May 31, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Twenty One

Newt sat in the darkness until light returned and the floor straightened, then she went to the control room where, much to her surprise, the Doctor was talking to a woman she had never seen before. She cleared her throat and both the Doctor and the woman looked at her.

"Who are you?" she asked the pale blonde woman.

"Me?" the woman smiled at Newt. "My name is Romanadvoratrelundar."

"Wow," said Newt," That’s a really long name."

"Just call her Romana," The Doctor said. "She won’t mind."

"Oh yes she will mind," said Romanadvoratrelundar.

"But," said the Doctor, "If a large and horrible monster had sneaked up behind you, by the time I say your full name, you would be the monster's lunch. Which is why I call you Romana."

"But I don’t like 'Romana'," said Romanadvoratrelundar.

"It’s that or 'Fred'," the Doctor said.

Romana smiled, her eyes dancing. "Fine then, call me Fred."

"Great," said the Doctor, with an extra warm smile. "It’s good to see you again, Romana."

"It’s good to see you again, Doctor," said Romanadvoratrelundar.

“So,” said the Doctor, “if the TARDIS is working properly, then why couldn’t we land in Belly Button, Arizona? And how did we end up in Antarctica? The time didn’t change, only the location. And how did you end up here at the same time?”

Romana was busy checking the dials and controls on the console, and the far side of the circular control panel from where the Doctor was standing.

“I would guess,” she said, pointing to one of the smaller screens, “that this would be the reason you couldn’t land in Belly Button, Arizona, though I don’t see why you would want to, really.”

The Doctor moved around the console and looked over her shoulder. “A space-time interdiction? Centered on what? And anyway, all I was trying to do was to take these children home before they were missed.”

Romana looked up to where Harold and Dusty had joined Newt in the doorway of the control room, and gave the three of them a brilliantly white smile.

“Where did you pick them up? Children this young aren’t your usual style.”

“No, they’re not,” the Doctor agreed, moving back around to his side of the console, “but they trespassed in the yard of the local witch, and according to their testimony she cast a spell that sent the children to Purvis Major.”

“Purvis Major?” echoed Romana, “That’s a fair distance. Have you looked into who could send them there without a capsule?”

“Not yet,” the Doctor answered irritably, pressing several controls and frowning at the results, “I was going to check into that right after I took them home.”

“Do you know what sort of spell the witch used?” Romana asked. “That might help us negate the inter-dimensional interdict. I’ll bet it’s centered on the children, anyway. Was there a time period stated in the original parameters?”

The Doctor smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Ahhh, of course! Yes, they can’t go home until midnight. So when I tried to take them home at noon instead, so they wouldn’t be missed…”

“The interdict becomes active and slaps the TARDIS away, and you end up in Antarctica. So the solution is?”

“Wait until midnight in Belly Button, and let the interdict expire, and then take the kids home, of course,” the Doctor said, beaming. “Unfortunately, we can’t take them home at noon, but I expect midnight will have to do just as well.”

“So you didn’t say how you got here,” he added, looking pointedly around the center column at Romana.

She smiled back at him, and her dimples flashed with her delight.

“You remember Biroc?”

“Yes, what about him?”

“You remember what he was doing when we first met him?”

“Yes, he was—ahh, he’s taught you how to walk on the time winds without getting burnt.”

“Exactly. It’s extremely difficult, and much less comfortable than a TARDIS, but there you’ve it. I was walking my way out of e-space, and then I noticed the disturbance when the interdict slapped the TARDIS, and decided I should check out the cause of the disturbance. So here we are, together again.”

“I rather like that thought,” the Doctor said.

“So do I,” Romana agreed.

May 29, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Twenty

The Doctor heaved himself up from the floor of the control room and poked at the unresponsive screen. “Where are we?” he muttered, more to himself than to the TARDIS, but of course there was no reply. Grabbing one of the safety rails, he hauled himself up the steep slope of the floor to the exterior doors of the TARDIS and opened the door. Snow fell into the ship, and the Doctor could see that the warm air escaping from the TARDIS was turning to steam instantly, even as it was being replaced by cold air that oozed over the slanted threshold and filled the control room with the extreme temperature. The falling snow dusted the Doctor’s dark hair and he shivered.

He was about to shut the door again, when he saw something moving out in the snow. A red and black blur, coming closer, and struggling through the drifts of snow, as though it was a very small person, someone with very short legs who was having a very difficult time making their way through the drifts as they came toward the TARDIS.

The Doctor stood near the door, waiting patiently as the figure came closer. He hesitated to abandon someone in this cold and inhospitable environment, especially someone who was not dressed for it, and especially someone who could tell him where he had landed. They had been almost to Belly Button, Arizona, when something had struck the TARDIS, hard, and thrown the ship terribly off course. And now he would have to right the ship and fix whatever was wrong with it now, and also discover exactly where and when he was, before he could make another attempt at taking the children home to Belly Button, Arizona.

The figure in the snow came ever closer, and eventually resolved itself into a woman wearing nothing more than a pair of black slacks and a long sleeved red tunic, and nothing at all to protect her from the snow storm that was growing ever more furious by the minute.

The woman reached the doors of the TARDIS, and the Doctor reached out a hand to assist her. “You will need to be very careful, my ship is tipped partway over at the moment, and the floor isn’t straight just now,” he warned her as she took his hand.

The woman clambered into the TARDIS and held on to the railing while the Doctor secured the door against more snow entering the TARDIS, and making certain that no more of their heat could escape. He had had quite enough of icicles and snow storms in the control room, thank you very much.

The Doctor let go of the railing and slid back to the control console, where he fiddled with his sonic screwdriver for a few minutes, before managing to get the power restored. He made a few more small adjustments, and then he was easily able to right the TARDIS, bringing the floors back into alignment with the internal gravity propulsion units.

“Who made this landing?” the young looking woman asked, tucking her long blond hair behind her ears and pushing the ends behind her shoulders, then hopping up to sit on the hand rail and lean against the wall next to the door.

“The TARDIS was hit by something, midflight,” the Doctor replied irritably, “and went spinning off to who knows where.”

“Well, I know where,” she said in an irritatingly smug tone that sounded just a little bit familiar.

“Where are we then?” the Doctor asked distractedly.

“Antarctica,” she answered calmly, her eyes twinkling with her amusement. The Doctor wasn’t at all pleased that she seemed to be enjoying herself while he was trying to determine what had happened to his precious ship now. If it was something those pirate wenches had done, he would go back and skin them all alive. Well, not really, he amended hastily, but they would definitely feel the sharp edge of his tongue if he ever saw them again.

The woman hopped off the railing and came toward the control console, looking all around the interior of the ship with great interest, her eyes wide.

The Doctor followed her gaze, waiting half in anticipation, half in exasperation, for that revelatory moment that all people seemed to have when they first realized the apparent impossibility of the interior dimensions of the machine.

She flipped her hair behind her shoulder again, and patted the console, then frowned.

“Did you just redecorate in here,” she asked, “or is this an entirely new TARDIS all together?”

The Doctor frowned and stared at the woman. Something about her teased at an old memory, and he distractedly tried to place it, failing extravagantly. It was almost like she was wearing a perception filter, or something else that damped down his ability to truly look at her and recall when he might have seen her before. She was certainly acting as though she had been in his TARDIS before, though, and even as though she knew exactly who he was.

That last bit made him uncomfortable, having someone know him when he had no idea who they were. It had been happening to him a lot lately, as though he had been doing too much hopping back and forth in time, and was meeting people out of their proper order in his life.

"Well?" she demanded. "This place looks like a Dalek junkyard. What did you do to it?"

"I...well...I…um," the doctor stammered, then abruptly changed the subject.

"Did you say we were in Antarctica?" he asked, nudging the screen and surreptitiously moving a few controls on the console in front of him.

