people don’t respond then leave them alone.
  • Never respond to a bad review on a public forum. You only make yourself look an idiot and people think you’re unprofessional. If you don’t like the review – suck it up. The reviewer is entitled to their opinion and you can’t please everyone so just get over yourself.
  • Never talk politics or religion – everyone has their own beliefs in this area and it won’t make you friends but is likely to lose you some.
  • Don’t be snide about other people online – even if their status is the most annoying self-obsessed bullshit you’ve ever seen. It doesn’t look good and only makes people think you’re unpleasant and bitchy.
  • Never review a friend’s books in public unless you have a lot of positive things to say about them. You should be objective and balanced in your argument if you plan to review anyway, but if you didn’t like their work – it’s always best to stay quiet about it.
  • On the same basis, never ask your friends what they think of your own work. You might get some vague platitudes, but equally you might find out what they really thought … If they liked it, then it’s up to them whether they post about it or not.

What works for me …

There’s no formula for perfect promotion but what I find works for me is just being myself with everyone. What you see is what you get. I also really enjoy interacting with people on Facebook … you could say I’m a little addicted J

  • Mix up status updates with a combination of personal things and work related things even on your official or fan page if you have one.
  • Be cheerful as often as possible, because, let’s face it, if you’re constantly feeling sorry for yourself then people will get fed up with it and stop listening. Also, when you do have a rant they are more likely to listen because you don’t do it all the time.
  • Respond to comments that your friends leave, even if you put a ‘like’ on it. Be interested in other people and what they are doing – it’s not all about you after all.
  • Respond to your friend’s updates and statuses if you expect them to engage in yours. Be supportive of other people and genuinely mean it.
  • Reply to private messages – even if they are from some guy in Turkey asking you to marry him. You can still be polite when you tell him to ‘get lost’.
  • Definitely advertise your achievements. There’s nothing wrong with telling your friends you’re up for awards or have been invited to attend a convention as a guest. That’s all good and positive and it helps to raise your profile with others. It shows that your work is valued in the wider community.
  • If you are up for awards that are voted on, then remind people – but don’t beg them to vote for you, it sounds desperate. If they want to support you then they will.
  • Pat other people on the back if they win and you don’t – it’s only an award and it’s not the end of the world. Be positive about being shortlisted – because hey – that’s a huge achievement anyway!
  • When sending out invitations to events it helps if you write a covering note. Mostly I apologise for sending just in case it is not wanted or they live too far away. It doesn’t hurt to be polite and aware that not everyone is interested.
  • Be positive and upbeat. That’s the biggest and most important of my rules.

Blog like crazy!

There’s also blogging. Mine is getting close to 9000 hits now overall and averages 6-700 hits a month. One thing you should do if you have a blog is keep an eye on your stats. I have a stats counter that analyses the hits. At the click of a button I can see the IP addresses of everyone who logs on and it shows me where they are from (it’s not full names and addresses, only areas or countries). It also reveals how they found the site – even showing you the Google pathway that led them to the page. This kind of information is useful to help you analyse your tagging process. Tagging is a great resource and helps people find you by accident. It helps if you think ‘out of the box’ when selecting tags for the main page – and always tag the individual blogs.

Other results that I look at are ‘returning visitors’. At the end of the day you could be doing something wrong if your website or blog is getting a very low return rate. If you are posting interesting blogs or the type of information that the reader wants to see then there should be good returns results.

There has to be a balance between attracting new readers and keeping old ones. I’m no expert on this of course, but I try to mix up the information as much as possible. Sometimes I blog on a film I’ve seen. At other times I write about the publishing industry, exploring things that I believe might interest aspiring writers. Then, of course, I post all of my news or latest events.

It’s important to keep the blog updated, whatever you decide to put on it. Just think about it. How many times have you gone onto your favourite writer’s website and found that it hasn’t changed in six months? Eventually you stop looking for that information, after all, what’s the point in returning if there’s nothing new to find? So it’s a good thing to bear in mind when maintaining your blog or website. I try to put something up every few days – and I’ve seen an increase in hits recently so hopefully it’s working.

Conventions

Promoting takes up a lot of your time. Once you’ve sorted out your social networking sites and blogs, and got them linked up so that posts to the blog also appear on Facebook or wherever, then you’ve got to get out there and meet people. That’s where conventions come in. This is where the real time and money goes.

In order to meet the right publishers and maybe even interest more readers you have to be seen. There are several horror and fantasy conventions that are good for promotion. My personal favourite is FantasyCon, but this isn’t always the best event for actually selling books; although I have seen a huge increase in sales there over the last three years which I hope is down to the fact that word is getting out about my work. If you’re a new writer, or self-published, then don’t expect to do well here on sales as there’s only 200-300 people attending each year. The event does attract, however, a good selection of publishers and agents, and is crammed with writers, poets and editors from the self-published, to indie-press to pro-press.

There is also EasterCon, which is a huge event. It has about 12-1300 people attending every year. It is an excellent event to get involved with. The EasterCon organisers are very open to new people being panellists. My first EasterCon I was given 6 panels over the course of the weekend. Panels are good things for writers. It’s an opportunity to talk intelligently in front of an audience. A good moderator will know who you are and will introduce you properly, explaining what you write or will give you the opportunity to do so yourself. It’s also a very good selling event. I’ve seen the most unlikely books sell at EasterCon and I think that is because there are more fans attending, whereas some of the smaller cons attract mostly writers, publishers and agents, who are less likely to actually buy your books. Also there is no snobbery at EasterCon. ALL writers can become involved at the mass signing events. So whether you are published by one of the majors or by a small independent press, you’ll be treated the same.

I’ve recently discovered Asylum –a steampunk convention which takes place in Lincoln. I was invited as a guest this year only to learn that the event attracts over 800 people. The organisation was fabulous and I was treated wonderfully. I’m pleased to have been invited back next year and I’m hoping to get more involved in the panels. This isn’t necessarily the place you’d go to if you want to meet publishers and agents – but it’s a great selling event and is full of potential readers. It’s also growing in size and has become the second biggest UK convention in just two years. It may even take that crown from EasterCon next year.

Smaller more intimate events are NewCon (a whole weekend held every two years) and Alt-Fiction which usually only runs for a day. There are more but I will be honest and say I haven’t attended them.

Outside of the UK –  I also attend the annual Gallifrey convention in LA. My partner, the Doctor Who historian and writer, and director of Telos Publishing, David J Howe, and I are invited as guests and guest status makes all of the difference. We are extremely well treated by the organisers and attendees and sales are incredible. There are also great panel opportunities, and a very diverse selection of attending guests, not only from Doctor Who but from film and literature also.

We diversified this year and I also attended the Bram Stoker Film Festival in Whitby. Footfall was less than I expected throughout the day, but I did sell some books and also met some great people. What was interesting in this situation was that there were film producers there because they were showing their latest movies. So, there may well be some opportunities that will come from attending this event.

That’s where the time and money element of promotion comes in. Attending conventions is expensive and while you’re away from home you aren’t writing – but if you’re smart, you will be working, smiling at people, chatting, and hoping that they remember your name enough to Google you later on and maybe buy a book to find out what you do.

Promotion is important, and you have to keep plugging away at it … but just remember, not too much!

Text © 2010 Sam Stone
Author Photograph © 2010 Sam Stone
Covers © 2010 Murky Depths, All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Legacy#5; Once Upon A Memory

Previously on Legacy; Reality Bomb

The haunting melody echoed throughout the corridors of the time ship.

