J. Grace Pennington

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Star Trek Fanfic — A Friendly Game

cards

It’s been far too long since I shared one of my Star Trek fanfics, so while I work on my post about Neil Crater, I’m going to pull one out of the archives. Laugh and enjoy!

A Friendly Game

or

Hearts Have Been Broken

“Checkmate.”

Montgomery looked up to make sure he’d heard right. “What did you say, laddie?”

“Checkmate, I said checkmate.” The thin young Doctor McCoy looked irritated. “Don’t you know what checkmate means?”

“I do, but I’m beginning to think you don’t,” was Montgomery’s mild answer. James Kirk, who sat across from the thin young Doctor McCoy, was more precise.

“Checkmate is for chess, you silly.” He boldly laid down a queen of hearts.

“Oh. I thought it was for checkers.” The thin young Doctor McCoy watched as Mr. Spock stoically put down an ace of spades.

“You don’t have any hearts?” James Kirk sounded both surprised and dismayed. Then he turned his attention back to the thin young Doctor McCoy, who was studying his own hand of cards intently. “First of all, you don’t say checkmate in checkers. Second of all, we’re not playing checkers, we’re playing hearts. And thirdly, it’s your turn, and you’re holding us up. I thought you said you knew how to play?”

“Oh I do, I do,” the thin young Doctor McCoy insisted, looking extremely clueless. He studied his cards again for a minute, then proudly slapped down a two of diamonds.

“You have to follow suit,” insisted James Kirk, annoyed.

“Follow which?”

Montgomery, being a kind soul, leaned over and whispered, “Play this one, laddie,” pointing to the thin young Doctor McCoy’s jack of hearts.

“Oh, okay.” Pulling back the diamond, the thin young Doctor McCoy obligingly put down the jack of hearts. “Just don’t call me laddie.”

James Kirk turned savagely on Montgomery. “Why didn’t you just let him play? If he doesn’t know the rules, that’s his funeral.”

Montgomery privately thought that James Kirk had been ready enough to explain the rules when he was winning, but he said nothing. He placed a six of clubs on the pile.

With an exclamation of annoyance, James Kirk scooped up the pile. “Doesn’t anybody besides me have any hearts?”

“I do!” the thin young Doctor McCoy announced happily. “I have… one, two, three…”

“Don’t tell him what you have,” whispered Montgomery.

“Mr. Scott, I believe the good Doctor may tell me anything he likes. This is just a friendly game of cards.” With this noble speech, James Kirk laid down an ace of spades.

“That move was not logical, Jim,” Spock said quietly, putting out the queen of spades.

With another exasperated exclamation, James Kirk hit his fist on the table.

The thin young Doctor McCoy promptly plopped down another diamond and called, “Spoons!” then proceeded to snatch up all the cards, looking very proud of himself.

Spock raised one eyebrow, and James Kirk yelled again. “We’re not playing spoons, you dimwit, we’re playing hearts, now put those back down and play a spade.”

“But I don’t have any spades,” protested the thin young Doctor McCoy, putting the cards disappointedly back down. “Only these little black, upside-down heart things with sticks sticking out the bottom.”

“Those are spades, Doctor,” sighed Montgomery. “Look… clubs, diamonds, spades, and hearts.” He pointed to each suit in turn.

“Oh. I get spades and spoons mixed up, I think.” The thin young Doctor McCoy laid down a three of spades.

“Will you two hurry up?” James Kirk tapped his fingers impatiently. “You’d think we’d have finished this round by now, it’s been –” he consulted his watch “–thirty minutes!”

“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying.” Montgomery quickly put down a nine of diamonds, and once again, James Kirk took the pile of cards.

Once again, it was James Kirk’s turn to start. He absently put down a king of hearts. Spock, shaking his head, laid down a king of diamonds. “You are playing a very poor game today, Jim. You must still have your mind on that examination.”

James Kirk groaned. “Why did you have to remind me? That’s the whole reason I’m playing, to get my mind off of the exam.”

“Bluff,” announced the thin young Doctor McCoy, looking expectantly at Spock.

Spock turned his head, raising both his eyebrows this time. “I beg your pardon, Mr. McCoy?”

“Bluff. I’m bluffing you.”

“Bones.” Kirk seemed to be doing his best to sound patient. “We are not playing bluff, we are playing hearts. There’s no bluffing in hearts.”

“Oh. Are you sure?”

“Quite sure.”