"I did, and you’re changing the subject, as usual," the woman said in complete and utter exasperation. "Come on, Doctor, I can see you’ve regenerated at least once since I last saw you, but it’s still you, I can plainly see that too. Have you gotten so old that you’re losing half of your memories? You should recognize me rather easily, since I haven’t regenerated."

The Doctor blinked and rubbed his eyes, then walked toward the woman again, and circled around her, peering closely at her, and trying very hard to place her in his memory. Maybe he was getting too old, if he couldn’t remember ever having met this young lady. He turned away from her and focused his attention on the TARDIS controls again.

"If you’re just going to stand there baiting me, fine," he said, "then just stand there and rot. I haven’t got time for playing silly games of who said what and what our names are and when we met last. I’ve got work to do, figuring out what happened to keep the TARDIS from landing in Belly Button, Arizona and why we ended up in Antarctica. You wouldn’t happen to know the date, would you?"

The woman smiled cryptically.

"Yes, I do happen to know the date, it’s Saturday, October Thirty First, Two Thousand and Eight, in local reckoning."

The doctor punched the date and their location into the TARDIS's computer, and did a little more fiddling, then kicked the base of the console.

“Did that help?” she asked.

“Yes,” the Doctor answered.

“Did it hurt?” she asked, with amusement in her eyes and voice.

“Yes,” the Doctor answered, leaning against his seat and pulling his foot up to where he could rub the pain from the toe.

"Whatever is the matter, Doctor?" the woman asked in a sweetly cloying tone of voice.

"According to this thing," the Doctor grumped, "there is absolutely nothing wrong with the TARDIS at all."

The woman insinuated herself between the Doctor and the console, and hesitantly at first, and then with growing confidence, began manipulating the controls and peering at both the screen and other various dials.

At length, she looked up at the Doctor, who was rather grumpily leaning against one of the safety rails. "Well, you’re right," she said. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with the TARDIS.

May 24, 2011

It's complicated. Very Complicated.

All I really want to do is publish my books in print and ebook, and sell them online. You wouldn't think this would be such a difficult thing to accomplish, but it gets complicated. Very complicated.

To write a novel, I use Word. It's an excellent program for passing a document around to my partner and my readers and back again. I usually use Excel for my outline, and keeping track of where I am in the manuscript while I write. In the final editing stage, I have to convert the manuscript to an html file, which involves using Notepad. Then I use Calibre to format it as an EPUB file and load it onto my nook. The brain processes the words differently on "paper" than it does on a back lit screen. Using the nook means saving a whole ream of paper on this step, and catching a lot of typos. (That's four programs and two devices, are you keeping track?)

For print publishing, I use CreateSpace. I like the quality of their product and their customer service. Once my book is "finished" and "ready to publish", I us Word to do considerable formatting of page size, margins, fonts, making sure everything is on the correct side (left or right page) and that it all looks good. Then I save all that formatting as a PDF. I download a cover template that's based on the size of the book and the number of pages, and use Photoshop to create the cover. When I'm finished making the cover, Createspace wants me to smush it all down to one layer and save it as a PDF file. (Now I'm up to five programs).

For ebook publishing, I like Smashwords because they will market to a large variety of stores for me. I am not fond of the way their "meat grinder" (seriously, that's what they call their ebook converter) does to a book for Kindle formatting. Also, although their royalties aren't bad, I can get better at Amazon and Barnes & Noble if I upload directly to their sites, and let Smashwords handle the other ebook stores and formats. All three places have different submission requirements, which means I have to format the book one way for Smashwords, a second way for Amazon, and a third way for Barnes & Noble. I also have to make three different-sized cover photos (of the same cover), one for each vendor. And at Amazon, I have to use an extra program, Mobipocket Creator, to get it formatted right. (I'm up to six programs, two devices, and five separate formattings.)

Finally, I want to give ebooks to those readers who consistently do a good job of helping me make significant and helpful changes, which means I'm re-formatting the manuscript as an html file, and putting it into Calibre again, to end up with formats readable on Nook, Kindle, and computers.

I've just spent the last two weeks learning how to move around in Photoshop without blowing anything up, and figuring out the easiest ways to make manuscripts into html files for Calibre. I don't think the time was wasted. I was shocked though, when I went to upload all the very nice ebooks and discovered I still needed to do a lot of formatting. I now have an Excel file that outlines each step for me, so I don't forget anything.

I still wouldn't trade away the freedom of being a self-published independent author!


May 20, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Nineteen

We dare you to make your characters talk in rhyme for at least two pages.

We dare you to get your characters from wherever they’re right now to Antarctica by the end of the chapter.

The Doctor patted Newt’s hand and let go of it, then whispered to her, “Stay right here, never fear, I will light the lights, my dear.”

Newt giggled at the rhyme, and said, “No fear, my dear, I’ll linger here, though the dark I do not fear.”

The Doctor made a grunting noise that sounded like “humph!” and then walked away into the darkness. Newt suddenly recalled the gaping hole they had left in the middle of the floor, and hoped the Doctor wouldn’t stumble into it and hurt himself.

“Beware the hole left like a mole had made a door in the midst of the floor,” she called out in warning, and then stopped. Why had she spoken in rhyme? Could she speak without making a rhyme?

“I’m a poet,” she whispered, and then firmly clamped her lips shut, clapping her hands over her mouth to prevent herself from finishing the rhyme.

“And I do know it,” the Doctor finished the rhyme for her from across the room, as the lights snapped on.

The Doctor grinned at her from where he stood near one of the doors. “The language circuit now is fixed, the little beast of light was nixed; the rhyming should end sometime soon as the language circuit finds its tune.”

“In the meantime we should eat,” Newt said, “I’ve already cooked us up a treat, and left it in the kitchen to heat.”

“In that case, let us seek our dinner, or I might starve and then get thinner,” the Doctor said, then he smiled merrily, and offered his arm to her. Newt laughed, and then took his arm as they left the control room together and walked sedately down the hallway to the kitchen, where presumably, the others had had the sense to stay when the lights all went out.

They were in the kitchen all right, all six of them, and were sitting in their places at the table. The emotions on their faces ranged from fright to amusement. They had all been babbling to each other in rhyme when the Doctor and Newt entered. As they became aware of the Doctor’s presence, they all dropped into silence for one long moment, and then their fear poured forth from them in the form of angry voices which sounded ridiculous in rhyming words. The six voices babbled over each other, intertwining into a long rhyme, as some of them finished each other’s couplets, and the more they rhymed, the more farcical an ludicrous they sounded, until Newt couldn’t stand it any more and started to giggle.

Her laughter initially sparked more anger to begin with, but then as the people in the room realized how they sounded, they began laughing also. During the laughter, Newt walked over to the cooking machine and deftly removed and served the ice water. To her utter amazement, the ice hadn’t even melted in the chilled glasses of water. She set the water on the table, and began to pull out the food from the warm section of the machine. The meatloaf looked just like she had imagined it, with the red sauce baked on the top. The rich, dark brown gravy smelled wonderful, and the potatoes looked so smooth and creamy, with the perfect pat of butter nestled in a small, shallow depression in the exact center of the mound of potatoes, which themselves nestled in a beautiful cut crystal bowl that was exactly like Newt’s mother’s bowl, down to the tiny nick on the edge that had appeared after Newt accidentally washed the bowl in the dish washer and it had jostled against the other dishes during the wash cycle.

With sudden jolt, Newt realized that the TARDIS had reached into her mind and somehow recreated her mother’s bowl, exactly, even the tiny nick. She indignantly wondered what else the TARDIS had been doing in her mind. She served the rest of the dinner to the assembled party as she listened to the rhyming talk. The Doctor still hadn’t explained exactly what had happened and why they were talking in rhyme, other than his initial comment of, “I’ll explain later, please pass the tater.”