*

In the console room the Doctor sat to one side of the console, the steady hum of the TARDIS engines keeping a continuous rhythm with the steady rise and fall of the time rotor. He was sitting in his shirt sleeves, legs crossed, a deck of cards laid out in a tableau before him. He was playing Accordion Solitaire and making good time with it, pondering the oddness of his recent trip to Ossobos.  He still couldn’t work out why he had taken Brad there, but he was sure it was something a little more important than to sample the local amenities. The music wafting through the room, however, continued to distract him from both his cogitations and his game.

Music was not a common occurrence in the TARDIS, and certainly not something she tended to play through the communication circuits, but then his ship had been acting oddly in many ways recently. Not unlike the universe itself, come to think of it.

Still, he had to admit, it was a lovely tune.  Made him feel all thoughtful and relaxed inside. Mellow. Reminding him of times past, and friends lost.

He got up and walked over to the console. ‘Well, old girl, where did you get this tune from?’

In answer the scanner screen activated. It was an internal image that showed Brad in his room, sitting on the bed, wearing the kilt he’d become so found of, playing his keyboard.

The Doctor smiled.  ‘Ah, Bradley.’

He left the scanner on, and turned up the volume, then returned to his card game, mindful of his own thoughts.

*

Brad closed his eyes, and let the music surge through him.  It was like a journey through time, the melody carrying him right back to the day he and Jacen had first composed the tune.

… Brad finishes playing the overture, and looks up at Jacen, who is sitting opposite. ‘What do you think?’

Jacen opens his eyes and nods. ‘Sweet, man, yeah.’ He takes a puff of the joint.  ‘What you calling it?’

‘Not sure yet, but I was kind of thinking Requiem. There’s something haunting about it.’

‘The repose of the souls of the dead.’

‘Dude, that’s pretty sound.  Where did you get that?’

‘Catholic upbringing, man. A requiem is a mass for the repose of the souls of the dead.’

Brad nods knowingly, not that he has ever been a church goer.  ‘That’s perfect,’ he says, accepting the joint off Jacen and taking a deep drag of it.

Jacen reaches down and picks up the bass guitar. ‘Play it again, man.’

Brad does so.  And while he does, he never once takes his eyes off Jacen.

Jacen closes his eyes and starts swaying his head to the tune.  He strums the bass then lets the music take over.  Within moments they are both playing in unison.  As the key changes they both adapt, taking the tune to the next level. They do not need words, nor do they need eye contact.  Making music together is a deeply spiritual thing for both of them.

For Jacen it is a sign of total unity of friendship, but for Brad it is a time of intense love. He knows that he can never have Jacen, so the union through making music is the nearest thing he ever gets to truly being one with Jacen, and Brad knows it will have to be enough.

With his eyes closed Brad continued to play, remembering the good times.

*

The card game was forgotten by the Doctor who now sat there with his eyes closed.  He was remembering something important, only he didn’t know where it’d had come from.

… ‘This ends now.’

The small man steps out of the trees, and approaches the scene.  One soldier lays in the grass, unconscious, a second stands nearby, pistol pointing at a man who is kneeling by the unconscious body of a fourth man.

The Doctor recognises this lanky man; it his him, in his third body, a scar on his head from where the soldier’s bullet had grazed his skull.  There is much blood over his chest, spreading across the useless hospital gown. He doesn’t think the soldier did that; rather it was the man kneeling next to him, holding the rifle. There is something distinctly familiar about that man.  Not his form, for the Doctor is certain he has never seen the man before. Time Lords have a way of recognising each other no matter the incarnation, and this one is known to him.

His old friend Koschei.  Only he seems so dark now; eyes as yellow as a cat’s, sharp canines dripping with blood. What had happened to him since the Doctor last saw him?

Koschei looks up; hatred for the Doctor dripping from his pores.  ‘No,’ he growls, ‘it ends when I say so. I told you, Doctor, I now have the power to kill you.’

‘You think you control that power?’ the Doctor’s diminutive future self asks.  ‘No, that power has you. You’re becoming an animal.’

Koschei licks the blood off his teeth, and smiles.  ‘Yes, an animal that has killed you,’ he says.

The Doctor’s eyes snapped open.

Things were becoming clear now. That version of Koschei was from his future, the same future that had brought the other Doctor to him. But why? What had happened to twist Koschei in such a way that he’d travel back along his own time stream to kill the Doctor?

Koschei had always been a slightly off-kilter character, never quite playing with a full deck, the Doctor thought to himself ruefully, glancing at the cards on the floor.  Even his nickname, Koschei, was a hint to his less than noble principles.  Koschei was a man from Slavic mythology, often called Koschei the Deathless, an evil person who menaced young women.  It was the name his classmates had chosen for him during the early days of the Academy, and he’d happily taken it on as his real name after graduating, a final insult to his noble family who represented everything Koschei hated about Gallifreyan society.  Although the Doctor had agreed with much of what Koschei said, he at least held to some of the strictures of Gallifreyan law. Throughout their time at the Academy they became fast friends, drawn to each other by their inherently rebellious natures.

Until the war planet.

It was his reunion with Koschei there that precipitated the events leading to the Doctor’s forced second regeneration and exile by the Time Lords. Koschei had allied himself with an alien race intent on creating the strongest army ever, by kidnapping people from various Earth wars, watching them fight until only the strongest survived. Koschei had been the alien’s war chief, giving them time travel technology so they could kidnap and brainwash the humans. It was a despicable plan, one the Doctor had to stop, even if it meant betraying Koschei in the process. The last the Doctor had heard, Koschei had been gunned down by the aliens, presumably dead. But no, it seemed he had regenerated and escaped. Surely that was not enough to bring this thirst for the Doctor’s death? He felt sure that somehow this other Doctor was several regenerations ahead; so much time had passed. But how much time? Did it matter?

The Doctor needed to know.

The Doctor let himself relax and sink into the music.  His future had touched his present, and somewhere in his memories was the information he needed.

*

He was no longer aware of his hands moving across the keys.  It was pure instinct.  The music continued, and Brad found himself standing beside Jacen’s grave.

… The wind blows his hair into his eyes as he stands there all alone.  The sexton has just left, having covered the hole with dirt and mud.  Brad shakes his head, at his own inability to face the facts.  Hole, indeed.  Why he could he not just admit it? It was not a hole it was a –

He looks up, hearing the music. Requiem, the final piece played by the band, and the one tune Brad had so wanted to play while they lowered Jacen Lewis into the ground.

It is a sad touch of irony, that they had composed such a moving tune only a week before their last gig, just before Jacen’s ‘accident’.

Again Brad scolds himself.  Such pointless words; hole and accident.  In his mind he can hear Jacen singing the last words of Requiem, like it is some kind of coda of his own life.

We all choose our time to go.

And none went as well as I,

Eternity open up for me.

He kneels down and places a hand on the dirt. A tear lands, muddying the dirt between his fingers, and he squeezes his eyes shut.  ‘Goodbye, Boo,’ he says, using his private name for Jacen, a name that even Jacen never knew.

He swallows hard, stands and turns away from Jacen one final time.  He takes his first step on the long journey to his destiny…

A month later and once again a single tear fell from Brad’s eye, this time hitting the ersatz-ivory key between his fingers.

*

The Doctor opened his eyes as soon as the music ceased. He frowned.

The little insight gave him some clues.  The future Doctor had saved him, stopped the future Koschei from killing him. It had brought on regeneration, but he had lived nonetheless.  His future had wanted something of him, but the what still escaped him.  The Doctor shook his head; it didn’t matter now.  All he knew for sure was that he had to find that dark twisted future version of his old friend.

