Resource For Writers

On my travels today, I came across a site that posts monthly prompts as starting points for pieces of writing.  They accept all genres of writing, including fan fiction, and invite writers to post either the work, or a link to their work posted elsewhere in the comments section of each prompt.  I for one will be giving it a try, and I invite anyone who wants to, to join me.

The site is called The Writer’s Block and it can be found by following the link. Enjoy!

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Whether You Hold Them In Your Arms Or In Your Hearts… Blessed Be

I have debated all. Day. Long as to whether I should write and post this journal entry, and even as I’m typing this, I’m still – somewhere in the back of my mind – second guessing myself, and why? This isn’t about anyone else really, it’s about MY feelings, and as such, as an act of self-compassion, I need to voice and acknowledge those feelings without self-censoring for the sake of avoiding getting someone else all bent out of shape, or pandering to the inner critic who’s trying to convince me that I’m such a terrible person for even thinking about speaking about it all.

But today of all days, I can’t allow myself to do that, and I can’t, and won’t sit silently and keep it all inside because, though I say it’s not about anyone else, there are actually many, many women out there in the world for whom today is especially hard… including me. Last year, I had three miscarriages, one after the other, all ‘unexplained,’ and if I hadn’t, this year would have been be my first Mother’s Day. However, I woke today taking a deep breath and girding my loins; determined I wasn’t going to mope, I wasn’t going to bring anyone down on a day devoted to family and motherhood (here in the US anyway – other parts of the world including the UK celebrating on a different day) and would throw myself into the celebrations and ‘goddamn it’ have a good time along with everyone else! (And I did, matter of fact, have a lovely day with my US family, sharing good food, and good company – and a damn good movie).

Still it didn’t change the fact those feeling are still there. That I’d ‘welcomed them in, acknowledged them, and then shown them the door, “Cback later if you still want to ‘talk’.”  Evidently they did, because here I am.

Earlier this year, I was told that my feelings were bullshit… yes pretty much those exact words, and today – Mother’s Day – that popped into my head, from time to time, as I went through the day trying not to feel those very feelings acutely (and all over again). They are feelings of inadequacy, of failure – of feeling ineligible to name myself ‘woman’ because I cannot do something that is a genetic, biological part of being a woman. Namely creating and nurturing a new life and bringing that life to birth. It’s not something I, or any other woman that might share these feelings and these fears actually WANT to feel, but we feel them non-the-less, and they happen in spite of reassurances and words of comfort that are sincerely mean by friends and family about the ‘positives’ of living a childless life. If what you want, what you FEEL in your heart of hearts is a desperation to know parenthood, those kinds of comments – though meant in good faith – don’t actually help. They are isolating, and can leave a person feeling more lonely than reassured… but to be told that the way you feel is bullshit… or that women who say/feel such things actually make someone else angry, as if we have no right to those feelings, or they in some way diminish the angered person – or even affect them at all…? Excuse my indignation, but what the ever-loving hell!? Then again, maybe it’s a case of not truly understanding where, or why, or how someone could feel such a thing, or not truly understanding the very real, psychological effects of infertility and loss, and how to deal with them. (Here’s a helpful article.)

One of the wonderful ladies on a Facebook group that I’m a part of posted a link to an article entitled, To Those of Us Struggling with Infertility This Mother’s Day, which you can read for yourself by clicking on the title.  I think it might help with understanding what some women are going through, especially today, but also on many other days of the year… and for those women out there – mothers – whether you hold your children in your arms or only in your hearts, and to those nurturing women who are ‘mothers’ in the ancient tribal meanings of the word, I hope your day today has been filled with joy and love and blessings – as was mine.

Blessed Be.

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‘Once’ Chicago, Fandoms, Conventions, and Star Trek.

It isn’t all that often you’ll find me excited to be waking up at three thirty in the morning.  I’m really not a morning person at the best of times, but that Saturday morning was a definite exception to the rule.  I was off to Chicago with my guy, and to the convention, run by Creation Entertainment, for the ABC show Once Upon A Time. We were flying in and out just for the day – a total whirlwind.

Let’s be completely up front about this – it wasn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been to conventions before, we’ve been to many, many conventions before, and a lot of them run by Creation, though usually for Star Trek, and the ones we’re used to are a lot bigger than the one we’d be going to that day, so… we pretty much knew what to expect – mostly.

