Vampire Justice

If you watch The Rookie: Feds, you’ll have finally caught a glimpse of character Brendon Acres playing Vampire Cop. This was the titular character of a defunct TV show in which he starred prior to joining the FBI.

We all want more.

Sadly, I can’t give you more, but it turns out that in my short story, “Don’t Ever Change”, there is a similar story within a story. It concerns actor Alan Fitts playing the justice-dealing vampire Charles Wardell.

Here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

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A slow knock at the door. Angelika Labelle’s eyes widen. She is seated upon a divan in front of the hearth, her face illuminated by the blazing fire within. The camera pulls back, and we see that the apartment is lit with candles, yielding areas of light and shadow. This is accentuated by the stark black-and-white photography. Decorations include antique cabinets and clocks, a hand-woven Turkish carpet, an intricately carved coffee table, and small Renaissance-era oil paintings. Another knock and she stands, adjusts her close-fitting dress, and sashays to the door. 

She opens the door slowly. There is a man standing in the corridor, hands folded behind him. He wears a black suit with a dark-grey shirt and a grey-and-black-striped tie. The corridor light is garishly bright, causing the woman to blink and raise her hand over her eyes.

A smile comes to Angelika’s face. She lowers her head slightly and looks up at the visitor, eyes half lidded. “Well this is a welcome surprise.”

“May I come in?” says Charles Bardell. 

Angelika steps back and waves her arm. Charles enters, and she closes the door behind him.

Stepping in front of the hearth, Charles regards the flames; the light dances in his dark eyes. 

“Wine?” asks Angelika, moving to the buffet. She reaches for a decanter filled with red liquid. 

“No,” says Charles. “No, I’m here on business.”

“Business,” says Angelika, as she moves towards Charles. “Well now I am intrigued.”

Charles turns rapidly and grasps Angelika by the forearm. 

“Charles!” Angelika’s eyes widen. “What are you doing?”

“You killed them. Those men. Why?”

Angelika blinks and her mouth opens slightly. Then, composing herself, she looks away. “I’m sure I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You seduced Doctor Boreanaz and blackmailed him. He provided you with the insulin and syringes you needed.”

“My, you are fanciful. Why on earth would I do such a thing?”

“They uncovered the truth about your past. As have I.”

Charles lets go of her then, and Angelika backs away, eyebrows raised. “What are you going to do?”

“Deliver justice.”

Angelika laughs. Moving to the buffet again, she pours a glass of wine, giving away a slight tremor in her hand, and takes a sip. “So,” she says, “you’re a policeman now?”

“I’m no policeman.” His words sound like a low growl. Approaching her once again, his face is dark with both anger and sadness. And something else. Hunger?

Angelika tries to back away but bumps into the buffet. Setting down her glass, she rests her shaking hands on the surface behind her. Charles approaches and bends so that he is very close to her neck. The camera closes in, showing the pores of her skin and his open mouth with its white teeth. 

“Charles, this is hardly the time,” Angelika says weakly, her body trembling.

“This is the only time,” Charles whispers.

His canines grow, and when they reach full length, Charles bites down on her carotid and drinks deeply. The camera moves to his eyes. They’re alight with energy. The camera pulls away and focuses on the roaring fire in the hearth. 

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In “Don’t Ever Change,” people are inexplicably dying after meeting Alan Fitts, and someone starts to wonder if he mightn’t actually be some kind of vampire. You can find the story in my collection, Something Special, available at Amazon.

A Sneak Peak at “Happy Enough”

We met Will Fallon in the short story “Remember Me?” in my collection Something Special. Will encounters a woman named Susan Follows who can travel between worlds and who has come looking for his cat, Sam. Sam, it turns out, isn’t from around here. And in the world from which she came, she can talk. Will and Sam travel with Susan to many worlds until they end up back home, and Susan continues her travels on her own.

“Happy Enough”, a sequel to this story, appears in my new collection , The Woman in Red. In this excerpt, Will Fallons encounters someone who shouldn’t exist–a fictional character of his own making.