He got up and walked over to the console.  Since the TARDIS seemed to like that tune so much the chances were that she had made a copy of it. The Doctor accessed the TARDIS’s memory and sure enough there it was.

He put the tune back on and closed his eyes.  He would find his old friend somehow.

Next Time…


In the narrow alley behind Dante’s, a pool of turgid shadows formed in defiance of the nearby streetlight’s attempt to stand sentry against such things.

‘Tock tock tick,’ said one Dommervoy to its featureless mates.  In unison they softly clapped their stiff semblances of hands together and disappeared back into that portable umbra of theirs.  A solitary thread of violet tinged blackness congealed into the receding anomaly.

A homeless man, who happened to be crouching behind the dumpster, simultaneously went blind.

*

‘What the hell was that?’

The Doctor narrowed his grey eyes, and stepped gingerly into the alley, holding a hand out before him. ‘Temporal disturbance of some kind.’

‘And those puppet things?’ Ace asked.

‘I’m not sure,’ the Doctor growled, pulling his hand back sharply, as if stung. He sucked his fingers, and said around them; ‘thhs pase ss ahive wff tempul ennery.’

‘Come again, Professor?’

The Doctor removed his fingers. ‘This place is alive with temporal energy. Those things must feed off it.’

‘Are they following the Master, too, then?’

To Be Continued… Saturday 30th October

 

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
Once Upon A Memory © 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen,
Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.

 

Writers’ Wednesday Apology

Hey, to all those who popped by yesterday to read the latest guest blog, big apologies for the lack of post. Guest blogger, Sam Stone, has been incredibly rushed off her feet recently what with attending conventions, signings, and radio interviews, and I, too, have been rather busy with Legacy work, work work, and various other things. Therefore, Sam will be popping by next Wednesday instead – which suits the horror mistress perfectly, it being Hallowe’en week!

Magrs on Paddytum

As everyone knows I have been pushing this book an awful lot over the last month or so, and now top author, Paul Magrs, has added his voice to the extraordinary appeal of Paddytum.

So, everyone, pop over to Paul’s blog and have a butcher’s. Then pop to Hirst and pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed.

Legacy #4: Reality Bomb

Previously on The Legacy; In The Blood


‘Brad?’

‘I feel,’ said Brad, with careful emphasis, ‘sick.’

‘Sick? Sick! Nonsense!’ The Doctor spread his arms wide and laughed a life affirming laugh.  He knelt beside Brad on the floor of the lift as it continued its rapid ascent.

Brad was sure he had left his stomach several floors below.  If the Doctor was not careful he was going to find the contents of Brad’s stomach all over him.

‘Probably still acclimatising,’ said the Doctor, clambering back to his feet.  He reached out a great paw of a hand.  Weakly Brad took it. ‘You see?’ The Doctor’s grin sparkled.  ‘Feeling better already eh?’

Fighting the giddy surge of nausea threatening to poleaxe him, Brad attempted to take in their surroundings. Not a good move. They were blurring past at a rate of about two hundred feet a second. The rapid ascent, the unusual gravity and a hefty tankard of Ossoban Soul Killer were putting a whole new perspective on drowning your sorrows.

Abruptly the lift halted.  Brad leaned back against the smoked glass, fighting the urge to retch. ‘So what are we here for again?’

The Doctor was off ahead of him and he had to run to catch up. ‘Professor Sixela Capricornn,’ came the reply. The Doctor disappeared round a glaringly antiseptic corner.

Brad paused, shaking his head.  The air was sterile and mint fresh and seemed to be taking the edge off his nausea.

‘The antitoxicant filtration works best if you remain still, sir,’ piped a high pitched voice from behind him.  Turning, Brad saw a blue skinned octopus headed creature in official uniform.  Its one eye blinked hugely at him.

‘Uh, thanks for the information,’ said Brad cautiously.  Was he in some kind of trouble here?

‘Information dissemination is my duty, sir,’ returned the creature primly and moved lightly away.  Brad stared.  Its lower half tapered to a point like an ice cream cone and seemed to be hovering a few inches above the floor.

‘Brad!’ boomed a distant voice.

‘Coming,’ said Brad and realised with a shock that his nausea had completely vanished.  He stared at an illuminated sign on the far side of the plaza: LEVEL 337 – RESEARCH & PSIONICS – AUTODETOX ZONE

‘Great,’ he said, spying the Doctor in the distance.  ‘Don’t go getting totalitarian on me will you?’ There had to be a shop where he could buy an ‘I Love the Future’ badge.  With resignation he saw the Doctor was waiting for him by another of the streamlined lifts.  This was not good.  Sober, the prospect just filled him with alarm.

The Doctor was looking at himself in profile in the mirrored panel to one side of the lift.

‘Doctor?’ ventured Brad.

‘This beard…’ The Doctor wheeled around and faced him seriously.  ‘What do you think?’

‘It’s a good one,’ said Brad, wondering if this was going anywhere. Something small and silver flashed past overhead at high speed.  Brad stared after it.

‘Carrier chip,’ murmured the Doctor distractedly. He laughed. ‘Excellent, excellent, I thought as much myself but a second opinion is always valuable.’

‘Glad to be of service,’ said Brad with a smile so unsure of itself it threatened to walk off the other side of his face.

The Doctor guffawed with alarming good humour and clapped him about the shoulders. ‘Like the hair,’ he confided with a glance at Brad’s red bangs, ‘it’s very you.’  He stabbed at a button and the lift doors slid silently open. ‘Shall we?’

*

After three more upward journeys, they reached their destination: LEVEL 2876 – ADVANCED DIVINATION – AUTODETOX & AUTOSEC ZONE

‘This is where we’ll find her,’ breezed the Doctor.  ‘One of the finest minds of her or any era, present company included.’

Brad sighed.

They were in a functional grey corridor, lit imperceptibly from overhead. The Doctor set off to the right with the air of one who knew where he was going. They passed a reception area with another of the octopus creatures in clerical uniform.

‘Good afternoon,’ blasted the Doctor and walked straight past.  With an apologetic smile Brad hurried after him.

A good half hour later they were back at the reception desk and Brad had seen enough grey corridors to last a lifetime.  True, they were futuristic grey corridors but that really was not cutting much mustard with him.

‘Infallible sense of direction?’ asked Brad with a pained look.

‘Exception that proves the rule.’ The Doctor ignored him and beamed at the receptionist.

‘Don’t tell me,’ said Brad. ‘Information dissemination is your duty, right?’

‘That is correct, sir.  I would remind you that, were you to ask me my function, I would be unable to withhold that information under the statutory protocols.’

‘Right,’ said Brad slowly.  ‘Nice.’

‘Professor Sixela Capricornn?’ interjected the Doctor before the conversation could take a further down turn.

‘The professor is currently lecturing in the holo-suite, she will be free at the forty seventh segment,’ said the creature.  Its one eye blinked slowly and changed colour to a shimmering opaque blue.  The image of a similar creature in some kind of high tech lecture hall appeared.

‘Thank you very much,’ said the Doctor. ‘We’ll follow the signs for the holo-suite.’ He glanced at his wrist as they moved off, which showed the notable absence of a watch.  ‘Segment forty seven, which gives us, ooh, two and a half segments to spare.  Fancy taking in some more corridors?’

Brad was not listening.  ‘Who are these TV set tentacle heads?’

‘Fourth Ossoban Republic.  I told you that when we arrived,’ chided the Doctor.