The two main differences seemed to be because of size (the number of attendees), and of course, the nature of the fandom. Firstly, on the whole everything was more laid back. There were a couple of exceptions to that, mostly down to the personality of the ‘stewards,’ and secondly – and maybe this is just a sign of me getting old – oh, my word, the fangirling!

We had been lucky enough, thanks to a computer glitch and a really kind and helpful employee of Creation, to secure tickets to the morning meet & greet with Emiie de Ravin, (with a quick pop in by Rose Reynolds), there were nine of us, plus Emilie, and it was a fabulous experience especially when the questions and conversation focused on the work… could have done without the ‘squeaing’ though. However, Emilie was amazing, included everyone, and kept the conversation rolling on so that the half hour experience seemed to go by lightning fast, and then she was gracious enough to take a selfie with everyone there – and really was very attentive, trying to make sure everyone that wanted the picture had the opportunity.

We had been to a couple of the Creation meet & greets before, one for Christopher Lloyd, another for Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating, and the nature of the those, in comparison with the one with Emilie felt wildly different. Christopher Lloyd was all talk of theater, Connor and Dominic’s event was… well it’s hard to describe really, a mix of comic hi-jinx and seriousness, mostly work focused, aside from Dominic’s propensity for being the joker in the pack. The level of fangirling in the experience with Emilie was undeniable – and yes, it was all girls. I don’t know why this surprised me, but it did.

The main auditorium was where we spent most of the rest of our day, listening to the Q&A’s and the questions that were actually quite different to the ones we expected and are used to from the Trek conventions we’ve attended, where the questions tend to be all the same every time, and usually on the subject of, ‘what was your favorite episode and why?’ and similar kinds of questions. While there were a couple of questions like that in the ‘Once’ Q&A’s, I’m happy to say that mostly they were questions that seemed to draw a deeper level of participation from the celebrities.

One of the main differences that I could see between this convention and the others we’ve attended that were run by Creation is the ‘Gold Ticket Holder’ exclusive Q&A panels. I don’t recall that ever happening at the Vegas ST Con, and honestly I think there would be a riot if they tried. The other main – and very welcome – difference about the Once Q&A’s was that they’re not ‘moderated’ by anyone. The celebrities could spend the entire time answering fan questions, and not wasting most of the 45 minute session speaking to the moderator’s rambling thoughts. Let’s be honest, he might believe that this is what people want, but Adam does tend to Bogart the on stage time at the Trek Q&A’s meaning that fans get little time to ask their questions and have their few seconds of interaction time with the celebrities. So, having 45 minute sessions devoted entirely to fan questions was a refreshing change.

Rose Reynolds was a strong advocate for ‘being yourself’ and not being afraid to play into your own strength and weaknesses. She was approachable and very sweet with the one or two gushing fans who professed their love for her, in among her very many searching questions.

Sean McGuire certainly wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, refreshingly unafraid to tell-it-like-it-is where the writing and running of the show is concerned, while mindful of the nature of his character and how it reflects upon himself as a person. It’s a shame that there were a few people that didn’t like that kind of outspokenness, and initiated the kind of drama that is sadly rife within the fandom, and though I love the show, is the one thing that puts me off being a part of the fandom itself. I fear it will ultimately lead to the dissolution of the fandom once the show comes to its end in later this month – unlike the fandom, and being part of the fandom of Star Trek, which persists and spans generations, and added to itself with the release of rebooted movies, and now also with the advent of ST: Discovery. If that’s judgmental, then so be it.

Giles Mathey, and Emilie de Ravin appeared together in a ‘mother and son’ Q&A’ and through their wacky and playful back-and-forth banter, gave us a glimpse of what it must have been like in those times they were working together – and also made us realize, all the more, the fact of Robert Carlyle’’s absence.

Giles is funny, and was a chatter-box using his answers to keep a little bit of a ‘remove’ while allowing the fans to see enough of him to satisfy the need to connect, but up close, (and personal – while signing autographs) connected in some way with each of the people that came to his table, and was wonderfully genuine and attentive; remembered us when we got to the photo op that we took with him and Emilie together.