The second incident happened on Tuesday of the following week while Della was away at a conference. I was to meet some friends at a nearby Irish pub that evening. Being the first to arrive, I scanned the patio for a free table. They were all occupied and I was about to head indoors when a woman rose and walked towards the exit in my direction. I was about to thank her when I realized it was the dinosaur-dress woman from my story, “Under the Sand.” She was Black, her hair arranged in ringlets falling to her shoulders, and she wore a close-fitting cotton dress decorated with dinosaurs. I was stunned. Recovering a moment later, I decided what to say.

“Hi,” I said, when she was closer. “I was going to thank you for the table, but I think I know you.”

The woman said nothing, and instead raised a skeptical eyebrow. Interesting, I thought. If this is a show for my benefit, why does she look like I’ve just given her a lame pickup line?

“You work at FLIR, don’t you?” I continued. “I saw you speak at a defence conference.”

The skepticism on her face was quickly replaced by surprise.

“I’m Will Fallon. I used to work as a technical writer. You’re … Briana?”

“Briana Davison,” she said with a smile.

And that’s when the blood drained from my face. I hadn’t used her last name in the story, something that I’d kicked myself for. But that was the surname I’d chosen as part of her backstory, as was the defence conference. I had to force myself not to sway on my feet.

“Nice to meet you,” she continued. “You live in Kingston?”

“Um, yes. Are you here on business or sightseeing?”

“Bit of both. I’m collaborating with a professor at the Royal Military College. Well, I must get on. Nice to meet you, Will,” and she extended her hand.

“Same,” I mumbled, and we shook. Watching her leave, I whispered, “Stay clear of San Diego.” Then I took a seat at the empty table and ordered a large whiskey.

It was earlier than planned when I got home. Despite my best efforts, I’d only paid half-hearted attention to my friends, and when they noticed, I pleaded lack of sleep. Sam was waiting for me just inside the door. That was unusual. She went out most nights through a second-floor window that I keep open, leaping from the window ledge to the maple tree and returning home the same way.

Sam came up to me and rubbed her head against my leg. Kneeling down, I scratched behind her ears and looked into her eyes.

“You know, don’t you?” I said. “That something’s wrong. You always know.”

The Woman in Red is available from the Amazon bookstore.

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407114&sr=8-3

Amazon.ca: https://www.amazon.ca/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407156&sr=8-1

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407189&sr=8-1

A Christmas Sneak Peak at “The Tinselator”

What follows is a brief excerpt from “The Tinselator”, a story included in my latest collection, The Woman in Red. Here, Kaylee encounters a second visitor to her home on Christmas Eve.

After noticing that the sounds on the roof had stopped, Kaylee felt rather than heard something soft and heavy landing on the floor somewhere in the house.

Once again, she peered out the bedroom door, considered waking her mother, and instead crept towards the living room. It hadn’t changed very much since she was five. Her mother had bought some new curtains. Or rather, she’d bought some material and had fashioned curtains from them. They were still thin, though, and she could easily see the contents of the room from the streetlights shining in.

All was as it should be: sofa, chair, coffee table, the TV and the plant stand. It’s just that there was something there that didn’t belong:  a man, dressed in red, with snow white hair and beard, and wearing white gloves. Next to him on the floor was an enormous, bulging sack, standing about five feet high, tied-off at the top with rope.

The man was snuffling and scratching his head as he looked at a long piece of paper.

“You’re not Santa Claus,” Kaylee pronounced.

The man started, dropped the paper, and stood up. “I’m not?” he said.

“No. You’re not Santa Claus because there’s no such person.” Kaylee said as she crossed her arms.