‘Sorry, it slipped my mind,’ said Brad.  While the Doctor had set about ascertaining the location of the Data Tower he had had his Soul Killer moment in one of the lower level IntoxiKafs.  And had promptly forgotten where and nearly who he was for a good two hours.  Or was that segments?

Brad sighed again.

*

‘Here we are!’ The Doctor’s enthusiasm was palpable.  They had arrived outside a set of silvered double doors.  A small wall mounted screen showed a gowned Ossoban lecturing to a good four hundred plus students. ‘This is the one person, the one person,’ the Doctor pummelled the air with his fist for emphasis, ‘who might be able to help us. Temporal anomalies are her speciality!’

‘As in Portland disappearing into the wild blue yonder?’ said Brad.

‘You think that’s where it went?’ The Doctor considered.  ‘Dangerous place the Yonder, especially in the blue phase.  No, I can’t agree.  It doesn’t even exist within linear time.’

Brad wondered whether to slap the Doctor or himself.  He had come down in favour of the latter when he noticed the Doctor heading for the doors.

‘Hey, what are you doing?’ He caught the Doctor by the arm.

‘Might as well sit in,’ said the Doctor.  ‘I think she’s doing singular occlusion in fringe timelines.’ He grinned.  ‘I’ll meet you out here?’

‘Good call,’ acknowledged Brad.

The Doctor vanished inside the hall with a pneumatic hiss of air.  Brad watched the Doctor on the wall screen, as he found his seat, and then he set himself down on one of the low couches opposite.  He glanced idly up and down the corridor.  Away to the right the corridor turned a corner by another, internal, lift.  To the left were a number of alcoves.  The corridor itself disappeared into imperceptible distance.  For want of something better to do, Brad wandered up to the first of the alcoves.  He stared in amazement.

Turning slowly in a beam of turquoise light was the most beautiful, well… He did not know what to call it.  It looked like some perfect hybrid of guitar and synthesiser, fashioned from ebony black and silver.  Four crystalline strings ran the length of the instrument, from body to elegantly fluted neck.  The neck was interesting because there did not appear to be any keys for the ‘strings’.  It simply tapered to a sleek crystalline sphere which seemed to glow with an inner luminescence.

Brad looked up and down the corridor.  It was no good.  He could not resist.  Tentatively he plucked at one of the ‘strings’.  He jerked his hand back as a sharp electric shock ran up his arm.

‘Ow!’

Damn thing must be security tagged in some way.  Not surprising, it was a pricey looking item.

‘Do you wish communion with the host?’

Brad looked about himself. ‘Who said that?’

Maybe the Soul Killer had some kind of audio flashback effect.  With a start he realised the guitar synthesiser had drifted imperceptibly towards him.  ‘So you’re a speaking guitar, right?’

‘We are the Atrexian Host.  We are in communion with the Host world and existing here as a cultural exchange.  You wish for communion, yes? Mind meld can cause much pain to inferior species but is permissible nonetheless.’

‘No, no communion. It’s a mistake,’ said Brad. Under his breath he added: ‘I’m here as a cultural ambassador from planet cock-up.’

The guitar seemed to turn on its axis. ‘Please forgive this misunderstanding.’

‘The apologies are all mine.’

As cultural faux pas went, this one had been pretty hot.

*

Observing this exchange from the lift away to the right was a spindle limbed figure. It stared with night black eyes, letting a placard it carried swing idly from hand to hand.  To the left it read ‘Tick’, back to the right and it said; ‘Tock’.

The Dommervoy grinned a needle grin and snickered to itself.

*

Brad shivered as he made his way back to the couch. The lift doors at the turn of the corridor were sliding closed.  He had not seen anyone get in or out. There was movement on the wall scanner. The Ossoban holo-students were winking out of existence. The Doctor and Professor Capricornn emerged.

‘Professor, this is my good friend Bradley DeMars.’

‘Or just Brad,’ Brad suggested.  Having the Doctor calling him Bradley was one thing, but he didn’t want to be introduced as such.

‘Sorry to have kept you waiting so long,’ trilled the professor.

‘No problem,’ said Brad, a little uncertain. ‘It’s been no time.’

‘You are very gracious,’ said Professor Capricornn. ‘I overran terribly but it is rare to have such an esteemed guest.’

The Doctor attempted to look modest and failed.

*

‘So you see my problem, Professor,’ finished the Doctor.  He had been explaining how he had met Brad and something of subsequent and previous events as they sat around the professor’s hexagonal desk in her office.

The professor nodded imperceptibly, her one eye blinking.  ‘Where, or indeed when, to begin.’

‘Exactly!’ The Doctor was nodding furiously.

‘Of course,’ continued the professor, ‘the primary consideration must be the so called First Law of Time, plus a recognition of those who do not subscribe to the theory.’ She paused significantly. ‘In both principle and practice.’

Great, thought Brad.  That’s made everything really clear.  He stared distractedly out of the window, wondering why his teeth were itching.

*

Outside the window, an invisible paste white figure floated impossibly thousands of feet above the ground. It held twin balloons.  One said ‘Cause’, the other ‘Effect’.  The balloons burst soundlessly.

*

The Doctor was excitedly pacing the office.  He had already done three circuits of the table. ‘So what you’re saying is it’s a matter of narrowing the field of suspects.’ He paused. ‘Still leaves a pretty vast field.’ He patted his ample stomach.  ‘All this application has given me an appetite. Sixela?’ He looked expectantly at the professor.

‘I don’t think she’s listening,’ said Brad.

The Doctor stared. Professor Sixela Capricornn was clearly speaking but no sound was emerging.  She also appeared to be fading away before their eyes.

‘Oh good grief!’ The Doctor looked anguished.  He found he could pass a hand clean through the professor. ‘Reality bomb.  It must have been primed and waiting for the trigger… Some form of nexus point.’ He looked at Brad in horrified realisation. ‘Me, Brad, me! I’m the trigger!’

The effect was now spreading.  Table, walls and floor were fading out. Snaking lines of nothing ran into one another, widening the void.  Brad stumbled away from the table, or what remained of it. The professor had completely vanished. With mounting concern Brad noted the walls and corridor outside were vanishing as well.  He stumbled towards the window.

‘What the hell do we do?’ He was not sure if he sounded or felt more alarmed.

‘We don’t panic in the face of adversity,’ announced the Doctor passionately whilst also backing towards the window.  ‘We shall face this thing together, Bradley!’

‘That’s made all the difference,’ said Brad. He looked desperately about himself and noted a softly glowing panel on the wall by the window.  ‘What’s that?’

‘What?’

‘That!’

‘Oh, call panel for the external lift,’ said the Doctor blithely.

They stared at one another.

‘Try the lift?’ wondered Brad.

‘A superb choice! And perhaps the only one left to us.’ The Doctor gave his companion a thoughtful look.

Brad shook his head in disbelief, and leaned past the Doctor and hit the panel.

*

It had taken agonising seconds for the lift to arrive but arrive it did and they had tumbled inside, the Doctor hitting the descent button. There was no sign of the work of the reality bomb yet but Brad was not counting his chickens.

‘So what is a reality bomb exactly?’ he asked to pass the time.

‘Oh, terrible things,’ replied the Doctor. ‘Outlawed by all the major conventions. The field of effect can be cosmic or very localised. They level the playing field geographically and temporally. Once they’ve activated physically there’s a kind of mental wipe out for anyone within, but not physically destroyed by, the immediate zone of effect…’ He tailed off as the lift came to rest with a gentle bump.

‘What was I talking about?’ he asked with a frown.