“If there were bluffing, it would be called ‘bluff,’” Spock reasoned logically.

“What should I play?” the thin young Doctor McCoy asked Montgomery in a loud whisper.

Montgomery glanced at James Kirk, who had previously shown some dislike for having Montgomery tell the thin young Doctor McCoy what to play.

“For Pete’s sake, tell him, tell him,” sighed James Kirk. “We’ll never finish, at this rate.”

Leaning over and examining the thin young Doctor McCoy’s cards, Montgomery suggested, “How about this one?” pointing to the five of hearts.

“Good idea.” The thin young Doctor McCoy decisively laid down the suggested card. Then he turned to Montgomery. “Come on, Scotty, we don’t have all night.”

Montgomery was in the process of putting down the eight of clubs.

Sighing dramatically, James Kirk once again swept up the pile. “How many cards have you taken, Spock?” he asked, peering over his cards at Spock’s side of the table.

“None,” said Spock, without expression, rearranging his cards in order of how he expected to play them.

Montgomery took note of the space in front of each player. James Kirk had a moderate pile of cards in front of him, Spock’s space was bare and clean, the thin young Doctor McCoy had half a deck of cards spread out haphazardly in front of him, and Montgomery had a small number neatly placed in a row in front of him. It spoke to their personalities, he thought.

With unnecessary flair, James Kirk threw down his second-last card — a ten of hearts.

“I’m afraid you have been dealt a poor hand, Jim,” Spock observed, laying down his second-last card — a three of clubs.

“I’m afraid so,” sighed James Kirk, looking at the pile in front of him.

The thin young Doctor McCoy laid down his second-last card and promptly yelled, “Uno!” then proceeded to wave his solitary card around for all to see.

Montgomery sighed, Spock raised one eyebrow, and James Kirk pounded his fist on the table. “We’re not playing Uno, we’re playing HEARTS!”

“You don’t say Uno in Hearts either?” The thin young Doctor McCoy looked disappointed once again.

“No, you don’t. You don’t bluff, you don’t checkmate, you don’t say Uno, and you don’t take spoons. You just play cards, and take the pile when you play the highest card. It’s not that complicated. Now Bones, please play a card, and play it while we’re still young, okay?”

“I just played a card, Jim.”

“You can’t play that card, Doctor,” Montgomery explained. “You have to play a heart.”

“But he played a — a little bush-leafy thingy!” The thin young Doctor McCoy was pointing disdainfully at Spock. “If Speck can play something besides hearts, then I want to do it too!”

“He doesn’t have any hearts,” Montgomery explained.

“You don’t?” The thin young Doctor McCoy looked searchingly at Spock, as if hoping to catch him in a lie.

“No, Mr. McCoy, I do not,” Spock responded composedly. “I happened to be dealt one of those fortunate hands that contains no hearts whatsoever.”

Standing up, the thin young Doctor McCoy slapped his palms passionately on the table. “You happened? Who dealt these cards? I demand to know what manipulating fool gave him such a fortunate hand that lets him play all sorts of crazy things while I can only play hearts…”

Montgomery tugged on his friend’s sleeve. “It was me, Doctor. I dealt,” he admitted meekly.

“Oh.” Flushing slightly, the thin young Doctor McCoy sat down. “I didn’t mean you, Scotty. Of course it was a completely fair…”

“Would you please put down your other card?” James Kirk sounded thoroughly exasperated now.

“What? Oh yes, sure, Jim.” Scooping up the card he’d laid down before, the thin young Doctor McCoy put down his other card. Then Montgomery hopelessly played his seven of spades, James Kirk took the pile, and they all tossed down their last cards, which also went to James Kirk.

“Alright everyone,” he sighed, “count points.”

Spock looked down at the empty space in front of him and raised one eyebrow. He’d won for sure, Montgomery sighed. Why couldn’t he ever be good at this game? The thin young Doctor McCoy began counting his cards, but then Montgomery whispered to him that only hearts and the queen of spades counted as points, which the thin young Doctor McCoy started complaining about. Then Montgomery looked through his meager portion of cards, and found no hearts or queen of spades there either.

“Where are all the points?” Spock asked, his eyebrows tilting further down than usual. He looked across at Montgomery. “Are you sure that you and Mr. McCoy don’t have any?”

“No, none here.” Montgomery double checked both their stacks and shook his head.

Then Spock jerked his head up and looked at James Kirk suspiciously. “Jim…”

With a loud laugh, James Kirk slapped down fourteen cards, consisting of thirteen hearts and the queen of spades. “Shot the moon, Mr. Spock! And you never suspected!”