The man looked down, scratched his head again, and said, “That’s funny. That’s very funny. Because I’m quite sure that I was Santa Claus when I left the North Pole. Yes, I definitely remember Mrs. Claus fastening the top button of my coat before I left. She said, ‘Now then Santa, you’ll be just fine without me. After all, you’ve been doing this for over 2,000 years.’ So, you see, I must be Santa Claus. The problem is, even though I have been doing this a very long time, things always change. People move around, new children are born, other children grow too old for my toys, it all becomes such a muddle.”

His eyes began to tear up and he withdrew a handkerchief and gave his nose a loud blow.

Finding that she was starting to feel sad for the man, Kaylee spoke in a softer voice. “But how do I know that you’re Santa? You could be anyone in a red suit with a big sack.”

Now the man’s eyes began to twinkle. “Oh, but this isn’t just any old sack. Come here and I’ll give you a peek inside.”

The Woman in Red is available from the Amazon bookstore.

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407114&sr=8-3

Amazon.ca: https://www.amazon.ca/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407156&sr=8-1

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407189&sr=8-1

The Woman in Red

The Woman in Red

Phew! It’s finally out there. When you finish a writing project, it can feel like you’ve just finished the last exam of your final year at university. You’re completely spent, happy that it’s over, but also satisfied that you’ve done the best that you could do.

I’m talking about my second short story collection, The Woman in Red. As I found with my previous collection, Something Special, writing the stories is just the beginning. When you go the self-publishing route, you are in fact the publisher. It’s up to you to either do the necessary work or delegate it, and that includes editing, copy editing, layout design, and, well, you have to do it all. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) tools help a lot, but it’s up to you to make the finished product as perfect as it can be.

As for the stories themselves, they have a theme, one I wasn’t conscious of as I wrote them. Sometimes you don’t understand what you’ve done until you’ve done it. In The Woman in Red, the theme is, what if you found out that everything you thought you knew was wrong and your understanding of the world was completely upended. What then? I explore that theme in multiple genres, including crime, horror, fantasy, and children’s.

The titular story, “The Woman in Red”, has a particularly interesting history for a couple of reasons. First off, it was actually completed years ago, but subsequently sat in an editor’s in-basket for a very long time. I finally decided to liberate the story and present it here. Also interesting is the fact that it was initially meant to be another of my Castle fan fictions. To discuss how the concept grew from a fanfic to an original tale would be to spoil it, but I explore this in the postscript following the story. The funny thing is, now that the story is out there, I’ve an almost irresistible urge to write the fanfic as I originally intended. That probably won’t happen, but never say never …

This is a much shorter collection than my previous book, Something Special, because my next project will be longer form prose. You get a sneak preview of that novel here with the first chapter of A Familiar Voice, the sequel to the story “A Voice.”

If you do pick up a copy of The Woman in Red, I certainly hope you enjoy it. The beautiful cover art is courtesy of @VIIIJohannes.

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407114&sr=8-3

Amazon.ca: https://www.amazon.ca/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407156&sr=8-1

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Red-Selim-Ulug/dp/B0BMJGLF5N/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669407189&sr=8-1

The Revisited Frontier

I’d like to tell you a story, a true one, about Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

STTMP was released in December 1979, a decade after the TV show was canceled. Up until then, those of us who loved Trek had been subsisting on reruns and novels. The first Trek novel was fittingly written by James Blish, who had novelized the TV episodes. Spock Must Die was derivative but with a twist and it was an enjoyable read. I recall tremendously enjoying The Price of the Phoenix by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, a book that made clear the untapped potential of Star Trek.

But then word came that a movie was in the offing, and fans held their collective breath. This was in the wake of the massive success of Star Wars, and the studios were looking for intellectual property they could leverage to reach similar heights. Science fiction movies, after all, were suddenly “in”, and a Star Trek movie must have seemed a no-brainer.