The assembled group settled down to eat, and several nicely rhymed compliments were sent in Newt’s general direction, each one making her blush worse than the last one. She knew in her heart that she was absolutely not a great cook, and that anyone with a good imagination for exactly how the food should look and taste could make this machine work and have a reputation as a great cook. She devoutly wished there was some way she could take this machine home with her when her time in the TARDIS was finished, because she really liked cooking by imagination.

They finished eating the dinner, and Harold and Dusty volunteered to help clean up the dishes and put everything away. The pirates rose to leave, but the Doctor motioned silently to them to remain in their places, and the five of them remained at the table while Newt and Harold and Dusty bustled around, cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the dishes, and restoring everything to perfect cleanliness and put in order so that everything was prepared for the next time that the TARDIS rose in flight.

When their chores were completed, Newt and Harold and Dusty returned to the table and sat back down in their places again. Then, to Newt’s amazement, the Doctor just laid one finger over his lips, asking the assembled party for utter silence. They gave him what he asked for, and he smiled, then closed his eyes in concentration, looking inward. What seemed like a very long time to Newt passed in complete silence, as every person seated at the table simply sat silent and still, staring at the Doctor, and no doubt, doing what Newt was doing, which was wondering what they were all doing sitting around the table staring silently at the Doctor while he sat apparently lost in thought.

Finally, at long last, the Doctor opened his eyes again, and gazed at the assembled group.

“I think,” he said slowly, “that things are fixed now, and that we’ll not be speaking in rhyme any more.”

He let the silence go on for a minute or two, making certain that no one else had the compulsion to make what he had said rhyme. No one spoke.

“Good,” the Doctor said, then went on, his voice very quiet, and deadly serious. “Now, I’ve repaired the environmental controls, and I’ve also repaired the damage done to the chameleon circuit when you lot,” he glared at the pirates and pointed accusingly at them as a group, “tried to force the TARDIS to look more like your idea of a space ship.

“I’ve also fixed the damage that a small sprout did when it burrowed into my ship in order to escape the intense cold that the ship was radiating. The sprout, the precious child of the forest, has been ousted, and I hope it wasn’t traumatized permanently for its attempt to keep from freezing to death. I’m telling you all, and I’ll be telling you this only once.” His voice rose to a raging shout. “Keep your bloody hands off my ship.” Then his voice dropped to a very threatening whisper, and his face became very hard edges and solemn, and suddenly he was scarier than he had ever looked. “Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch a single knob, button, or switch. I’m going to lock you four,” he pointed at the pirates again, “in your bedrooms, and take you home. In the meantime, you aren’t to touch anything at all. You broke in here uninvited, you abused my hospitality, you broke my ship, and you very nearly killed a sprout of the Forest of Cheem, and if you had succeeded in that, there is no telling what interplanetary incidents you would have set off, all for the sake of finding a bit of carved rubber. It’s not worth it. Now go,” he practically hissed at them. “Get to your rooms, and stay there until I tell you that you can come out.” He raised his arm and pointed to the door, and as one, the lady pirates rose from the table and fled from before his wrath.

Newt, Dusty, and Harold sat frozen in place at the table, stunned by the venom and vituperation they had just heard in the Doctor’s voice.

“As for you lot,” he continued in a much more gentle and benevolent tone, “you had no choice about coming here. You boys have done your best to stay out of the way, and Newt has done much to try and help, and to make the situation better. I want you all to come with me to the control room while we take those women home and get rid of them. Then we’ll see what can be done about getting the three of you returned to your own homes, and getting your mess straightened out.”

The Doctor rose from the table and left the room, the three children bobbing and scrambling in his wake.

By the time they all reached the control room, the Doctor was leaping around the main console making all sorts of settings and muttering to himself, as though to make certain that nothing was set wrong or forgotten. Very shortly, the clear, blue lit rods in the central column were moving up and down, accompanied by a wheezing, groaning sound, and Newt felt a thrill of anticipation as she wondered what would happen next. Presently the wheezing stopped and the rods in the blue column stopped, and silence reigned with the TARDIS.

The Doctor disappeared, and came back again in just a few minutes with the four lady pirates.

He stood for a long moment, thinking, while they stood in a small clump and looked at him with trepidation written not only on their faces, but in every line of their entire beings. After a time, the Doctor apparently came to a decision.

Without a word, he took hold of Hollerin’ Holly’s arm, and brought her near the control console, then pressed a button, and a helmet descended from the ceiling. He set it gently on her head, and strapped the strap under her chin, then flicked a switch on the console. Blue and white lightening crawled all over the helmet. Hollerin’ Holly screamed, and then dropped to the floor, unconscious. The Doctor removed the helmet, scooped her up, and moved her over near the door that led to the outside of his TARDIS.

Then he took hold of Darth Wolf’s arm and began to lead her to the helmet. She tried to pull her arm from his grasp, but Newt could see that the Doctor was far stronger, and Mama Wolf didn’t stand any chance of escaping from his will.

“What are you doing to me?” Mama Wolf screamed at him.

“I’m erasing your memory of the time you spent with me,” the Doctor replied. “It will hurt, but there will be no lasting damage. The four of you will wake up in the woods, and you will be fine.” The whole time they had been talking, his fingers were busy fastening straps and things, and then he flicked the switch again.

The lightning crawled over the helmet and with a scream, Mama Wolf also dropped to the floor.

The Doctor removed her also to the area by the door, and turned back to the room to find that Knit Wit was already fastening the helmet on her head.

The Doctor walked back to the control panel. “I’m sorry for this,” he murmured as he reached for the switch, “I’m so very, very sorry.”

“I understand completely,” Knit Wit replied, “and I forgive you.”

The Doctor nodded as he flicked the switch for the third time, and caught Knit Wit as she collapsed.

After he had laid Knit Wit by the TARDIS door, the Doctor turned to RavenWolf, and gestured to the helmet. “It’s your turn now.”

She shook her head, then pleaded, “Please, Doctor, don’t take my memories of this. I give you my solemn word that I’ll not tell a single soul what happened, not even these three, no matter how much they plague me. I’ll not even tell them that I retained my memories. I know you’ve no reason to trust any of us, but…” she spread out her hands, fingers spread wide, palms up, in her mute appeal for mercy.

“Give me one reason I should leave you your memories,” the Doctor said. “Just one.” His voice was whispery and hoarse, choked with emotion, though Newt couldn’t say, exactly, which emotions were affecting him so profoundly.

RavenWolf looked at him for a long, long moment that stretched out for at least five minutes, though it may have been ten or twenty times that long. Then, calmly meeting his eyes, she made her statement in a serene and matter of fact tone that brooked no argument. “Because I’m nothing more or less than the sum of my memories, and I beg of you not to diminish me. I ask you for mercy and forgiveness. We entered your ship, not meaning any harm. Not finding anyone on board because you chose to hide from us, we incorrectly assumed that it was an abandoned craft, and did our best to learn to fly it. We intended only to have a little fun. You told us yesterday, when you finally chose to reveal your presence that you took off and removed us from our rightful place, because you were only having a little fun with us. Neither side meant any harm. No intentional damage was done. That makes both sides even, in my book. But I ask you, I beg of you, not to intentionally do harm to me. Please don’t diminish me. Please don’t take from me the one thing that you could never give back, my memories. I give you in return my solemn oath that not one word of this adventure will ever pass my lips, or ever be set down on paper. No one shall ever learn of it from me, a burden I would carry alone for the entirety of my short human life.”

RavenWolf then dropped her hands to her sides and dropped her head, staring at the floor, awaiting the Doctor’s judgment with resignation.

Silently, the Doctor turned away from her and picked Knit Wit back up, then carried her outside the TARDIS, returning a few moments later for Mama Wolf and Hollerin’ Holly the Troll Master of the Talley Valley Farm Clan and South Carolina Sith Lord.

RavenWolf maintained absolute silence while she watched him.