‘Don’t know,’ said Brad, shrugging.  ‘Something about talking guitars… No.’ He winced. ‘I feel terrible.  I knew I shouldn’t have tried that Soul Killer stuff.’

‘Oh, you’ve tried the Soul Killer have you?’ The Doctor threw back his head and laughed a life affirming laugh.  ‘Come on, let’s get you back to the TARDIS.  You might want to sleep this one off in the Zero Room!’

The Doctor frowned again and shook his head.  ‘I can’t think what we’re doing on Ossobos for the lives of me…’

Next time…

Music was not a common occurrence in the TARDIS, and certainly not something she tended to play through the communication circuits, but then his ship had been acting oddly in many ways recently.  Not unlike the universe itself, come to think of it.

Still, he had to admit, it was a lovely tune.  Made him feel all thoughtful and relaxed inside.  Mellow.  Reminding him of times past, and friends lost.

He got up and walked over to the console.  ‘Well, old girl, where did you get this tune from?’

In answer the scanner screen activated.  It was an internal image that showed Brad in his room, sitting on the bed, wearing the kilt he’d become so found of, playing his keyboard.

The Doctor smiled.  ‘Ah, Bradley.’


To Be Continued… Saturday  23rd October

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
Reality Bomb © 2001, 2010 by Niall Turner,
The Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.

Writers’ Wednesday #3: Coming Out Special

National Coming Out Day. You know, I hadn’t even heard of such a thing until my guest blogger, author Bryl R Tyne, told me what he’d like to talk about. In the US National Coming Out Day was Monday (Oct 11th), and in the UK it was yesterday (Oct 12th), so it seems apt that this week I have a gay author talking about writing gay books in a world where being gay really is becoming less and less an issue…

 

On Writing Queer by Bryl R. Tyne

Am I coming out? Not hardly. I pried open my closet door in 1996, tippy-toed out and back in over the years, and finally, loud and proud in 2008, I came charging out Katy-bar-the-door style with the byline ‘An Author Defying Description’. I’m proudly using that same byline today.

Why so vague, you might ask.

Not to assume ambiguity, I assure you, but more to prove a number of points. The most relevant, my distaste for labels. Labels are the beginnings of many negativisms: stereotyping, bigotry, to name a couple, and take it from me, self-hatred. When there is no one word to describe you, no matter which label is chosen it never quite seems to fit. Suffice to say, I have been labeled by society, and at worst, labeled by those who claimed to love me.

But hey. There’ve been times when even I have labeled myself.

There will always be different aspects of me, or my life, that fit into someone’s neat and tidy boxes. If that makes you feel better, safer, less intimidated or more in control, so be it. I’m me; and I will not apologize for who I am nor try ever again to change into someone I am not. If you need boxes to help you make sense of your pithy-minded lives, that’s really no reflection on me now, is it?

What’s sad is the toll this kind of posturing takes on the individual, though. For those who don’t know me, I’ll tell you up front. I’m a tough one. I’ve lived through abuse, physical, mental, psychological, and sexual, and survived countless beatings, some to the point of unconsciousness. I may appear to be one of the seemingly few, but there are many others out there just like me. For that which we lack in strength, we compensate for in sheer stubborn will. Yet even the most determined of us are riddled with weaknesses.

I know I am, and my usual act of self-punishment is overindulgence. Sounds like nothing, but when the indulgence can take any form or vice, it can be rather scary, at times. Still, others feel they have no out, no release… no other choice but to give up. We’ve seen the increase in reports of teen suicides and the reported bullying that led to most of these recent incidents. Yet, I wonder how many more go under the radar or are simply near misses. It’s an atrocity some cannot accept others for their differences. Diversity really is a beautiful thing once you embrace it.

That leads to my reason for writing characters encompassing the Queer spectrum and penning them as the heroes and the heroines, winners and leaders, protagonists without apology or shame. I’ve always had an affinity for the downtrodden, the outcast, the ones who, no matter how ready or fit, never quite seem to ‘fit in’.

When I began writing again after a 28-year dry spell that is where my muse led me — to write stories about those people near and dear to me… and about myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, just because I champion underdogs does in no way insinuate that my winning characters are unbelievable. They are in fact extremely flawed. In the course of writing anything from literary fantasy fiction to erotic action/adventure romance, I’ve only touched on the gamut of characters I could write. I’ve written wholesome one-man Joes, and slutty Betties who’d drop to their knees at the first sign of temptation. I’ve even written about an angst-ridden teen on the ledge of the roof of a nineteen-story building.

Unlike the news stories though, in my fictional realms my characters, no matter how beaten down, are resilient. My characters don’t give in, up, or out — not entirely. They never die, pointlessly. No. In the end, my characters win.

Isn’t that the role of fiction, though? To help us escape into worlds where the norm is never really the norm? To allow us an occasional glimpse of an ideal world? In my mind, I’d like to believe that. Though most of my stories feature gritty, true-to-life scenarios, one cannot help but note that all of my stories share one common theme: HOPE.

With society on the crux of many changes and youth caught between those changes and the plethora of personal changes and issues each endures as he or she grows, I believe that hope is an important message to share with readers of LGBTQI fiction today.

I’ve been there, done that, and surprisingly, I survived. That is why this Queer writes Queer.

Bryl R. Tyne is a wrangler by nature and a writer by choice, published with Noble Romance Publishing, Ravenous Romance, Dreamspinner Press, STARbooks Press, Untreed Reads Publishing, Changeling Press, and coming Oct. 31st to Amber Allure with TOUGH GUY. You can find out more about Bryl at: bryltyne.com

Text © 2010 Bryl R. Tyne
All Covers are © their respective publishers, All Rights Reserved

 

Awakening the Critic

Paris Immortal: Awakenings by S. Roit; a review.

This is the second in a series, but for a little bit of context let me refer you to my short review for the first book, which I read around April this year.

“Recommended to me by my niece, knowing full well I’d love it. She was right. At first the prose style took a bit of getting used to, as well as the rather random-at-times scene breaks, but once beyond that… A lovely and sensual story of love, and vampires. There’s much going on in this book that is not immediately obvious, loads of undercurrents which become more and more clear as the book nears its end. The leads are all incredibly well written; sensual and sexual without being in your face. Michel and Gabriel’s relationship is always fascinating, as we are shown a piece at a time the complexity of their relationship. PK is almost as much of a mystery by story’s end as she is right at the start. And Geoff. Bless him, he has got to be simply the cutest character I’ve read about in a long long time. Roit does such a wonderful job with her choice descriptions that you honestly feel as if you’re watching everything along with Trey, the narrator. Curiously, I found Trey the least interesting of the leads, although along the way there are plenty of moments where you’re left tantalised by his past. There is still plenty more to uncover in these new tales of vampires, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.”

So enamoured by the first book was I, and having become cyber-buddies with the author since reading that first book, I not only bought the second but also the third. It took me a little longer to read Awakenings than I would have liked, mostly because there is much in this book that frustrates me. But first, let me set the good stuff on the table.

The book starts off well, straight into the hornet’s nest with Michel confronting Vicont – he who sent the vampires after Trey in the first book. There’s a nice bit of tension, and we are flung straight into Michel’s complex point of view, and thrown plenty of hints of the deeper mystery surrounding his relationship to Vicont. From there we return to Trey, and are soon into tiresome territory – but more on that shortly. The story surrounding Vicont is a very interesting one, and well layered throughout the book. It nicely plays into the other main plot thread, that of Trey’s uncovering of his past, a past that is intricately linked with that of Gabriel. Both have fantastic resolutions, and although the truth behind Vicont was not unexpected at all, Gabriel’s solution to his interest in Trey and Michel was such a clever thing that I honestly did not see it coming. Wonderfully twisted, and it will no doubt have some serious ramifications in next few books. Alas, I also saw Gabriel’s connection to Trey’s past a mile off, too, but still it’s a good a one and will definitely add further depth to the already deeply layered characters.