The thin young Doctor McCoy leaned over to Montgomery and asked if shooting the moon had anything to do with jumping the gun, and Spock looked almost somewhat annoyed.

“Got you!” James Kirk was still laughing.

Spock pushed his chair out and said calmly. “It is high time I was in bed. Good night, gentlemen.”

Laughing on, James Kirk began gathering up the cards and putting them back in his pocket.

“How many points do you have?” asked the thin young Doctor McCoy, looking completely disoriented.

“Zero. You each have twenty-six.”

“Twenty-six?” the thin young Doctor McCoy exploded. “How on earth did we get twenty-six? Scotty said only hearts and the queen of whatchamacallems counted?”

“They do,” Montgomery started to explain, “but…”

James Kirk suddenly straightened up and said, “Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, whoever’s not hid, holler ‘I’!” and jumped out the back door.

Montgomery and the thin young Doctor McCoy stared after him.

“I must not know this game as well as I thought,” said the thin young Doctor McCoy, shaking his head. “I didn’t know that was part of…”

The hall door opened, and in walked the janitor.

“Aha, you two again!” He pointed a long finger at the two of them, still seated at the table. “Up after curfew. It’ll be detention for the rest of the night.”

After they had sat silently in detention for a few hours, the thin young Doctor McCoy looked over and asked, “Scotty?”

Montgomery sighed wearily. “Yes, Doctor?”

“What’s shooting the moon?”

With another sigh, Montgomery laid down, making himself as comfortable as he could. “Goodnight, Doctor.”

The Beginning of the End

Gordon pedaled as fast as he could, intensely focused on taking deep breaths. Each inhalation set off a dull pain deep in his chest, but he persisted, stubbornly ignoring his rapidly increasing heart rate. Baum would fuss that he was exerting himself too much, but Gordon didn’t care. He had to get into shape somehow, and riding his bike to work was the best way he could think to do it…

I promised an Implant update, didn’t I? I do believe I did. As I mentioned in my introduction of the book, I’ve been working on going through a printed version of the novel and marking it up with red pencils and purple post-it-notes, helping myself get a full picture of what’s wrong with it, how it needs to change, and what practical steps I can take in my rewrite to implement those changes.

So the good news? Last weekend, I finished this marking process and am ready to move onto the next stage — the full rewrite! Yay!

The bad news? Every page is full of red x’s, lines, circles, and notes that say “too much telling,” “too cheesy,” “too confusing,” “show more,” “give details,” “logistically confusing,” etc., etc., etc. Not to mention the big chunks of exposition that I skipped never went back to write. And the one very deus ex machina bit involving a pathetic and rousing speech by a small child who appears nowhere else in the story.

i.e., This story needs a lot of work.

The other good news is that going through it all gave me a huge reminder of why I love this story, and I’m actually excited to get going on revision 1.2. In fact, as soon as I get this post up, I’m going to open up a new Works document (yes, I’m one of those who refuses to leave the caveman era of word processors and still clings to Microsoft Works like a toddler to a favorite toy) and get going.

In the meantime, I need your help. I want to pick one of the main characters to introduce you to, but I can’t choose which. So I’ll give you three names, and you tell me which one you are most interested in learning a bit about. Ready?

The choices are:

Gordon Harding

Doc

Neil Crater

Tell me your choice in the comments!

Creighton Hill Cover Reveal

“No one can mysteriously disappear leaving no trace. It isn’t realistic.”
“You’re right, Emily,” her grandfather said thoughtfully. “It isn’t realistic. However, a good many things happen in this world that are not realistic, things supernatural.”

Today I’m excited to be participating in my friend Morgan’s cover reveal for hew new book, Creighton Hill! I do have some news of my own to share with you soon, but when I saw the intriguing new cover, I just had to stop and share it with you!

*drumroll*

Creighton Hill Cover Front

Emily, Allan, Jill, Joey, and Anna have grown up on their grandfather’s tales of ancestors who mysteriously disappeared from Creighton Hill, the plantation home that has been in their family for centuries. When Grampa’s death forces them to move into Creighton Hill, the truth about the supposed disappearances is the first thing on their minds. Allan, Jill, Joey, and Anna’s, that is. As for Emily, why must they keep at their supernatural hogwash?

Could it be that their family really does just have an unusual history of early deaths? Most people seem to think so. But Grampa’s research has uncovered something different.