The Doctor came back in the TARDIS doors, and nodded stiffly to RavenWolf. “I’ll take your word on it. Go out there and lie down and pretend to be unconscious until after they start waking up. Make sure you’re the last person to wake up.”

He turned his back on her and began adjusting things on the TARDIS’s control panel.

RavenWolf fled out the doors into the dark of night.

Newt crossed slowly to the door and closed it softly. Then she joined her two friends where they stood near the TARDIS control console.

The Doctor finished his adjustments, and then stood back and looked at three children.

“Next stop, Belly Button, Arizona,” he said, “so I would suggest that the three of you go back to your rooms and clean up and get back into your Halloween costumes again.”

Harold and Dusty nodded and headed off down the hall, but Newt lingered in the control room with the Doctor.

“Do we really have to go back so soon?” she asked.

“I’m afraid you do,” the Doctor answered. “My life isn’t a safe one, and I can’t take responsibility for someone else’s children. Sorry. But you really do have to go back before your parents miss you. They will be looking for you shortly after midnight, is that right?”

Newt nodded. “Yes, the Halloween party at the school was supposed to be getting out at midnight, but our friends will miss us if we’re not at that party. In fact, we had people that were expecting us to be with them from about noon on.”

The Doctor nodded, scratching his chin, and then he pulled Newt around the console to the computer like screen that sat on one side of the round plinth.

He tapped at the screen several times, then motioned to Newt. “Here is a map of Arizona. Work it like a touch screen, and zoom in on a good place to land the TARDIS, someplace that won’t be noticed by half the population of Belly Button.

Newt fiddled with the screen for a few minutes, and finally directed the Doctor to the small tangle of woods in the city park.

“And where is the Old Mrs. M’s house,” he asked, “the woman who sent you out of your own time and place, where do I find her?”

Newt peered at the very good rendering of the aerial pictures of Belly Button, and found the information the Doctor had asked her for. Then, weary beyond belief, she headed down the hall to her bedroom to change back into her Marie Antoinette Halloween costume.

She reached her room and was reaching out for the latch to open the wardrobe when there was an enormous slapping sound that reverberated through the TARDIS. At the same time, the floor tipped sideways, and Newt found herself sliding down the steep slope that was actually the floor. The TARDIS began to spin, and the floor rocked wildly from one side to another, and then with a sickening sound of splintering wood, the motion suddenly stopped, and both silence and darkness descended.

May 19, 2011

Looking for Readers Again!

School is out, I got straight A's, and am halfway to graduation. It's time to work feverishly on writing until I fall back into academia in mid-August.

What have I done so far? I've learned how to format a manuscript for a successful conversion to e-book; learned enough about photoshop to make decent book covers; cleaned up all the files on my external hard drive, including a badly needed reorganization of my writing files; engaged in a seriously painful battle with a sinus infection; and began coding an update on my website.

My goals are to publish Deadly Gamble by the end of June in print and e-book, re-do the covers and e-book formatting for Tanella's Flight and Fabric of the World, and do as much as possible to get the next two novels ready to publish in October and April.

The October novel has been read, and is entirely in my hands now. I am looking for readers for the April novel. This one is called The Mom's Place. It is a romance, but it is a clean romance. It has a contemporary setting.

I'm looking for people who have MS Word to read and edit the manuscript. I would like to send it out to 5-6 people on Monday, and you will have three weeks to read, edit, and return it. As always, I'm looking for people who are willing to help out, and not people who just want a sneak peek at the manuscript. Instructions on how to edit will come with the manuscript. If you're interested in reading, please email me at



May 16, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Eighteen

We dare you to take away all your characters’ ability to speak for one whole chapter.

They walked back to the TARDIS in silence, their hearts light. Newt felt happier than she had felt during their entire adventure, since the moment they had first realized they were on an enchanted path in Old Mrs. M’s garden.

We dare you to incorporate three of the things nearest to you that start with the letter “n” into the next paragraph.

When they reached the TARDIS, Newt went off to her room. She had sweat pretty badly when they had been running through the forest away from that very frightening fortune teller, Madame Du Pompadour, and Newt wanted very desperately to take a shower and get cleaned up. When she opened the door to her room, Newt realized that someone had been in her room while she was gone, because a New rubber stamp, a Novelty pen that had a combination magnifying glass and microscope on the top of it, and a Never opened package of Smarties were all sitting in the middle of her bed.

She grumbled to herself that the pirates had been in her room, and made a mental note to ask the Doctor how she could lock her bedroom door while she was gone. For that matter, she wondered how to lock the door while she was here. What if they had come in while she was in the middle of changing clothing, or showering? That was certainly not a pleasant thought, especially since she had been warned not to trust them. At least one of them had been proven to be a liar, and at least one of them had entered her private space without her express permission.

Newt went over to the door and looked for some way to lock it or otherwise secure it closed. She saw no obvious latch, but there was a small metal plate set into the wall at about chest height, right next to where the lock should have been, if there was a lock on the door. Newt pressed her thumb against the metal plate, and heard a distinct click. Startled, she pulled her thumb back, but nothing else happened. She reached out to the latch on the door, and tugged, but the door refused to open. Experimentally, she pressed her thumb to the small metal panel again. Although there was no feeling of “give” to it, she heard the small snick of a lock again, and this time when she tried the door handle, it opened easily.

Newt stepped out into the hallway and investigated the wall next to the door frame, and discovered a similar panel on this side of the wall. A little further experimentation, and she knew she had found her door lock.

She went back inside her room and locked the door, then proceeded to the small bathroom, where she made use of the facilities, and then cleaned both her laundry and herself.

Shortly, she had located something else nice to wear, a long green skirt, paired with a pale pink tunic that had long trailing sleeves. As the tunic had rather open sleeves and the neckline was quite a bit lower than Newt was accustomed to wearing, she supplemented the outfit with a tight fitting, long sleeved black body suit that really fit like a turtleneck sweater that had been melded into a single piece with a pair of long, ankle length leggings. Once Newt had zipped up the zipper that was cleverly hidden in one of the sleeve seams, you couldn’t tell how it was possible to get in and out of the body suit. With the green skirt, and the loose pink tunic, Newt felt very posh and sophisticated. She braided her hair up, and swirled the braids into a coronet. The green ribbons she had braided into her hair matched the skirt. When Newt stood before the mirror and swished her skirt, she was suddenly glad that the body suit went all the way to her ankles, because the green skirt proved to have slits up the sides all the way to her waist.

She unlocked her bedroom door, went out into the corridor, and carefully relocked the door, before moving off down the hallway in the general direction of the kitchen.

She thought it would be nice if she made dinner for everyone tonight, and she had a few good ideas on what, exactly, she was going to serve them for dinner.

We dare you to put lime Jell-O into your next scene. Food fight? Jell-O eating contest? It’s up to you!

Newt entered the kitchen in the TARDIS and discovered to her great pleasure that she had the facility all to herself. She went over to the food machine that she had used earlier to make a sandwich for her lunch, and opened the door where she had placed her hand before.

She clearly imagined a lavish dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes that were made from fresh, whole potatoes, and so were still slightly lumpy from the mashing process, nice dark brown gravy, and a big bowl of sweet green peas, the smaller, perfectly round ones that were more expensive because they were the first, almost ripe pick of the season. Spring peas, she thought they were called. She imagined her mother’s freshly baked bread, still hot from the oven, and slathered with butter that melted directly into the bread and became an integral part of the flavor and olfactory experience. She imagined big water goblets with tiny ice cubes in them, and filled with the fresh, delicious, moss filtered water that she had been privileged to drink at the little cottage today, and then for dessert, she imagined elaborate dessert dishes filled with colored cubes of Jell-O in all varieties of flavor—lime, cherry, orange, lemon, blue raspberry, peach, banana peach, black cherry, grape, blackberry—everything except strawberry and watermelon, because she hated the artificial strawberry and watermelon flavoring. The dessert was a rainbow of Jell-O cubes topped with freshly whipped sweet cream.