It’s a curious thing, but the greatest strengths of this book are also its biggest weaknesses. And that’s the characters. They are, as I’ve already said, deeply layered and always interesting. Each follow their own logic, and have their own motivations for what they do. But the downside is they’re all so in love with each other, always understanding of the next person’s foibles, and constantly forgiving. As a reader it becomes extremely cloying to read after about fifty pages. The result? A very slow read indeed. How can you develop real conflict among your core characters if they’re constantly expressing their love and forgiveness? Even when Trey, who’s possibly the most emotional and weakest characters I’ve ever encountered, finally gets a back bone and strikes out on his own, the consequences carry so little weight both on the emotional and physical level. The former doesn’t really matter since we all know he’s going to be full of self recriminations, and will be forgiven everything anyway. No conflict there. In the latter case, it doesn’t matter the physical danger he puts himself in because Gabriel and Michel have been set up as such powerful vampires that we know without doubt that Vicont and his rabble have no chance at all. It’s very hard to get involved in this kind of ‘drama’; even the ‘how’ becomes a watered down experience as a result. While on the subject of the characters, I’ve noticed two things; one, Geoff, who I loved in the first book, has become the most ineffectual character of the entire ensemble. He does nothing useful at all, merely trails around like some weak puppy (I’m secretly hoping he’ll be the first real casualty – god knows we need one soon – because that will at least cause some tangible emotional fallout for Trey that I, as a reader, can relate to properly); two, it’s very clear that a woman is writing this book since the male characters are far too sensitive to each other, and way too emotional, to be truly believable. Not to say such men do not exist in the world, but the majority of men are not so… well, girly. 😉

Nonetheless, all that said, I did mostly enjoy the book. The final two chapters did boar me, though, with their focus on more of Trey’s self recriminations (like we haven’t had enough of that), and more expressions of love. And the epilogue… Sorry, as much as I’ve come to respect Sherry as a person, I completely hated the coincidental nature of the epilogue. It was just one too many. You can surround it in as much talk of destiny as you like, but the fact that a certain character just so happened to turn up in Paris at exactly the time Trey finally decided to look for them smacked of lazy writing. It would have been a bigger strength had we followed Trey’s search in more detail in the next book.

So, I shall get to book three in the Paris Immortal series soon, but I’m not rushing to it just yet. In terms of story, when it became the focus of the book, it’s an improvement on book one, but in terms of character… although still very interesting, there’s only so much love and understanding a drama can take before it suffers.

Text © 2010 Andy Frankham-Allen,
Cover © 2008 Snow Books, All Rights Reserved

The Legacy #3: In the Blood

Previously on The Legacy; Urban Decay


‘Brad?’

Brad rubbed his head and opened his eyes.  Looking down at him was the strange man with the beard.  The Doctor? Yeah, that was his name.  But what kind of name was that?

Brad sat up and looked around.  He was sitting on a bed in a large white room.  The chairs and tables seemed to be made of some type of mouldable plastic – it reminded him of those ’50s B-movies, the type that looked towards the future.  Oh yes, very 21st Century – not!

‘Do you know Blackjack?’

Brad looked back at the Doctor.  ‘Huh?’ It was the best he could manage.  The Doctor’s face crumpled into disappointment, so Brad tried a little bit better.  ‘Black who?’

‘Blackjack.’

‘No,’ Brad said slowly, thinking it was probably best to humour the large man, ‘don’t think so. Friend of Black Beard?’

The Doctor waved a set of playing cards in front of Brad’s face.  Brad just shook his head, causing his nuclear red bangs to fall down in front of his eyes. ‘Oh,’ the Doctor mumbled.  He looked around the room, then back at Brad, smiling.  ‘Poker?’ Again Brad shook his head.  ‘Oh,’ the Doctor reiterated.  ‘Oh. Well, not to worry.’ He stood up and walked to the door at the far end of the room.  He looked back. ‘There is a bathroom through there.’ He pointed at an alcove in the corner of the room.  ‘Once you have freshened up come and meet me in the console room. I have something to show you.’ With a final smile, he left the room.

Brad sat there for a few moments.

Had he really fainted? How uncool was that?

Deciding to ignore the sadness of such a reaction, Brad got off the bed and walked over to his big black bag.  He had noticed it next to the table before.  Nice of the Doctor to bring it in with him.

He opened the bag and took a look in there.  Nothing had been taken as far as he could see.  His synthesiser was still there, complete with electrical cables.  He glanced around the room, but could see no sign of a plug socket.

Shit, he thought, let’s hope there is enough power still in the batteries.

He returned to the bag.  The suit he had worn at the funeral was still in there, although it did not seem likely that he would be changing into that.  Not that it was a major deal, of course, all he had to do was freshen himself up and then head back home.

Home? Just thinking about that sent his mind reeling.  Images of Big Pink tilted at an improbable angle, the ripple surging through the grounds west of Willamette River…  He shook his head.  Had he been on some whacked out trip or had it been real? Well, the Doc was obviously real, but it was feasible that he remembered the Doc from a calm moment in-between trips.  Of course, the only dumb thing about that reasoning was that Brad knew he had not taken any drugs for a few days.

He walked through the alcove and found himself in the bathroom.  Well, that is what the Doc called it.  There was a basin that was obviously the toilet, and there was some kind of cubicle.  He opened the cubicle.  Apart from a switch the cubicle was empty.  He flicked the switch, and immediately jumped back, his arm and the front of his sweater all wet.  He glanced at the cubicle with a grin.  Okay, so that was the shower.

He closed the door, and figured it best to ignore the fact that there was nowhere that the water could have come from.

Brad looked around the bathroom as he began to get undressed.  There was bunch of clothes piled in the corner, including what appeared to be a skirt.  The Doc had put him in some chick’s room? Great, thanks for that.

Only there was something familiar about it; the pattern.  It reminded him of a trip he’d taken to Scotland with Jacen some time ago.  It was a kilt, not a skirt.

Brad grinned, and wondered if he should wash it.  There was something sexy about a man in a kilt, and he’d always wanted one himself.  Continuing to remove his clothes Brad decided that he’d ask the Doc about a washer later.

*

The Doctor sat on the floor of the console room, playing cards laid out before him.  It was a simple game, but one that helped him to focus.  A technique he had been taught during his recent trip to Gregoramani at the turn of the First Quarter.  Not that it was working too well at the moment.

He glanced up from the cards as the inner door opened.  Framed in the doorway was Brad.  Still dressed in his jeans and trainers, but now with a black leather jacket worn loosely over a white t-shirt.  His black hair was still a little wet, but it was brushed back, making the red tips merge with the black of his crown.

‘Hello,’ the Doctor said cheerfully, and got to his feet, feeling a lot more nimble now.  His run around the Portland construct had done wonders for settling his body.  He felt ten times fitter than he when he’d arrived in that construct. ‘Feeling better?’

Brad walked into the room.  ‘Yeah, kind of, thanks.’

‘Good.’ The Doctor nodded and went over to the console.  ‘Good. Kind of is actually excellent considering your survival rate.’ He hit a button on the console and turned back to Brad.  ‘Wouldn’t you say?’

Brad thought back to the car crash.  ‘Yeah, if you say so, Doc.’