When mysterious writing matching descriptions found in ancient accounts begins appearing to the children, they know something’s up. They must find out what really happened to their ancestors, and work together to discover the reason behind the mysterious writings.

Creighton Hill is the first book of the Time Captives trilogy, a tale of faith, family, fantasy, and a fight for truth and freedom.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? Don’t you want to read it now? Well sadly, you can’t read it yet, because it doesn’t release until June 8th. But after that, be sure to check it out! In the meantime, you can add it on Goodreads.

You can also keep up with the blog tour, or follow Morgan on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or her website and blog.

I’m on my way out the door to do grocery shopping now, but sometime this week there will be an update on Implant. Have a happy Monday, everyone!

The Balcony

Today I have a guest post by my very dear friend Aubrey Hansen about her upcoming short film, The Balcony. Not only am I thrilled that she wrote the story, and that another good friend Jordan Smith is producing it, but the subject matter is very close to my heart. As someone who has struggled with severe depression and knows many others who have, I’m always thrilled when I see a project that deals with depression, suicide, and related topics in a truly helpful way. And since I’ve collaborated with both of these talented people several times, I know the quality of their work, and that gets me even more excited. I’m also thrilled that another skilled friend, Rick Holets, is going to be adding the very important element of music. But instead of continuing to rave about the story, I’ll let Aubrey speak for herself…

When my good old producer Jordan Smith dragged my script “The Balcony” out of the back of his file bin and decided to produce it, he suggested that we market it as a suicide prevention film. Even though I hadn’t originally written the script with that intention, I was intrigued by the potential. Since writing the script I had gone through my own battle with depression and suicide, so if my little film could be used in any way to reach out to other people who were hurting, I would be happy.

But as soon as we set out to promote the film this way, it got me thinking… How do you promote a suicide prevention film so that the right people will see it? How do you speak to people struggling with depression and suicide through the art of film? How do you write a film in such a way that struggling people will be encouraged and not offended?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t know yet how well my film will reach other people. But I have “been there,” and I do know what reached me and what turned me away during that time. So, from a former depressed and suicidal young woman, here are some tips for writing effective suicide prevention material.

Write what you know. I’m not saying that only people who have “been there” can write effective suicide prevention material. If that were the case, then the whole historical fiction genre would be a joke. But if you’ve never struggled with depression yourself or known someone who has, then why are you trying to reach us? If your intentions are pure and you truly have a passion for suicide prevention, then you will have the dedication to research the problem you are trying to address so you can truly understand it. Historical fiction authors immerse themselves in the time period so they can be true to fact in their tales. If you truly care for those of us who are struggling with depression and suicide, then you will do the same.

Beware of textbook cliches. In accordance with the above point, be careful of depicting all depressed and suicidal characters as “textbook cases,” with the same static personalities, symptoms, and responses. People are depressed for different reasons and to different extents, and they respond to and display their depression in equally unique ways. Similarly, not all depressed people are suicidal, and not all people are suicidal because of depression. Just as it is a disservice to God and Christian fiction to portray all Christian characters as cardboard cutouts with the same attitude and struggles, so it is disrespectful and ineffective to portray every depressed or suicidal character as thinking and behaving the same way.

Write characters with personality outside of depression. Although depression can be debilitating and suicidal thoughts can consume someone’s life, even the most depressed characters are still human. They have lives and personalities outside of and inspite of their depression, just as patients of cancer, diabetes, or any other disease have lives. Depression may affect their entire life, but they still have family, friends, a job, hobbies, personality quirks, etc. If depression is the only thing that defines your character and makes them a unique human being, then you are not writing a realistic representation of depression–or an interesting character.

Avoid trying to find a “cure” for depression. When reaching out to depression victims through your writing, do not try to solve all of their problems and cure them of their depression in one story. You don’t need to. It’s not realistic; everyone’s battle is unique, so if you try to find a solution to everyone’s problems at once, you will most assuredly over-generalizing and downplaying the struggle. And furthermore, many people do not win their battle with depression by having a major breakthrough. Some do have a distinct turning point; I did. But many win their fight by small victories, making it through another day and slowly improving their quality of life. So don’t feel daunted by the fact that you can’t fix our problems with one revelation; if you can give us hope for another day, then you’ve won.