While the machine worked on making the dinner, Newt busied herself finding a nice table cloth and china, and silver utensils, and bustled about setting the table. In one cupboard, she found a vase, and Newt filled it with water and set it in the center of the table, then, when everything was almost ready, she went outside and gathered some of the purple grasses that had been blooming, and brought them in to put in the vase.

A bell that reminded Newt of the timer in her mother’s kitchen went off, and she set her hand in the cubbyhole slot of the food machine and instructed it to keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold while she rounded everyone up for dinner.

She was about to leave the kitchen when the door slammed open, and the boys entered, distress on their faces.

Newt opened her mouth to ask what the problem was, and realized that there were no words. She was still thinking in words, of course, but she found that it was impossible for her to say anything. Her eyes widened with her own distress, but realized almost immediately that this must be the source of the boys’ affliction.

Newt pointed at their seats at the table and motioned to them to stay put, and then she flitted off down the hall to the craft room to gather up the lady pirates, as well as some pads of paper and pens to use for communication purposes until this new contretemps could be sorted out.

The scene in the craft room couldn’t have been funnier. Three of the pirate ladies, Knit Wit, Hollerin’ Holly, and Mama Wolf, were all sitting at a table, staring at each other with tears in their wide, roundly opened eyes, grasping their throats, and flapping their mouths open and shut, looking for all the world like fish out of water gasping for their last breath. The fourth lady pirate, RavenWolf, was sitting at her computer, furiously pushing buttons on the keyboard. When Newt got closer, she realized that the screen was blank, and concluded that even her written words had been taken. This didn’t bode well for using paper and pencil for communication, but she gathered up pads and pens anyway, and motioned to the pirates to follow her. Newt led them to the kitchen, and realized that the Doctor was now the only person not in evidence.

She handed the pads of paper and the pens to Knit Wit, and made shooing motions with her hands. The lady pirates went into the kitchen, and Newt set off to the control room in search of the Doctor. Something else had now gone wrong with the TARDIS; something that had effectively stripped them of all language.

Newt found the Doctor in the control room of the TARDIS. He had pulled up one of the floor panels and climbed down into the pit that contained a maze of wires and lights and other components, not all of which seemed to be entirely electronic. The Doctor was furiously shaking wires and applying the glowing blue end of his little stick to the various parts of the TARDIS. Every time he manipulated a different part, he would open his mouth as though he was trying to speak, and then he would move on to another part. As Newt watched, he threw the tool with the glowing blue end on it across the room in frustration, and slammed his fist against one of the more solid parts of the TARDIS. There was a loud crack, and the Doctor cradled his hand against his chest and let out a howl that bespoke his frustration and pain without the need for words. Newt guessed that he had probably broken his hand in hitting the machine, and felt a great wave of sympathy for the pain the Doctor must be experiencing.

She crossed the room to him, and plucked at the shoulder of his suit, gaining his attention. Newt sat on the floor of the TARDIS, and dangled her legs down the open hole, then patted the floor next to her. One handed, the Doctor heaved himself up out of the hole until he was also sitting on the floor with his legs dangling down the hole.

Newt knew that there were no words available to her, but still, she had watched her mother often enough to know that some emotions could be conveyed entirely without the need for words. She put her arms around the Doctor and leaned her head on his shoulder, striving within the confines of her heart and mind, to radiate her concern, and her sympathy, and to offer him comfort. She wanted to be soothing, hoping that she could take away his anger and frustration so that he would be able to think calmly, and figure out how to fix what was wrong, for she somehow knew that restoring the Doctor to rational thought was the only chance they had to regain their language skills.

The Doctor put his good arm around her shoulders while still carefully cradling his injured hand against his chest.

After a time, Newt felt a warm, wet drop on her cheek, then a second one against her neck, and she realized that the Doctor must be crying. She knew that men don’t like to be caught crying, as most of them consider it most unmanly, so she didn’t move or react to the tears in any way, but just sat still with her arms around the Doctor’s skinny chest, and did her best to radiate comfort as he relieved himself of the frustration he had been experiencing with his ship for…she paused to calculate how long the TARDIS had been broken, and realized with a shock that they had only met the Doctor at dinner time yesterday, and that the great environmental controls blow up in the control room had only occurred this morning. However, there had been an awful lot of living that had been packed into one single day.

Slowly, the Doctor’s sobs and tears subsided, and Newt felt, almost as a palpable thing, the stern resolve that came into his entire being and was reflected in his body posture. He gently unwound his left arm from Newt, and she let go of him and sat up straight. Without a word, because of course, he couldn’t have uttered one anyway; he heaved himself to his feet, stalked across the room and retrieved his useful tool with the glowing blue tip. The Doctor tucked the tool into the inner pocket of his suit and returned to Newt, offering his uninjured hand to help her get up. She accepted his aid and rose from the floor, feeling acutely for the first time all the little pin pricks from the expanded steel floor as they left their imprint on her flesh right through the clothing she was wearing.

The Doctor offered his arm, a gentlemanly old world gesture fraught with meaning, and Newt’s thoughts took an amused turn, as she realized how many ways the human race had developed to communicate with each other entirely without the use of words.

The Doctor went first down an unfamiliar corridor, and through a door, and as Newt looked around her at the very unfamiliar machinery, she wondered what they were going to do in this room.

The Doctor opened up one of the panels on a machine, a little awkwardly, since he was forced to use his left hand, and it was patently obvious that he was very right handed.

Once the panel was open, he pressed a button, and the machine unfolded by itself, becoming a large table or bed, with several pieces of equipment hanging over and around it.

The doctor pulled one of the bits of machinery over the bed near the head of it, and carefully positioned it with great attention to exact details. When it was where the Doctor wanted it to be, he carefully laid his injured hand beneath it, slowly and with great grimaces of pain on his face, using his left hand to straighten out his fingers and lay the hand flat on the surface of the bed.

Suddenly Newt realized that they must be in the TARDIS’s equivalent of a sick bay, or urgent care treatment center, and that the Doctor was trying to work the machinery with his left hand only because he couldn’t explain to her what needed to be done.

When his hand was flat against the table, he stood still for a long moment, panting and gasping from the pain the small effort had cost him, then motioned Newt over to the control panel of the machine, which was out of reach from where the Doctor stood near the head of the bed.

It took a long time for her to find the right switches and buttons, because they each had to be pressed in the correct order. She had to go over each button on the panel, while the Doctor nodded or shook his head on each one, then start the process all over again for the next control. One of the dials had to be set to a number, which the Doctor was forced to count out to her in groups of five, since he could only signal with one hand to do so.

Eventually Newt got everything set the way the Doctor needed it done, and was allowed to push the great big threatening red button that apparently powered everything.

There was a great deal of whizzing and whirring, and bluish green and orange lights emanated from the part of the machine that was suspended above the Doctor’s hand. Newt found herself desperately hoping that this part of the TARDIS wasn’t also broken, and that it would properly heal the Doctor’s hand.

Within a few minutes, she could see the tension the pain had caused leaving the Doctor’s shoulders, and a few minutes later, the lights emanating from the machine went out, and the Doctor pulled his hand from beneath the machine, flexing and stretching the fingers and thumb experimentally. Apparently everything worked as it should, and he gleefully wiggled the fingers at Newt to show her it was now healed. He folded the machine back up again and put it away, a process that went much more quickly with both hands working, and then walked over to the door and held out his hand to Newt, and she joined him at the door and took his hand. They walked out into the corridor, and the Doctor closed the door and secured it carefully behind him.

Hand in hand they started off through the corridors and Newt gently pulled the Doctor in the direction of the kitchen where she knew dinner awaited them.