Speaking of photo ops, I have to commend the company that Creation were using at the convention for their speed of getting the pictures printed and out to the fans. It was almost immediate, which was good for us because we had a flight to catch soon after the photo was taken, and Emilie’s autograph signed, which meant we didn’t have to stress about rushing to the airport or having to download and print the jpg ourselves. This is a far cry from the last time we had a photo op that wasn’t a group shot of friends sitting having breakfast or lunch together.

It was odd, being on ‘that side of the table’ again. Even so, I enjoyed the day a great deal.  Not to say there weren’t things (and a certain ‘jobsworth’ of a steward) that were irritating to a point, but it was an experience to be a part of a regular convention again – and sad that these cons will come to an end with the ending of the show. I would have liked to see more beyond the last of the year.

I made a remark, a question, to my guy to ask what on Earth Creation are going to do when all the shows for which they host ‘official’ conventions come to an end.  They’ve already scaled back what must have once been one of their biggest revenue generators so that now there’s pretty much only the one Star Trek convention a year – the big one in Vegas – and have even cancelled the last remaining, smaller Trek con.  This seems to me to be a little odd in light of the fact that CBS is forging ahead with Discovery, which has certainly breathed a new Trek incarnation to life. Maybe it’s due to CBS having its own official cruise each year, or maybe it’s some other market force of which I know nothing. These last few Once Upon and Time conventions are being billed as the ‘Farewell Tour.’  Supernatural, and Vampire Diaries are not going to last forever, and Outlander is finite by the very nature of it being based on books, of which there are only a limited number in the series.  What happens when all these shows come to an end? What then for the future of conventions and for the members of the fandoms (various) to attend? Will we ‘regress’ to smaller, fan run conventions, or will we enjoy multi-fandom events run by other companies, with Creation being displaced from the top of the heap?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but it will be interesting to see what happens as the years – and the shows – come and go.

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A Big To Do… and Other Moments of Helpful Procrastination.

I have a confession to make. My time management sucks.  There… I said it. I have finally admitted what people have been saying to me in response to my assertion – complaints if you like – that I don’t have time to do… well… any number of things that I might have to, need to, or want to do. So, what can I do about it?

In actuality, in working through this issue to try and understand my objection, and to try and answer that question, I’ve discovered that I’m not as bad as all that at time management, what I lack is the ability to manage interruptions – and there are many of those, both of my own and of others’ making.

It was suggested that I start to make lists, and to have a schedule to follow, and as a fully paid up, bona fide member of the ‘anti-list’ ‘anti-schedule’ club, this sent me into an immediate tail spin. I gnashed my teeth, I pushed again the very idea of having a ‘to do’ list, I even questioned – without receiving an answer, I might add – why having a ‘to do’ list felt like a failure… and guess what…?  I still didn’t manage to get stuff done – imagine that!

So I bit the bullet, admitted that it was probably a good idea to at least try and use a list to help with managing the things I needed and wanted to do. It was a modest list… because I didn’t want to overload either the list, or myself. Already, I felt overwhelmed at the number of things that needed to be done. My first list had just six things on it.  I actually accomplished five of those and the sixth wasn’t done only because it was replaced by a different activity. It could be said to be true that I had made a big ‘to do’ out of having or needing a ‘to do list.’

All Joking aside, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it.  I can feel my overzealous inner critic sitting in the back of my head just rubbing their hands, waiting for the day when I have less than most of the items on the daily list crossed off.  Just waiting to jump on me and tell me how useless I am, that I can’t even get five or six things finished.

In addition, though I have only done two days of lists, (edit: by the time I finished this post, it has been four lists), only one item on each list not an errand or a ‘chore’ (in the sense of the word that we give to our kids when we say, “do your chores and then you can…”)

This leads me to a question: how can I be present for the important people in my life if I can’t even be present for myself? I think that was at the core of my objections to making lists in the first place, but therein lies the biggest irony of all considering my objections were because I’d have a list full of chores and nothing for myself.  I write the list.

You may ask yourself: why is that ironic? It’s ironic because what essentially I have realized is that making a list is actually helpful in making sure that I do something, at least one – maybe two – things for myself each and every day.  I can use the list to help restore a sense of balance in my life. Who knew! Here I was, making a “big to do about nothing,” when actually that ‘nothing’ turned out to be a something… and a really helpful something at that.