Ottawa’s Elgin Theatre

And so, after a long buildup and a seemingly endless wait, it was released. In Ottawa, Star Trek: The Motion Picture opened at the Elgin theatre downtown. This was in the days before cineplexes. When you entered a movie theatre, there was a small area in which you could purchase tickets and snacks, and then you proceeded directly to the auditorium. When there was a lineup, you waited outside. Now, we’re talking about Ottawa in December in the 1970’s. Winters were very cold. There was a lot of snow. And the night my roommate and I walked to the theatre, it was cold and dark with tall piles of snow all around us. As it turned out, although we arrived early, the showing was sold out. So we and a lot of other people stood outside and waited to get into the next one. Why? Because this was STAR TREK. And we were highly motivated. And young. That helps too.

I want to emphasize, in case it isn’t obvious, that the audience was really was up for this. I don’t mean that expectations were sky high, but rather, that it would have been easy to make us happy. An above average episode would have done it.

After a long wait in the cold winter night, we took our seats. The lights dimmed, and there was applause before the movie even left dry dock. The opening credits rolled on the screen. William Shatner. YAY! Leonard Nimoy. YAY! And so on.

Sadly, that enthusiasm waned rather quickly, and at times the audience laughed at the movie. Not with the movie. At the movie. “[Bones.] I need you. Badly.” Laughter. Later on, “You mean this machine wants to physically join with a human?” Decker and Illia exchange longing glances. Laughter. There were probably other examples, I don’t remember. In the end, as the grumbling, disappointed audience left their seats, the feeling was that the plot was derivative (see the episode “The Changling”), the script was wooden, and the actors spent far too much time staring out the window in wonder.

William Shatner was among those unhappy with the result. After The Wrath of Khan was released to near rapturous reviews, he pointed out that STTMP had a much higher budget (in fact, it was the most expensive movie ever made at the time) but “it wasn’t a good movie.” His words. TWoK, he said, had a smaller budget, but was a much better one.

There are some positives, of course. One review at the time said that STTMP was nearer in tone to 2001: A Space Odyssey than to Star Wars, and that this was the ultimate compliment. In retrospect, it’s quite something to see the cast looking so young and fit. William Shatner had gained quite a bit of weight after Star Trek was cancelled, but to his credit he got himself back in fighting trim for the movie. There were certainly some amazing visuals. In the Director’s Edition, the special effects were completed and missing scenes reinserted. These helped to make sense of the thing. In particular, the scene where Spock realizes that V’ger is incapable of understanding the simplest (of human) feelings was one of the best in the revised movie.

If you like STTMP, I’m not trying to tell you that you’re wrong, not by any means. Obviously, there is no concept of wrong. Art touches everybody differently. But I have to be honest and say I’m puzzled by the number of very positive comments I’ve seen lately, particularly since the 4K version was released. I’m well aware that a movie shot on film can appear quite spectacular in 4K, but improving the visuals does nothing to solve the problems listed above. For a generation who was hungry for more Trek, we who viewed the film upon its release felt that STTMP limped out of dry dock on impulse power alone. The Enterprise didn’t achieve warp speed until the release of The Wrath of Khan.

On the Passing of Queen Elizabeth II

I first saw Queen Elizabeth in a motorcade while she was on her way to Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. I was outraged. “She’s not wearing a crown!” I screeched in disappointment to my mother. I was four years old. I’ve seen her at least a couple of times since then, and with my expectations set, have not since complained about the absence of a crown.

The Red Ensign

Elizabeth gained her crown in 1952, and she was the longest reigning Commonwealth Monarch in history. The only one, in fact, that many of us have known. When I was growing up, Canada had much more of an English colony mentality, and wore those trappings proudly. Photos of the Queen were everywhere. We sang “God Save the Queen” every morning in class. The mail arrived courtesy of the Royal Mail. That changed over time in an effort to give Canada more of an identify of its own. The Red Ensign, the flag used to represent Canada from Confederation through to the 1960’s, was replaced by the current Canadian flag. “God Save the Queen” was largely replaced by “O Canada.” The mail service was rebranded as Canada Post.