The Doctor shook his head and pulled her instead to the control room where he grabbed a large rubber mallet and started banging on the walls, with his ear close to the wall, as though he was listening to the sound it made, and looking for something in particular.

Finally at one section of the wall, he did an awful lot of tapping in a small area, as though narrowing down exactly where the problem lay.

It reminded Newt of the time her father had been trying to locate a wall stud in order to hang up a very expensive and heavy mirror on the wall. He had used the electronic stud finder, and the magnetic stud finder, and then tapped the wall for a very long time, with his ear pressed carefully to the wall to hear some slight and subtle difference in the tapping sound.

Finally he had decided he had the right place and had installed the hanging hardware triumphantly on the wall, and then he and her mother had carefully lifted the large mirror up and, with many a grunt of effort, had strung the wire hanger over the hook on the wall, then stepped back to admire their handiwork just in time to see the mirror pull the hangar through the unsupported drywall and tear a large hole in the wall as it crashed to the floor and shattered, exploding flying shards of silvered glass throughout the entire room.

Some of the bits of glass had penetrated the wall on the far side of the room, and Newt and her parents were very lucky indeed to have escaped with only a few very minor cuts each. Newt had had to have three stitches right in the center of her eyebrow, and to this day, the hair wouldn’t grow in that scar tissue, leaving her with a small, straight, bald patch right down the middle of her right eyebrow. Her mother told her later that she had been very grateful the glass had pierced Newt’s eyebrow instead of being a couple of inches lower and destroying her eyeball itself.

Newt brought her attention back to the present and concentrated on what the Doctor was doing. He had located a certain spot in the wall of the TARDIS, and was tapping out strange rhythms on the wall. Incredibly, the wall was tapping back, and the entire control room thrummed and beat with the sound of the Doctor and the TARDIS tapping at each other as though they were using some sort of Morse code.

The Doctor pulled out his favorite tool with the glowing blue end and held it to that particular place on the wall, while the blue light glowed and the tool whirred. The tool began to shake in the Doctor’s hand, as though the TARDIS was fighting against whatever it was that he was doing, but he relentlessly held his hand firm, and the tool steady. That section of the TARDIS wall started to turn the same color blue as the end of the tool, and Newt wondered what, exactly, the Doctor was trying to accomplish.

Suddenly, all of the lights went out, the darkness nearly a palpable thing, but the tiny blue glow of the tool and the part of the wall that it had caused to glow blue instead of its normal ruddy orange remained alight, the only light source in the room.

Distant screams from the direction of the kitchen informed Newt that the thick darkness wasn’t just in the control room, but a general power failure for the entire ship.

Slowly, the patch on the wall grew larger and brighter, and the Doctor still fought, harder than ever, to keep his tool on the exact spot that he had worked so hard to find.

With a suddenness that was almost as breathtaking as the lights going out, there was a tremendously bright flash from the area where the Doctor had been working. Newt rubbed at her eyes, trying to reduce their dazzlement, and discovered that the Doctor was still trying to hold the tool to the wall, but now the tip of the tool had been pushed an inch or two from the wall by a dazzling ball of white light that had apparently been drawn out of the wall by the glowing tool.

The Doctor’s arm was shaking with his efforts to push against the light, so Newt moved to his side and put her hands on his, helping him push. Soon, they were both pushing with all their strength, and the dazzlingly bright white light disappeared with a soft popping sound, like a soap bubble vanishing. With this disappearance, the room was plunged into absolute blackness, for the whirring blue tool exploded in the Doctor’s hand at the same moment that the white light had vanished.

As the thing they had been exerting all their strength against vanished, Newt and the Doctor both staggered against the wall and each other, but quickly managed to regain their balance, clinging to each other in the darkness.

“Thanks,” the Doctor said quietly.

“You’re very welcome,” replied Newt, rejoicing in the fact that she could speak once again.

May 09, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Seventeen

‘”The familiar spirit that has chosen to live within my crystal ball, which is that being who delivers to me proclamations regarding the future, instructs me to say to you that you must do nothing. All will be revealed unto you when the time is right. Midnight is the witching hour, and the hour when the greatest power comes to those who have power. The spell that has been cast around you as a net will lift at midnight, and you will find that all in your life will be as it should, but beware, for time does not run at the same speed when in different dimensions, and therefore you must be careful, for any injury that you take while in this continuum will travel with you into the next, even unto death. Beware of pirates who make false promises, and always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!”

“You’re right, Doctor,” Dusty said. “It all sounds like it’s a bunch of random gunk. None of it makes sense to me.”

“Start again at the beginning Newt,” the Doctor suggested, “and let’s start taking it apart.”

Newt nodded, and began again.

‘”The familiar spirit that has chosen to live within my crystal ball, which is that being who delivers to me proclamations regarding the future, instructs me to say to you-“

“Stop there,” said the Doctor. “Comments anyone?”

“It sounds like she’s telling us that she believes this creature, or spirit, or something, actually lives in her crystal ball, and that it somehow gives her the information. Telepathy maybe? Is there really such a thing as telepathy?”

The Doctor nodded. “There is such a thing as telepathy, and it would be entirely within the realm of possibility that there is some sort of a creature that lives in her crystal ball, It’s also possible that this creature is telepathic, so this part of her speech might be genuine, or it might just be her standard opening when she’s telling fortunes, but at any rate, all it does is establish her credentials as a fortune teller.”

Harold nodded sharply, showing his agreement with what the Doctor had said, and Newt decided she agreed also, so she went on with the next part of the fortune.

“You must do nothing. All will be revealed unto you when the time is right.”

“Well,” Harold said, “that could mean anything. I mean, all it says is that if we don’t do anything to try to get back home, someone will come along and tell us what to do.”

“That sounds reasonable,” agreed the Doctor.

“The first part of it’s pretty plain to understand, anyway, said Dusty, that she thinks we shouldn’t do anything, which to me says to just go with the flow and take events as they come.”

Newt nodded. “Agreed. And the part about things being revealed to us in the future, well, we’ll just have to wait until the future gets here and see if anything new is revealed to us.”

She looked down at the note pad and turned to the next page in order to continue reading.

“Midnight is the witching hour, and the hour when the greatest power comes to those who have power,” Newt read from the note pad, then continued, “That just sounds like establishing her authority again, or explaining. Like she was telling us that something will happen at midnight, because there is more power at that time of day.”

“Well,” the Doctor said, “lots of cultures believe that midnight is a magic time. It’s the hour when one day changes into the next, and you get a clean start on the next day. Cultures that practice magic, or have what we would call magic as a part of their daily existence, all tend to attach a great deal of importance to the hour of midnight. Who am I to say they’re wrong. So, your Madame Du Pompadour explains that midnight is a time that’s significant to many practitioners of what could be termed magic, and why she thinks it’s that way. What’s next? Something else about midnight, was it not?”

Newt nodded. “It says, ‘The spell that has been cast around you as a net will lift at midnight, and you will find that all in your life will be as it should,’ so maybe the first bit about midnight was to tell us why Old Mrs. M’s spell would be lifted at midnight.”

“Hang on!” Dusty said, and then screwed up his eyes in intense thought until they were completely closed. He threaded the fingers of his right hand into his hair and gripped the hair tightly, as though he could pull the errant thought from his brain directly through the hair follicles. Everyone at the table sat patiently while he thought, politely and considerately giving him time and space to retrieve whatever memory he was after.

Finally, he let go of his hair and opened his eyes, and looked at them with a great deal of excitement sparkling in his bright blue eyes. His hair continued to stick straight up, still twisted by his fingers, and Newt wondered how much hair gel he had used to keep his fine hair from static electrically sticking to the inside of the hood of his Vashta Nerada costume.

“Old Mrs. M said something about midnight, just before that flash of lightning knocked us out.

“That’s right,” Harold said, “I remember now… it was something about… um…”

“Midnight,” Newt broke in. “She said we had until midnight.”

“That’s right,” Harold agreed.