On another, slightly different, but equally important tangent – you’ll hear many many writers complain that their biggest fault/sin, their biggest downfall is procrastination.  Writers are the masters of procrastination. There seems to be some kind of writerly ADHD, where we sit with a blank (or if we’re lucky, a partly worked on) page, and suddenly… “Oooh, the internet… shiny!” or “Oooh, I was going to start that load of laundry, wasn’t I?” or any one of a million other thoughts and distractions that pop into our brains.  Well… it may not be the perfect solution, but… make a list!

Let the first act of procrastination in the day be to make a list of all the chores and personal activities that you want to do, and make sure you specifically add at least one entry onto your list that directs you to a writing task. That sets up a commitment to yourself, that you will write; you will make progress on that story, that blog post, that novel… whatever project you have in hand, and make a habit of helpful procrastination.

Funny how life, and life’s paths lead you to consider things your wouldn’t ordinarily have done… and that such things turn out to be helpful.  Funnier still, to me, that I, as a member of the anti-list club, have not only found lists to be helpful (so far), but I’m now advocating them as one way, in a repertoire of ways, of avoiding becoming entrapped by procrastination. Less amusing, I’m sure, will be all the people out there that will tell me, “I told you so.” Oh, I’m just poised with my tongue half poked out already, (in playful jest), at such people.

…but schedules…? That’s another kettle of fish, altogether.

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Thorns In the Garden of Roses

October 27th’s episode of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, entitled Beauty brought the series-long back and forth that is Rumbelle’s relationship to its ‘final conclusion.’ We saw them live out their life together, happily, blissfully peaceful and so obviously deeply, truly in love with one another, with – at last – nothing to get in their way. Nothing, that is, save old age and the natural progression of life. Belle aged, and Rumple didn’t, because he is immortal, thanks to being the Dark One, and the associated power of the dagger that bears his name.

The acting was superb, as we have come to expect from Robert Carlyle and Emilie deRavin, the episode itself was very sweet and loving, showing Rumple and Belle happier together than they have ever been, and in that respect was somewhat of a comfort for those rooting for the Rumbelle ‘ship that we’ve come to love, thanks in no small part to the onscreen chemistry between Carlyle and deRavin, who cannot be faulted at all, for anything in this episode. This is to be stressed, because in the end, Belle succumbs to her mortality, passing peacefully, and happy to have spent a life with the man she loves eternally, telling him, “You see? You let me go once before and we found our way back to each other. You will find your way back to me again. I promise.”

And therein lies the problem.

Many viewer, and certainly many within the Rumbelle communities have expressed their deep concern that, having let Belle go, Rumple is left alone and grieving, with a new quest – one which Once Upon A Time showrunners have described as, ‘The most important quest of his entire life,’ – to rid himself of the dagger in order to become mortal again and be reunited with Belle in the afterlife.  In other words, Rumple is now on a quest to find a way to end his life.

Are the writers and producers of the show trying to say that it’s all right to take your own life in order to be with someone you love? If they are, that’s definitely not okay. Did they simply not see that this is the message that they are giving to viewers who might be in similar and vulnerable emotional states, and now find justification for their suicidal thoughts in the events at the end of, (and presumably after), Beauty – That it’s okay, because that’s what Rumple’s going to do now, right?  That’s how he gets his part of Rumbelle’s ‘happy ending.’

I want to stress – to really make it clear here – that in no way is the responsibility for that message being given anything to do with the actors whose superb work gave us all the warmth and happiness that we shared with Belle and Rumple during the course of the series and this episode specifically.  No, the blame, the ones truly responsible for such a message are the writers, producers and showrunners, and the network executives who paid no attention to the subtext left by that scene and reinforced at the ending of the episode.

As an educator, I must be 100 percent aware of the message and influence that my words and actions could have on the impressionable minds for which I have a duty of care. Should we not hope for the same thoughtfulness from those who create our arts and contribute to our culture? In a society where ten year olds can steal their parent’s car and take it for a joy ride because that is what they do on their favorite video game; where those accused and convicted of committing crimes of violence and terror are reported as having among their possessions – and presumably therefore had played – violent first person shooter games, and where what we watch is rated according to content to warn against something we might not wish to see, should we not expect a certain degree of sensitivity and forethought from the writers and producers of a primetime, family show that is presented as being about hope?  Is the message then that we should hope to die in order to join our lost loved ones, as is Rumple’s only hope now of reunion with the woman he loves who is ‘waiting for him’?