Throughout, the Queen was never far away, even if she was a bit more out of sight. To this day, trial prosecutors in Canada are referred to as Crown Attorneys, contractors to the Canadian Government are to deliver their goods and services to Her Majesty, and legislation only becomes law by virtue of Royal Assent. The Crown remains Canada’s Head of State, represented by the Governor General at the federal level, and by Lieutenant Governors at the provincial level. In other words, the Crown, as it always has been, is an inescapable and essential part of life in Canada.

As for the monarchy as an institution, some people love it, some hate it, and the more pragmatic simply shrug and move on. For the most part, it has worked for a long time and has been viewed as alternatively harmless or even potentially beneficial. For instance, former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker made the case that the American Watergate scandal couldn’t happen in Canada. If the Prime Minister was embroiled in such a scandal, Diefenbaker opined, the Governor General could dissolve parliament and call an election. The thing is, we now know that this wouldn’t happen.

A few years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did something that no other Canadian prime minister had done. He requested that the Governor General prorogue parliament. His minority government, you see, was certain to lose a non confidence motion in the House of Commons. After consulting with constitutional lawyers, the Governor General assented. The reasoning was that the Prime Minister was elected and the Governor General was not. The problem with this precedent is that it removes important checks and balances from our system of government. The Prime Minister shouldn’t have the power to suspend parliament whenever its convenient. If Royal Assent is virtually guaranteed no matter the request, we would be better served by an elected head of state who could legitimately say no when that was appropriate. So, to make it explicit, I do wish Canada could move towards an elected head of state.

But now pragmatism rears its ugly head. Changing the Canadian constitution requires the agreement of at least seven out of ten provinces representing at least 50% of the population. The fact is, no one can get the provinces to agree on the day of the week, let alone major constitutional changes. So, at least as far as Canada is concerned, the monarchy will be around for a good while yet.

It’s been interesting to look at the varied reactions of people in response to the Queen’s death. Some are sorrowful, some are flinging vitriol at her and the institution, and some use the occasion to attempt jokes. So what do I think about it all? I think that nobody asks to be born into the royal family, and that, basically, it would suck to be them. Because their future is written. Yes, they may be rich and famous, but they can’t grow up to become astronauts or authors or doctors or carpenters. They lack many of the freedoms that the rest of us take for granted. When the Queen was young there was little chance that she would become monarch. Perhaps that allowed her a slightly more normal childhood. That changed of course, when King Edward abdicated and George, Elizabeth’s father, became King. Not only had Elizabeth not expected to become monarch, she was thrust into the role while in her twenties. And yet she did so with grace and elegance and along the way became one of the most recognized and beloved leaders in the world.

In my opinion, it’s disingenuous to rail at the monarchy, and the Queen specifically, and visit upon them the entirety of the sins of the British Empire. Firstly, they didn’t ask for the job, it was thrust upon them. And secondly, someone has to do the job. You can’t deride a member of the royal family for assuming the crown when the fact is that there has to be a head of state. I think all that energy would be more usefully spent in promoting the idea of a republic using reasoned arguments. Raise the subject at political meetings. Lobby political parties to add support for an elected head of state to their platforms. Until there is broad public and political support for such a change, it’s not going to happen. So if you feel strongly that change is needed, you’d best get to work.

Some of the little things I loved about Queen Elizabeth: her infectious smile, and her calm, reassuring presence that’s been a constant throughout my life. She always strove to bring people together by highlighting what we had in common. And there was also her sense of being a good sport. My eyes nearly popped out of my head during the opening of the 2012 Olympics when she calmly said, “Good evening, Mr. Bond.” Then there was her tea with Paddington Bear at the Platinum Jubilee. Priceless.

The thing is, I’ve been around long enough that, with precious few exceptions, nearly everyone who was an adult when I was a child is gone. The loss of Queen Elizabeth marks one more lost connection with that time of my life. And for all the reasons listed above, I shall mourn Elizabeth II.