“But,” said Newt, “we’ve been here overnight already, and it’s now in the afternoon of our second day here. So that kind of kills the ‘things will revert back to normal at midnight’ theory, doesn’t it?” She sat back in her chair and exasperatedly blew her breath out in a way that would have blown her bangs upward out of her eyes, if it hadn’t been several years since she had had her hair cut so that she had bangs.

“That’s one theory,” the Doctor said, “but you’ve to keep in mind the nature of time. Most people assume that time is an orderly progression of events, from cause to effect, but in reality, it’s more like a big ball of tangled string, and if you pull on one of the ends hanging out of the ball, you’re never quite sure what other threads inside the ball are going to be moved, knotted, and disrupted along the way. Which is why it’s never wise to meddle in time, and try to change past events.”

“The fortune teller’s words continue,” Newt continued, “but beware, for time doesn’t run at the same speed when in different dimensions.”

“Well, there is that to consider also,” agreed the Doctor, “which probably means that the spell will lift at midnight, in your own time zone, at home, regardless of how much time you spend in other dimensions and time streams.”

“That makes sense to me,” Harold said, and for the first time since they had arrived on Purvis Major, Newt saw that his face actually looked cheerful. Dusty’s face was showing that he was cheered by the news also, and Newt suddenly realized that Dusty might have been blaming himself for the entire incident, since it had been his suggestion to cut through Old Mrs. M’s yard. Even when they had protested that they shouldn’t be doing it, he had practically forced them to go on without him, or follow him. With a horribly sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, Newt wondered what would have happened to Dusty if she and Harold hadn’t followed him into Old Mrs. M’s enchanted yard. He would probably still be there taking tea with the Victorian woman, and would have therefore been trapped in the past, with no way home. Newt shivered at the possibility that Dusty would have vanished completely from the face of the Earth, had their friendship not been strong enough to follow him into the well enchanted garden.

“What else did the fortune teller say to you?” the Doctor prompted, and Newt realized she had been silent for a time, wrapped in her own thoughts.

She hurriedly looked at the note pad, turned to the next page, and continued reading.

“Therefore you must be careful, for any injury that you take while in this continuum will travel with you into the next, even unto death.”

The Doctor nodded. “Standard good advice for time travelers. Even if you’re in a time that’s in your own people’s history, you can still change things you shouldn’t change, or get horribly hurt or even killed. It’s very possible for you to have been born in the twentieth century, and die in the eighteenth.”

Newt nodded. “So she gives us some good advice. Advice to be careful is never out of line.” She took a drink from her cup, and was amazed at the wonderful clean taste of the water. It was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted in her life, and she wanted more of it. She drank again, deeply, until her cup was drained. Suddenly she felt cold all over. Eating food in the TARDIS seemed different, somehow, than the water that came from the planet they were on, probably because that food had been brought to Purvis Major by the Doctor. Harold had been so certain that they shouldn’t eat or drink anything that was offered them, because according to the rules of the fantasy realms he had read, eating or drinking native food items would trap you there within the sorcery forever. She even recalled a Greek myth to that effect, a girl who had been trapped in Heck for half of each year because she had been tricked into eating a few pomegranate seeds, or something to that effect. What in the world had she done? Would she now be allowed to go home?

“Drink up!” the Doctor said in his cheerful voice. “I love the taste of fresh well water from a nice mossy well. The moss filters out the dirt and germs, and it just tastes better than any other water, don’t you think?”

He refilled his cup as well as hers, and drank deeply of his own, with a wink.

“But…won’t we be trapped here for drinking it?” Harold asked.

“Well,” the Doctor said, that’s the rule for some enchanted worlds, I suppose, but this isn’t an enchanted world, no matter how you got here, so the food and drink wouldn’t have any effect on you. Except to taste good. And anyway, you’ve been eating food from the TARDIS, how is that different?”

Harold grinned. “Well, you brought that with you, it wasn’t a part of the enchantment of this world, unless you yourself was part of the enchantment.”

The doctor considered his words for a moment, then nodded. “Your logic is good, I’ll grant you that. Be assured that I don’t usually frequent worlds where you can’t eat the local foods.”

Dusty shot a glare at Harold, but it was only short lived as the two boys drained their mugs of water, and agreed that the clear, cold, moss filtered water was the best they had ever tasted.

“So,” said the Doctor, “was there any more to your Madame Du Pompadour’s pronouncement?”

Newt flipped to the last page, and looked. “Just a little more,” she said, and then read, “Beware of pirates who make false promises, and always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!”

Newt turned to the next page, and saw that it was empty. “I think that’s where I asked her what it meant, and she got mad and chased us off.”

“Well, beware of pirates who give us false promises makes sense,” said Harold, with a grin. “How many times did that Hollerin’ Holly lie to us about how much further we had to go to get to the top of the mountain?”

“Too many times,” Harold answered with a mock groan, but we did find that box, and it was sort of fun, having a reward waiting at the end of our hike. I wonder if there are any of those letterboxes in or near Belly Button, Arizona?”

Newt kicked him under the table. “We’ll find out about letterboxes later, after we’re safely home. I’m sure that if we search online, we’ll be able to find out more about them with out having to ask that lying pirate Hollerin’ Holly.

“Read that last bit again, Newt,” Dusty said, “not the bit about the pirates, but the other part. It sounded a little strange, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.

“Always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!” Newt read, obediently.

“Trust your physician,” Harold laughed. “I think she means the Doctor.”

“Well, I trust the Doctor,” Newt retorted, “and I didn’t need her to tell me that.”

“An apple a day…what exactly does that say Newt?” said Dusty.

She checked the paper again. “An apple a day gets the doctor away.” She recited, then looked up at Harold. “Are you sure you got that bit right? I thought it was ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’”

“Not the doctor,” Dusty said, suddenly, “the Doctor!” and he pointed excitedly at the tall man seated at the table with them. “An apple a day GETS the Doctor away. She was telling us how to fix the TARDIS,” Then he sat down again, a frown on his face. “Never mind, that suggestion was a real piece of rubbish. How could an apple fix a machine?”

The Doctor sat bolt upright, his eyes going very wide. “Dusty, I think you’ve the right of it. I’ve been looking at the hardware, but there is a set of programming instructions filed in the apple file, for restarting the TARDIS if everything should go strange at once. If I follow the codes and directives in the apple file, I would bet it would put the old TARDIS to rights again, and then we could leave.”

The Doctor’s eyes were gleaming as they got up from the table and hurried outside to return to their meadow.

“Thank you!” the Doctor shouted, his face tipped upward, as though he were talking to the trees.

Newt thought she may have imagined it, but it seemed to her that a sudden breeze rippled through the distant canopy of leaves, almost as though the forest laughed and giggled an acknowledgement to the Doctor’s voluble thanks.

May 06, 2011

Leash Laws

There's been an ongoing conversation at my favorite website for the last several days about leash laws, and when it is all right to let dogs off their leashes. I started to reply, but realized I wanted my thoughts to be shared with a wider audience. When I say "you", I mean people in general rather than any specific person I know--unless it applies to you.

The arguments essentially boiled down to these:

On the keep the dogs leashed side:
  • Many children are afraid of dogs, even friendly ones, because the dog is bigger than the child.
  • Many people are allergic to dog dander/hair.
  • "Other People's Dogs" might harm "MY Dog".
  • If my dog runs after a squirrel I may never see it again.
  • Many people have been bitten by off-leash dogs in leash-only areas.
  • People feel it's their right to pet my dog without asking, and if it is leashed, I have better control of the situation.

On the unleash the dog side:
  • But MY dog is friendly/doesn't bite/only wants to say hello.
  • My poor doggy has been in the car all day and needs to run.
  • My dog is well trained and obeys every command, so it's safe, and the sign doesn't apply to me.

I am not a dog lover, or a dog hater.