‘I would indeed.’ The Doctor bellowed out a laugh.  ‘Indeed I would.’ His laugh stopped abruptly, and with a meaty finger he pointed behind Brad.  ‘What do you make of that?’

Brad turned.  There was something a little like a television set up in the top corner of the wall.  On it was the strangest thing Brad had seen.  Well, not strictly true.  Portland being turned into some kind of cyber-induced landscape rated as the strangest, but this was a close second.  Some kind of dark tunnel made of red triangles.  No, not red.  The colours were changing.  Reds, blues, greens… And it was no longer triangles.  Shapes of all kinds.  Brad stepped back, dizzy all of a sudden.

‘Sorry,’ the Doctor said behind him.  ‘Some of those shapes aren’t made for human perception.  What do you make of them?’

‘What, apart from a great cause of epilepsy, you mean?’ The Doctor nodded, seemingly oblivious to Brad’s sarcasm.  ‘Nothing.  Just shapes in a tunnel.’

The Doctor’s face fell.  ‘Oh.’  He smiled.  ‘Oh.  Well the human mind will catch up one day.  It is, in point of fact, the causal nexus of the universal quantum reality.  And it is greatly in flux.’

‘And that is bad?’

‘Very.’

‘The temporal and spatial nexus?’ Brad asked, remembering something the Doctor had mentioned before he had drifted off.  The Doctor nodded, quite pleased.  ‘And it is breaking up?’ Again the Doctor nodded.  Brad thought some more, but he had no idea where he was going with this conversation.  So he gave up.  ‘Means nothing to me, Doc.  Sorry.’

‘Not to worry.’ The Doctor pressed a button and the screen went off.  ‘I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it one day.’

‘We?’

‘Yes, we.’ The Doctor placed an arm around Brad’s shoulders.  ‘You do realise that you should never have existed in that echo of Portland? It was not mere chance that allowed you to exist, you know.  And neither was it mere chance that allowed you to meet me.  We are destined for great things.  Great things.’

For a moment Brad almost believed him.  Almost.  Hell, it was a nice thing to believe.  After the disasters of late it would be nice to have some kind of hope.  But Brad was not much of an optimist these days.  ‘Okay. So what do we do now?’

The Doctor laughed.  ‘We explore, Bradley.’

Brad chose to ignore the Doctor’s use of his full name; normally only his father used it, but somehow it sounded right coming from the Doctor’s mouth.  ‘Explore? Explore what?’

The Doctor walked past the console and pointed at the central column.  ‘When the TARDIS is in flight – for want of a better word – the time rotor there oscillates.  As you can see, it is quite still now.  It means we have arrived somewhere.’ He climbed into his big brown coat.

A load of questions entered Brad’s mind, but he never got the chance to ask them.  Before he could even open his mouth the Doctor was walking through a pair of double doors.

‘Hey, wait up, Doc,’ Brad called and followed.  What else could he do?

*

Yet again Brad shook his head, clearing the wet bangs from his eyes. Wet? Ha! Soaked more like.

‘Nice spot, Doc. Couldn’t you have found somewhere a little warmer?’ The Doctor seemed to ignore Brad, being quite content to just continue with reading the stained newspaper he had found on the deserted road.  Again, Brad shook his head.  ‘You know, allowing me back into the TARDIS would have been nice. I mean, it’s all right for you.  You have that bear of a coat keeping you dry.  And what do I have? A jacket, not exactly rain wear.’ Brad growled at the Doctor’s back, and took a step forward.

The Doctor spun around, nearly knocking Brad over.  He shoved the paper at Brad.

‘What do you think of that?’

Why was it always questions with the Doc? Brad took the soggy paper and began to peruse the front page. ‘Not a lot.  Nothing familiar.’ He glanced at the date, but the digits made no sense to him.  ‘Where are we, Doc?’

‘Don’t know.  Can’t say I have been here before.’

‘Great,’ Brad muttered.  ‘Just goddamned great.’ He sighed and threw the paper onto the sodden grass by the side of the road.  ‘Are we in England? Looks dirty enough to be England.  And wet enough.  Went to the UK not so long ago, and it rained a lot.’

The Doctor jumped into the air.  For his bulk it was quite a big jump.  ‘Nope.  Not England.  In fact, Bradley, not even Earth.’

‘Excuse me? What do you mean, “not even Earth”?’

‘The gravity is all wrong for Earth.’ The Doctor jumped into the air once more and smiled.  ‘Besides, there is much more to the universe than that one small planet.  So much more to see.’ He put his arm around Brad’s shoulder.  Brad squirmed.  As if he was not wet enough.  ‘Do you know how much I have been to Earth, Bradley?’ the Doctor asked in a whisper. All Brad could do was offer him a blank look in response.  ‘Hmm. Nor me.  But I do know I have been to Earth more times than any other one planet.  I think it is time the Earth looked after itself for a change, don’t you?’ The Doctor winked, and removed his arm.

Brad was stumped.  He watched the Doctor for a while, allowing the big man to walk away from him.  ‘Now wait a minute there, Doc.’ Brad ran up to the Doctor.  ‘What do you mean “not even Earth”? I’ll admit, your TARDIS is pretty cool, and yes, even that Portland went all trippy.  But are you trying to tell me we are on another planet?’

‘That is exactly what I am saying.  Yes, I know it is quite a concept, but your human mind will soon get used to it.’ The Doctor noticed the offended look on Brad’s face.  ‘Don’t be hurt. In my time I have had many companions, and most of them have been humans.  And each of them was a little shocked about being on planets other than Earth.  But they adapted well, as I am sure you will.’

Brad swallowed.  Well, he had to admit this got him away from all the crap that had been going on in his life recently.  ‘You know, Doc, I wonder if I am still on a trip, or if this is some dream.’

‘Oh no, no dream, Bradley.’

‘No? It was a nice hope.’ Brad smiled, despite the cold.  ‘But, hey, I will get used to it.  I’m nothing if not adapt –’

A screeching interrupted Brad’s eulogy.  The Doctor looked down at Brad and smiled.  ‘Aha. Sounds promising.  Come on.’

Brad blinked and the Doctor was away.  Brad ran behind, and called out.  ‘Promising? What?’

The Doctor looked back, but did not stop running.  ‘That sound means someone is in danger.  Which means I can help.’

Brad was not so sure. That screech was not the sound of someone, more the sound of something. Something pretty crazed, and… inhuman.  The Doctor’s voice drifted back.

‘Come on; adventure, excitement.  It’s waiting around the corner!’

*

Once they had turned the corner they came to a stop.  Before them was a woman holding her arm, screeching in pain.  Brad could not say he blamed her, after all the fire raging around her arm must have killed. There were four other people behind the woman, protecting a dog from the madman with the flaming torch.

How the wood managed to stay alight in this weather was beyond Brad, but it was so.  The man holding the torch out looked quite mad.  Wide eyed, looking as if he had had no sleep in decades.  A patchy beard, evidently not big on the shaving, either.  A sword lay abandoned on the ground beside him.  The man took another swipe with the torch, and the flame spread from the woman’s arm to the rest of her body.

Brad blinked, shocked at the Doctor’s speed.  Within moments the Doctor had intercepted the crazed man, taken the torch off him, and pushed the man onto his back.

‘Wow,’ was all Brad could manage.

The Doctor turned to Brad. ‘Quick! We must get some water!’

Brad shook his wet bangs. ‘Are you shitting me, Doc?’ He waved his arms around.  ‘Don’t you think we have enough water here all ready?’