Doctor Who: The Alternative War

Art by @VIIIJohannes

About a year ago, I connected with Alia E. Torrie (@TheWeegieDoctor) on Twitter and was was quite blown away by what I found on her YouTube channel: musical compositions, acting, narration, singing, you name it. There’s more about Alia on her Spotlight page. Among many other things, she has voiced characters in assorted Doctor Who fan audios released by TT Productions 23. That being the case, I thought it would be quite something to write a Doctor Who script for her. I had a couple of story suggestions but she countered with the concept of playing an alternative version of the Doctor during the Time War. Oh yes, I thought, I can work with that…. The result was Doctor Who: The Alternative War, release date August 17, 2022. Here’s the trailer, and I’ll provide an update when the full release is … released. And here it is.

I finished the first draft of the script near the end of November 2021 and, with Alia’s help, assembled the rest of the cast. Companion to Alia’s Doctor, the multi-talented Abi Louise (@AbiLouise230) plays a young Time Lord, Aliana, who’s destiny collides with the Doctor on Karn, shortly after her regeneration. Jack Reeves (@JackReevesDW), well known in the Doctor Who fan community, plays Mattlin, a human who is trying to rally his people to unite in the face of an imminent threat. Jack also plays one of the soldiers. The cast is rounded out by Zak Rosenfeld (@ZakR1998), who plays some of the soldiers, and Marcus Cotton (@SirJediSentinel), who plays another Time Lord. And I have a line! My acting debut! A blink-and-you’ll miss it line!

I love to hear Alia sing, and thought that it was time we all heard at least one incarnation of the Doctor break into song. I left a placeholder in the script and basically said, “The Doctor sings here.” Alia took the challenge to heart and composed and performed a beautiful, heartbreaking lament that you won’t be able to stop replaying.

The second and final version of the script was finished on December 1. The actors did the recording early in 2022. I found myself facing quite a learning curve as I needed to select takes from the actors and stitch them together. I’ve learned a lot about Audacity this year. Finally, the sound design was provided curtesy of the amazing Jaspreet Singh. I really think sound designers don’t get nearly enough credit, the way they magically place the actors performances in the world. I’d worked with Jaspreet previously on the fan audio, Doctor Who: The Eighth Day.

This script effectively marks my first full-cast audio play. Even my stories for Big Finish were in short story format, not script form. Writing it was a very enjoyable experience, and yes, it’s very different from writing prose, but I think it turned out pretty well. I hope all of you who listen agree. The best part of writing a script, of course, is hearing a cast of very talented actors bring your words to life, wringing emotions out of phrases that you hadn’t realized were buried in there.

In this story, the TV Doctor Who universe and this universe diverge at the moment when Paul McGann regenerates into Alia E. Torrie rather than John Hurt. Alia’s Doctor is very much a Doctor, though is wrestling with a newfound darkness which she is afraid might overtake her. After meeting Aliana, they begin their first mission, encountering unexpected obstacles along the way. As one does.

I can’t wait for you to hear The Alternative War, and if the band is willing to get back together in the future, I’d like to write a sequel.

Mirror Mirror

Following the passing of beloved Big Finish colleague Paul Spragg in 2014, the company initiated the annual Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trip competition. Like many Big Finish listeners, I entered the first competition in 2016.

I lost.

After listening to the winning entry by the great Joshua Wanisko, I immediately understood why. Aside from any other deficiencies, the tone of my story, a light-hearted tale in which the Fourth Doctor encounters Alice Liddell, wasn’t appropriate.

My entry was a story called Mirror Mirror. As per the rules, I provided a one-page summary and a one-page excerpt from the story. While awaiting the results, I completed the story. After Forever Fallen was selected, I posted Mirror Mirror on FanFiction.net.

Time passed, and I recently re-read the story and found I quite liked it. Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the Lewis Carol stories, finds herself in a pocket universe after crawling through the looking glass in her parlor at home. The Doctor’s TARDIS is apparently dragged along by the temporal undertow of Alice’s journey. To escape, they must foil the Red Queen, who is determined that Alice should stay.