Although not an elderly person, I am a little unsteady on my feet. I have arthritis from head to toe. Sometimes just walking is all I can manage. No one can see my disability just by looking at me. Someday in the future I will be in a wheelchair, but my doctor has told me walking is the best exercise to push that day as far into the future as possible. I get out and walk as much as possible, but often have to take my walker with me. Two years ago I had a bad fall. I tripped on a curb and dislocated my elbow. I have not fully recovered from the fall, and am terrified that another fall will result in a more debilitating injury.  The point here is that a big, friendly dog who won't bite can still be a danger to me simply by knocking me down.

Here's the point:

If there's a sign designating it's an off-leash area, then I know what I'm risking (being knocked over by a friendly dog and getting badly injured in the fall) by venturing past that sign.

If there is no sign, use your discretion. Again, I have chosen to go into that area, knowing I may meet off-leash dogs.

If there is a sign stating dogs must be on leashes, the dog better be on a leash; not because it is polite, not because it's a bad dog, but because it is the LAW that the dog must be leashed in that area. When I choose to walk only in areas where it is posted that dogs must be on a leash, I choose to walk there to protect my own safety. Dog owners have the choice to walk that path with their dog on a leash, or to break the law and let their dog off the leash. It's that simple, no judgment call is required.

Laws are not there to limit our freedom. I choose to walk only on leash-required paths instead of all trails, because I am concerned about being knocked over by a large and overly friendly dog. Dog owners who choose to walk on leash-required paths should obey the law and use a leash. They also have the choice to walk on undesignates and unleashed paths. There are many places not posted either way, and many places posted for off-leash dogs. If you want to walk your dog off-leash, take them to where it is legal to do so, but please don't risk my future by breaking the law.

I guarantee you that if your unleashed dog knocks me down in a posted leash area, and I am hurt because of it, you will be meeting me in court, you will be paying my medical bills, and you will be losing your dog. The laws are not just there to protect other people from your dog, they are there to protect your dog from other dogs, to protect your dog from other people, and to protect you from lawsuits. However the laws only work when we all obey them.


May 03, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Sixteen

The Doctor listened to the strange tale Newt told of the mysterious fortune teller in the woods with an amused frame of mind, though he kept his face serious, because he knew that she took this fortune telling thing very seriously. Well, she would, being only thirteen, and a very young thirteen, at that; besides, she still regarded the teleportation of herself and her friends halfway across the universe as magic.

The Doctor knew very well that what seemed to be magic to one society and civilization would be termed science by another, and that there was almost always a reasonable explanation for anything that at first appeared to be magic, but he also had been around the galaxies enough times to recognize that it was much easier to deal with any given person within the bounds of their tribal superstitions and beliefs, because very few individuals were able to shake those off and live in a wider world.

Therefore, he hadn’t contradicted the children the night before as they had spoken of the magic spell that had sent them to Purvis Major, nor would he contradict Newt now as she spoke of the fortune teller. True soothsayers were very rare, and never human, but many of them might be able to appear to be human, if the need arose. He also didn’t know if the fortune teller was one of the natives of Purvis Major, or whether this so called Madame Du Pompadour was, like himself, a visitor to this place.

He also had no sure indication of what species the Old Mrs. M was, or what motivation she actually had possessed for sending the children off to the far end of the universe all on their own, but that was another matter entirely and he would look into that later, after he took them home.

Children this young shouldn’t be racketing about the universe all on their own, and he felt the responsibility to return them to their homes in safety, and to stand as their guardian until that task was accomplished.

In the meantime, Newt was offering him the contents of her notepad, and he took it carefully, keeping in mind the trust she was offering him along with the notepad and its contents.

He quickly read through the so-called prophecy, expecting it to be made up of so many generalities that it could be interpreted in any way that the events actually fell.

The papers on the note pad read, “The familiar spirit that has chosen to live within my crystal ball, which is that being who delivers to me proclamations regarding the future, instructs me to say to you that you must do nothing. All will be revealed unto you when the time is right. Midnight is the witching hour, and the hour when the greatest power comes to those who have power. The spell that has been cast around you as a net will lift at midnight, and you will find that all in your life will be as it should, but beware, for time does not run at the same speed when in different dimensions, and therefore you must be careful, for any injury that you take while in this continuum will travel with you into the next, even unto death. Beware of pirates who make false promises, and always trust your physician, after all, an apple a day gets the doctor away!”

“Hmmm…” the Doctor said, “this will take some time to talk about. Why don’t we find a nice place to sit down and discuss it?”

He led the way into the forest, and the three children followed in his wake.

As he walked, he formed a picture in his mind of a snug cottage, complete with a nice little garden and ivy twined well, where there would be a table full of refreshments where they could sit and talk in privacy. Well, he amended, as much privacy as you could have on a planet that was populated by telepathic trees who could create any environment you wished to have created for you.

The Doctor knew that the cottage was prepared when he saw the inviting little path just ahead of them, and he veered onto it, leading the children to the cottage, which was exactly how it had been imagined in the Doctor’s mind. He sent his thoughts out again, thanking the tree beings for their hospitality, and felt a comforting assurance that he would always be welcome in their realm because of his kindness to one of their own number many, many years ago, when he had befriended Jade, the lovely tree woman from the Forest of Cheem.

With a pang, the Doctor recalled how she had willingly given her life to save all of the people who had been gathered on Platform One. He shook the memory free, and continued down the path to the cottage, certain that the pirate ladies wouldn’t be able to find them here, even if they thought to look.

The tree people of Purvis Major assured him that no one would ever be able to find the Doctor against his will, on any planet where their people lived.

When they reached the clearing with the cottage, the children stopped short, wary of entering yet another enchanted clearing. The Doctor opened the small white picket gate, and gestured them forward.

“It’s all right,” he promised them with a smile, “we’re all safe here. We’re not trespassing here. The house belongs to some friends of mine, and they have given me permission to use it. I thought it would be a good place to speak in private, and to discuss your prophecy, Newt.”

Newt nodded, and proceeded into the small yard, the boys following nervously in her wake.

The Doctor drew a bucket of water from the well, and then carried the bucket into the house with him as he opened the front door and walked in, acting for all the world as though he owned the house. He knew his confident attitude would spread to the children, and they would be comforted by it.

Quickly glancing around the single room of the cottage, the Doctor carefully set the mossy bucket on the table, and then stepped over to the shelf near the beautifully and intricately carved mantle piece and retrieved four beautiful, leather bound wooden mugs. He peeked inside of them, and as he expected, found no dust or other contaminants. The Doctor set the mugs on the table and retrieved a dipper from its peg on the wall, and dipped out some of the cool, sweet, well water into the mugs.

By this time, the children had all seated themselves around the table, and the Doctor set the dipper in the mossy bucket from the well, and set the entire bucket within reach on the sparkling clean hearth stones.

“Now,” he said, pulling the list from his coat pocket where he had carefully tucked it, “shall we see if we can get to the bottom of this fortune you’ve been given?”

He laid the note book on the table in front of them, and said, “These things are usually better understood if you take them apart and look at each section individually. Newt, how about if you read the entire thing to us, and then we can go over it a section at a time, to see what knowledge we’ve that will shed any light on what this fortune teller - Madame Du Pompadour, I think you said her name was?” he paused while Newt nodded at him, “has told you. Do recall, please, that a fortune teller usually tries to state things in a hazy and hard to understand manner, because they really don’t have any idea what’s going to happen in the future. Most events are constantly in flux, meaning that they’re easily changed, and only a true telepath would have the ability to make an accurate prediction. And true telepaths are very rare, and not often human in shape,” he added offhandedly, “so we might also want to consider the notion that she, or it, or whoever it was that you met, is a fraud, and none of this might be a true telling.”

The children nodded, and Newt took the note pad from the table in front of the Doctor, and began to read in her clear and youthful voice.