As I write this, I have reached out to ABC for clarification. I will be surprised if I receive a response in a timely manner, if at all. The best ‘solution’ to this problem that we can hope for, as it stands, is that Rumple will find a way to become mortal, but will live for Belle, according to how she would have wanted him to live until the natural ending of his life – an ending that is not hastened in any way, but it is not up to us to correct the problem of the highly inappropriate message.

If you are reading this, and feeling the kind of hopelessness that leads you to feel the only course left to you is to end your life, or if you know someone who is suffering from extreme depression and having thoughts of suicide, please know you are NOT alone. Please reach out to someone for help.

The numbers for the Suicide Prevention hotlines around the world can be found on this web page

Contacts for the USA and UK are listed here:

USA: 1-800-273-8255

UK: 0845-7909090

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Sneaky Peek

I’m not going to do this every time…  but I guess I’m happy and surprised at how much I actually got written last week, so in honor of that, here’s a quick, sneak peek at where the stranded colonists find themselves in the first few chapters.

“Time to atmosphere: sixteen minutes, forty-five seconds.”

Lin staggered as a wave of dizziness assaulted him, and reached out a hand to steady himself against the back of a chair as he lurched across the bridge.

“Tactical confirms, Commander.”  Hunt’s voice sounded stronger and steadier than a man rudely awoken from Stasis Sleep had any right to sound.

He glanced at his crewman under the deep red of the tactical lighting conditions.  The shadows made the other man’s ordinarily sculptured features look gaunt and drawn, belying the officer’s wellbeing.  Hunt looked up then, and his serious expression softened as he met Lin’s gaze.  Lin experienced a brief, shared understanding of how lousy he felt and offered the man a wan half-smile, and a curt nod.

Lindsay Derby had woken to a flashing red light on the panel of his LiSSSC.  He was disoriented; nauseous from the time spent in an almost complete state of suspended animation – Stasis Sleep.  Standard waking called for a good meal followed by a carefully monitored hour or two in the ship’s gym, but the emergency lighting, and the voice of the ship’s System, that had moved like a rolling echo through ZHACC’s empty corridors, attested that this had been anything but a standard waking.

It doesn’t look good – the ship is in a bad way and they are close – way too close – to a planet that they really shouldn’t be even on their radar.  How did that happen?

Nikolai Rhostov – Kolya to many that knew him – leaned against the glass of the observation lounge that overlooked the isolation area below. It had started already, and that made him think they were cutting it damn fine, unless they meant to have these people in stasis for years before the expedition launch. Every day there were three, maybe four more people brought to the facility below, given the recommended treatments for people that were about to be put on ice for the next… however long it took, and plugged into the boxes that would be where they would spend the entire journey to their destination.

It was his own, personal ritual: to go there, watch over the induction of the many souls for which he would be singularly responsible during that time. His mind anyway – his brain – once he was given The Treatment.

The second chapter looks back to what had happened before the colonists left the Sol system to head to their new destination. The big question, what is this treatment, and where did it come from?

Memories spiraled like powder-winged moths toward self-sacrifice against the burning in his psyche.  Their sudden immolation, brilliant and painful, coated his mind with the sharpness of bitter frustration.  He couldn’t wake; he didn’t sleep; he knew nothing of himself but that there was change, inside… outside… he was nothing but difference.

All right, son… just relax…just feel a sharp scratch and—

Sharp scratch… terrible whirling… sounds like a throbbing, mechanical heartbeat… rasping, scraping… being skinned from the inside out; blood boiling, synapses burning, fusing…

Chapter three, and we’re back in the ‘future’ which is really the present for our colonists, and Kolya wakes after the crash – in part still lost in memory.

Abandon ship… Emergency Protocol Seven…

“…all able crew report to…” Lindsay’s lips felt dry and cracked as he mumbled the words out of his memory.

“Easy, Lin, easy.”