The woman screamed and dropped to the ground.  The flames died abruptly.  All that remained was a burnt out carcass.  Her fellows looked at each other, and Brad felt a sting of sympathy for them.  Losing someone was not an easy thing.  Seeing the burnt corpse reminded him of Jacen lying in his coffin.  Brad took a step forward.

‘Hey, it will all be…’ His voice tailed off.

The four people snarled and looked at Brad.  He gulped.  They were not people.  They were vampires.  The teeth and the yellow eyes were a dead giveaway.  Ragged vampires, perhaps, but vampires nonetheless.  As one they advanced on Brad.  He tried to move but could not.  All he could do was look at the eyes of the tallest man.

‘Erm, Doc!’ he yelled.

Two of the vampires looked away from Brad to where the Doctor was standing.  Brad forced himself to look.  It killed his neck, but he could just make out the Doctor from the corner of his eye.  The Doctor stood there, arms behind his back, face set in a sad frown.  The two vampires advanced on the Doctor.

He shook his head and stepped forward to meet them, revealing the sword in his hand.  The vampires did not get a chance to react.  The Doctor moved swiftly and finally.  Within seconds the first vampire was dust.

‘Go Doc!’ Brad heard himself saying, but soon shut up when the Doctor threw an angry look at him.

The second vampire growled, but the Doctor showed not one iota of fear.  The vampire launched itself at the Doctor, and soon that vampire was a pile of dust, too.  The Doctor coughed and brushed the dust off him.  He looked at the two remaining vampires, and so did Brad.  They looked pissed.

‘Um, Doc…’ Brad began.

‘Don’t worry, Bradley.’ The Doctor walked through the dust piles towards the two vampires, and glanced down at the remains, a look of distaste on his face. ‘Are you going to leave us, or do I have to dispatch you as well?’

The two vampires looked at each other, then the tall one stepped up to the Doctor.  ‘How dare you interfere? You will be like us.’ He grabbed the Doctor by the throat, causing the sword to fall to the ground, and pulled the Time Lord closer to him.  ‘Or die.’

The Doctor laughed in his face.

The head vampire snarled at the Doctor.  ‘It is not wise to laugh at me, mortal. I am Lord Cheng, and I am not to be trifled with.’

‘You know, I have other enemies who like to say such nonsense to me.  And they are so much nastier than you.’ The Doctor grabbed the vampire’s wrist and twisted.  Cheng released the Doctor’s throat and fell back.

Brad blinked the rain out of his eyes and saw the vampire holding his broken wrist aloft.  Brad laughed.  ‘Way to go, Doctor,’ he whispered, not wishing to receive another of the Doctor’s glares.

The Doctor continued looking at the remaining vampires and bellowed: ‘Now go!’

They went.  But not before Lord Cheng said; ‘There will be a reckoning with you! I promise it.’

Once they were out of sight Brad stepped up to the Doctor and patted the large man on the back.  ‘Wow, Doc, I’m very impressed.  You could teach Van Hel–’

The Doctor turned on Brad and said through gritted teeth; ‘It is no laughing matter, Bradley, taking a life never is.’

Brad laughed, nervously.  ‘Yeah, but they were vampires, right? Demons and all that.  Evil.’

‘Life is life.  Sometimes I have to fight evil with evil, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.’ The Doctor took a deep breath, sighed, and looked at Brad.  He placed a large hand on the young man’s shoulder.  ‘Don’t worry about it, Bradley, you’ll get it one day.  Now then,’ he added, and looked down at the man they had saved.  ‘What say we get this fellow indoors, eh?’

*

The sun was shining and they stood outside the TARDIS.  The man, Ori’en, did not look so crazed now.  In fact he looked quite relaxed.  He had explained to the Doctor and Brad that he had not slept in weeks, not since he had realised that he was the last person alive on this planet.  It seemed that the whole planet had been infested with some kind of vampire virus, and Ori’en was the only one not to have turned.  Yet.  He expected it would happen soon, but in the meantime he intended to see if he could find a cure.  The Doctor offered to help.

‘Thank you, Doctor.  But this is my problem.  The longer you and Brad stay the more likely you are to become infected.’

This suited Brad fine.  Staying on a vampire-infested planet was not his idea of fun.  So now they were at the TARDIS saying goodbye.

‘Well, best of luck, Ori’en.  I daresay the vampires will give you a little breathing space.  At least until they realise that I have gone.’

Ori’en smiled.  ‘Let’s hope that it is enough time, Doctor.  And thank you, again.  I needed a good rest.’

The Doctor just laughed and opened the door of the TARDIS.  He ushered Brad inside, then looked back at Ori’en.  ‘Take care of yourself.’ The two men shook hands and the Doctor entered the TARDIS.

*

Ori’en stood there and watched the TARDIS fade from sight.  He looked down at his torn hand, at the infected blood.  His eyes glowed with a yellow hue.  ‘I will take care, Doctor.  I hope you do, too.’ As he walked away he could feel his infected blood mingling with that of the Doctor.

*

Brad glanced back at the closed doors.  ‘That was really weird, Doc,’ he said, removing his wet jacket from his sodden shirt. He glanced down at his jeans, now darker than usual and clinging uncomfortably to his skin.  ‘You got a washer?’

The Doctor wiped the blood off his hand, and noticed the slight cut.  ‘Oh dear… I wonder how that happened? Must have been the sword.  Oh well, it’ll heal.’ He glanced up at Brad.  ‘A washer, did you say?’ The Doctors reached into his pockets and pulled out all kinds of metal bits.  ‘Washers, nuts, screws, bolts, nails; I have them all.  A handyman’s dream!’

Brad shook his head, smiling out of the corner of his mouth.  ‘Yeah, that’s really neat, Doc, but I was thinking of washing my clothes, not attaching moving parts to them.’

‘Oh! A washing machine? I think we need to find you some new clothes.’

‘Well, I saw this kilt earlier; I could maybe try that on?’

The Doctor’s brow furrowed.  ‘No, fresh and new is the way to go.  Believe me, Bradley, I speak from experience.’

The Doctor led Brad through the inner door. ‘Is this what you do, then, Doc? Whiz in and out of peoples’ lives with barely a hey and bye?’

The Doctor gave this some consideration. ‘No, I usually tend to get a little more involved, but since my regeneration… I don’t know. I feel this need to move on, as if I’m looking for something.’ He shook away these obviously disturbing thoughts. ‘Enough of this, let’s see if we can find you a washer,’ the Doctor said with a beaming smile. Brad couldn’t help but return the smile. Somehow being stuck with the Doctor didn’t seem such a bad thing after all. It sure beat being stuck in Portland…


Next time…

Outside the window, an invisible paste white figure floated impossibly thousands of feet above the ground.  It held twin balloons.  One said ‘Cause’, the other ‘Effect’.  The balloons burst soundlessly.

*

The Doctor was excitedly pacing the office.  He had already done three circuits of the table.  ‘So what you’re saying is it’s a matter of narrowing the field of suspects.’ He paused.  ‘Still leaves a pretty vast field.’ He patted his ample stomach.  ‘All this application has given me an appetite.  Sixela?’ He looked expectantly at the professor.

‘I don’t think she’s listening,’ said Brad.

The Doctor stared.  Professor Sixela Capricornn was clearly speaking but no sound was emerging.  She also appeared to be fading away before their eyes.

‘Oh good grief!’ The Doctor looked anguished.  He found he could pass a hand clean through the professor.  ‘Reality bomb.  It must have been primed and waiting for the trigger… Some form of nexus point.’

To Be Continued… Saturday 16th October

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
In the Blood (previously released as 'So Long Legend') © 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen,
The Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.