Having recently dabbled in audio editing, I thought it would be interesting to narrate the story myself, bringing it to life so to speak. I removed Mirror Mirror from FanFiction.net and installed it in the fanfiction section of my blog. The spoken version is available on my YouTube channel.

Some notes about the narration: Mirror Mirror is very much a Doctor Who children’s story and is narrated as such. Also, I made no attempt whatsoever to “do” Tom Baker. That is beyond me.

As for the art, it clearly makes use of the classic Through the Looking Glass artwork by John Tenniel. I’ve added to it to convey some of the elements that appear in Mirror Mirror.

Having said all that, do please give it a listen. I hope you enjoy it.

Putting Yourself Out There

It can be scary, putting yourself out there. Sharing with the world something you created. Because when you do that, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. Open to criticism. To ridicule, even. No one likes to be embarrassed.

But if you’re of a creative bent, there’s little choice. Yes, you can create things just for yourself. Horde them like Scrooge McDuck, and open the vault once in a while to play with your darlings. That’s a lot safer. But not very satisfying.

We create is for ourselves, but we also create to communicate with others. That communication goes both ways. We communicate with the world via our art, be it writing, illustration, sculpture, acting, sound design, or what have you. And the world communicates with us in the form of criticism, praise (if you’re lucky), or indifference. To say nothing is to speak volumes.

For those of us who write, many began their journeys in one fandom or another. Yes, I’m talking about fan fiction. It’s an attractive place to start because the characters and setting are already established, leaving you free to focus on story. You might also find yourself cultivating a number of friends in the community who support you while you support them. But to make that first step, to post your first fanfic, that’s a hard thing to do. After all, not everyone online is supportive. In fact, there are plenty out there who seem to thrive on spreading misery. They are to be ignored. For what it’s worth, in my fan fiction experience, I never had haters, just supporters, and I count myself very fortunate .

As you grow as a writer, with practice and with the support of your writing community, you might find yourself branching out to original fiction. Or not. We write, after all, for the love of it. There are, at the time of writing, about 76 thousand Doctor Who fan fics posted on FanFiction.net. Several tens of thousands more are posted on archiveofourown.org. There are sites where you can post original fiction and interact with community members of similar interests. Examples include Wattpad and Inkitt. You can also go the self-publishing route if you’re so inclined. I happen to know at least one pretty good self-published book …

This is truly the golden age of creative output. With the tools we have readily available at home, we can easily create all manner of works and make them available to others. And you never know what will come of it. Anyone remember this tweet from Emily Cook?

After organizing this event, plus a number of others, as well as producing outstanding extra content from Doctor Who alumni, Ms. Cook is now a Big Finish producer. Jonathan Carley, who put himself out there as, among other things, an interpreter of the War Doctor, now has two Big Finish box sets in which he has starred. Jaspreet Singh, who has produced, edited, and sound designed a number of Doctor Who fan productions (including my personal favourite, Doctor Who: The Eighth Day), has been doing editing and sound design work for Big Finish. (He also does a pretty mean Third Doctor.)

Let’s be honest. Commercial success in the arts is hard to come by. So while it’s fine to hope for that, don’t make it the sole driver for your output. Create what you create for the love and fun of it, and if nothing else, you’ll be making the lives of those around you a little bit brighter, which is perhaps the greatest success of all.

The Tinselator

The Tinselator
by Selim Ulug

Copyright © 2021 Selim Ulug
All rights reserved

The characters and events portrayed in this story are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or to other fictional characters, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

It was the steady beat that woke her.

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

Kaylee sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. With the night light on her bedside table, she could make out the clock on her wall. Five minutes after twelve. After midnight.
It couldn’t be. Could it? Was Santa Claus in the house?

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

It didn’t sound like any Christmas music she’d heard. But Mommy said there were new Christmas songs every year, so … maybe?