A woman’s voice began to penetrate the confusion.  She was familiar, and yet the remembrance of exactly who she was escaped him as surely as did full consciousness.  He should know her, but something…

It was the eyes. The vision of them dominated his senses, narrow vertical slits of dark within lavender, a starburst of additional darkness expanding as they looked on him.  He could see little of the rest of a face but the slender chisel of a nose.  Someone leaned toward him as he tried to move and he felt the press of a hand against his shoulder.

Kolya’s not the only one having a hard time waking after the splashdown. Lin Derby, the expedition commander seems to be experiencing strange visions, and a good deal of confusion too… just what’s going on, and who is the strange being  that distracts him from his reality?

It was coming on dawn, or at least he thought it was.  The hours seemed to be passing ceaselessly as Kishan worked to try and pull the fragment of message down onto the Portable Interface and so far he wasn’t having much joy. As he worked through the night, the pod’s primary system faded out to an empty green screen with a blinking cursor.  He ran diagnostics, and all they showed him was that there was no reason for the computer to fail.  It was powered, undamaged…

“So why don’t you just work, you temperamental heap of crap!”

Kishan’s fingers flew ceaselessly over the console, trying to force binary grafts, to breathe life into the only remaining piece of ZHACC that might hold any value to this makeshift colony’s efforts in survival.

Meanwhile Kishan, the System Engineer, is busy trying to get the computer interface back up and running to discover what might have happened to cause the accident.  Seems like he’s not having much luck.

After all that, (and the few curves thrown to me during the writing of those chapters) I went back to my process of outlining.  I know where I’m going (barring additional curves) I’m just not sure quite how I’ll get there, and I still need a bigger piece of paper.

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A Bigger Piece of Paper

The week just coming to a close was spring break. Perfect opportunity for me to sit down and catch up with all the writing that I need to do.  Well… okay, so it didn’t quite work out that way, but I had some time each day; was able to put out the next chapter of the work of Middle Earth Fan Fiction that I’m working on; post to Livejournal, and keep up with some Twitter and Facebook posting. Perfect.

Today, though suffering the after effects of a disturbed night, I took a look – a serious, good hard look, at the steps in the process of outlining for Use’ara’s Harm, which will be the first story in the series. I want to start putting the pieces together – it was one of the goals I had for this week – get a coherent outline and start writing in earnest. I very quickly came to the conclusion that I’m going to need a bigger piece of paper.

Probably makes no sense to people in this day and age… computers and all.  Here I am after all typing into a blog, through the internet on my computer.

True enough.

I looked back through years and years of posts on Livejournal for an entry I had written – back in 2008 as it happens, that explained my process. I wanted to see if it would work for the Use’ara series the way it did back then, and without giving away too much, (I’m sure I could explain the whole process if demand called for it), here’s an image to kind of demonstrate that – yes – I’m definitely going to need a bigger piece of paper.


That is a standard sized sheet of paper, and formed the basis of the outline of a story that was probably a third of the size that I anticipate Use’ara’s Harm will be. Kolya’s story, for example, navigates three distinct periods in time in UH, likely to take up a lot of the Mind Map. Then there’s the expedition (the humans) thread, and the Use’ara Native Peoples (The Usea and the Raeo), all of whom to fit onto one little sheet…?

A word about those native peoples… it feels strange to have come over eight years in the making of this universe and its multiple dimensions and to have finally settled upon names for what are essentially my ‘good guys’ and my ‘bad guys’ – though it might be better to call them by less binary absolutes… especially as the Raeo are – in some form or another – beings that our human characters have already met, but… (in the words of the Great Professor River Song,) “Spoilers!”

What’s adding to the feeling of needing a bigger piece of paper, is the decision I made to pull some core material from other works I had ongoing, because I felt they would fit better in this one – spinning a few things on their heads in the process – and feeling the need to make something common place in Science Fiction, the notion of instantaneous travel, (teleports, portals etc), somehow new again. I don’t think that’s going to be entirely possible. Someone once said of music that there are only so many ways you can put a finite series of notes together to make a tune… it seems that there are also only a finite number of ways to dismantle someone’s atoms and put them back together in another place than the original… I have to admit, it’s been – still is in some respects – a sticking point for me.

Still, one of those, ‘cross that bridge when you come to it’ moments, and I don’t want to let it hold me back any more.  Whether my method of insta-travel remains teleport or becomes dimension gates, or something else entirely remains to be seen. First things first. I need an outline.

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