Above all, write an interesting story. Let me be frank; those of us who are depressed or suicidal aren’t going to pick up your book or film looking for the solution to our problems. If we were looking for someone to diagnose our problems, we’d pick up a self-help book or go to a therapist. Generally, we don’t intentionally look for books or movies with depressed or suicidal characters. We’re not hunting for a book with characters “like us” in hopes they’ll have the solution. In fact, we probably picked up your book or movie just to be distracted. If you try to lure us in by claiming you have the solution, or spend the entire book or movie acting like our therapist, we’re going to be offended–and probably bored. We want to be entertained; for many of us, having entertaining distractions is one of the only ways we fight the darkness. Give us that entertainment, and you’ll have our attention. Write from your heart and let your living characters do the talking. We’ll listen.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to be a real human being, and let us see that. All you have to do is write a real story.

After all, we’re real people too.

If you’d like to help this important short get made, please consider donating to the Kickstarter campaign. Time is running out, and I really want to see this project succeed!

Interview with Claire Banschbach

Today I’m participating in the blog tour of my friend and fellow Texas homeschooled author, Claire. I haven’t quite ready any of Claire’s writing yet, even though I have a copy of her first book that I need to review when I’m a little less short on this substance called “time”! But I’m very interested in her series, and so I was excited to hear that she was coming out with a second book, and I enticed her to do an interview with me, even though I’ve been so belated about reading the book she already bestowed upon me.

There’s also a giveaway going on until midnight on March 28th. The giveaway includes two signed copies of Clair’s book The Wildcat of Braeton and accompanying sets of four notecard sized illustrations from the series! See the rafflecopter below to enter. But the long and the short of it is, here is Claire to answer our burning questions about The Wildcat of Braeton.

Hello! Tell us a little about yourself.
Howdy! I grew up in west Texas with seven other siblings. I was homeschooled through highschool and then went on to obtain a degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M. I’m currently working on my Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Texas Tech. Aside from the academics that I am currently drowning in, I love reading, writing of course, watching movies, doing anything outside especially sand volleyball and horseback riding!

What is your book about?
The Wildcat of Braeton is the second in a series. It follows the journey of Aiden, a young Braeton, who is finally able to return home after seven years of military service in the southern country of Calorin. However, he returns to find his home under attack from within and Aiden becomes determined to return his father to his proper place as Clan Chieftain. We also follow a character from the first book, Corin, a prince of Aredor, who is struggling to rebuild his country after a recent war and defend it against another possible invasion.

What gets you most excited about this story?
I think the characters do, honestly. I had a few great ones carry over from The Rise of Aredor, the first in the series. I also got a chance to work with some new characters, some planned and some that kind of invited themselves along for the ride. Watching characters interact is one of my favorite parts of writing and I think that’s one of my favorite parts of this story with Aiden especially. When he’s in certain situations, you never really know what’s going to come out of his mouth next but it’s usually highly entertaining.

What is your favorite part about writing?
I think my favorite part has to be when that bit of inspiration strikes at just the right time and the story basically writes itself for you. The only bad part about that is sometimes my pen can’t quite keep up with my brain and my characters start tapping their foot in impatience.

What is your number one advice to aspiring authors?
I would say to keep writing, which sounds really obvious. But push yourself outside your comfort zone. Get as many people as you can to read your work which will help improve your writing. And I’d also say to stick to the reasons you wrote the story even if parts aren’t so popular with your readers because you were given that story for a reason. So write it! ;)

Finally, which would you rather be, a shark or a muffin? Why?
I’d rather be a shark because as a muffin I’d be afraid of being eaten all the time. This way, as a shark, I could do the eating because I really like muffins.

Thank you for joining me, and best wishes with your book release!
Thank you!! And thanks so much for having me!!!

Want to keep up with the rest of the blog tour? Find the schedule on Claire’s blog!

About the Author:
Claire Banschbach was born and raised in Midland, TX, the fourth of eight children. She was homeschooled through high school and is now a proud member of the Texas A&M University class of 2014. An avid reader of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and many other adventure novels, Claire was prompted to begin writing her own fantasy novel at seventeen after several years of daydreaming. She continues to write in her spare time (and often when she doesn’t have spare time). When not scratching out stories and homework with pen and pencil, Claire partakes in the joys of watching the Boston Red Sox, Aggie football, playing volleyball, and horseback riding. She hopes her faith and strong foundation in God will continue to help guide her writing. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center.

Connect with the author:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairembanschbach
Twitter: @TheRiseofAredor
Blog: https://www.clairembanschbach.wordpress.com
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105807269877322531706/about/p/pub

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