Lifting the covers off, she swung her legs round, stood on the hardwood floor, and put on her slippers. The big toe of her left foot wriggled in the open air. Mommy said that maybe she’d get a new pair for Christmas.

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

After grabbing Panda, Kaylee stuck her head out in the hallway and listened. There it was again.

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

It was coming from the living room, which was to her left. To her right was Mommy’s room. She should wake Mommy up. Yes, that would be the right thing to do. Except … Kaylee was curious. Very curious. She would tiptoe and be very quiet and just have a peek and then come back and wake up Mommy. If anything was wrong.

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

Peering around the corner, she noted that the living room was dimly illuminated by streetlamps through the thin curtains. There was the Christmas tree in the corner, sparse of limb and decoration, but Kaylee loved it. Beneath the tree were presents in wrapping paper or stuffed into bags and topped with colourful tissue paper. They’d been there for a few days. Santa just fills the stockings, Mommy had told her, and the empty stockings were lying on the floor against the outer wall. Kaylee’s friends had told her that Santa wasn’t real, and she believed them. But she hadn’t told Mommy yet.

Something moved from a dark shadow in the corner of the room. A man! A tall man. He was wearing a black leather jacket, dark pants, and boots. His hair kind of stood up on end and, even though it was dark, he was wearing sunglasses. And he had a really, really big gun.

“You’re not Santa,” Kaylee observed as she stepped into the living room.

The big man swung around and fixed his gaze upon her.

“Correct,” he said in a flat monotone.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your home has been targeted for tinselation,” he answered in the same monotone. He had an accent of some sort that Kaylee couldn’t place.

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

“What’s that noise?”

“My gun needs to charge,” said the man as if that was an explanation.

There was silence for a moment while the man and child regarded each other.

“What is your name?” the man monotoned.

“Kaylee.”

After another period of silence during which the man cast his eyes about the room, he said, “You are poor, Kaylee.”

This was a sensitive topic. The kids at school teased Kaylee for all she didn’t have compared to them and their rich families.

“No, we’re not!” she said, her foot stomping the ground to emphasize the point.

“The curtains have been patched by hand seven times. The furniture is scratched and old, probably purchased second-hand. Your slippers barely fit, and one of them has a hole at the toe. This room is tidy, but judging by the amount of dust, your mother doesn’t have time for housework. Likely because she has more than one job. She does this to provide you with what she can. Conclusion, she loves you. You defended your mother by denying that you were poor. Conclusion, you love your mother as well.”

The anger Kaylee felt left her, leaving her teary-eyed. “Mommy does have two jobs. She works at Walmart and Loblaws for lots of hours every day. She tries really hard. And she’s good to me when she’s here. She helps with my homework, takes care of me when I’m sick. My mommy is the best mommy there is. Even if we’re poor.”

“Remember: if you are loved, you are rich by every metric that matters. If a child is not loved, even though their family is wealthy, they are the worst kind of poor.”

Her eyes wide, Kaylee said, “You’re very smart.”

“Of course. I am a tinselator”.

Ba da da da da. Ba da da da da.

This time the sound was followed by a soft chime.

“It is time,” said the man, hefting his gun and pointing it at the tree.

“You … you’re going to shoot the Christmas tree?” Kaylee’s voice quivered as she spoke.

With the ghost of a lopsided smile, the man said, “Trust me.”

Kaylee heard a whoosh, as from a strong breeze, and a ball of silver emerged from the gun. It rose to just above the top of the tree, then fell onto it, breaking into long silver strands that covered the tree from top to bottom. Tinsel!

The tinsel glowed, even in the dim light. Kaylee’s face glowed as well. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

The man turned and stepped toward the shadows from which he’d emerged. As he did, he spoke in a voice that echoed and faded. “I’ll be—” And then he was gone.

Kaylee was soon nestled back in bed with Panda, her eyes wide with wonder. Sleep seemed a long ways away. Still, she eventually found herself starting to doze. But another sound jolted her awake. It was coming from above. Were those … hooves on the rooftop?