December 14, 2017

Writing Lessons from the Ocean's Movies

Writing Lessons from the Ocean's Movies

Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, and Ocean's Thirteen are all amazing heist movies. They have great casts (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon all star), twisty plots, and lots of thievery. What's not to like? These three movies have some great lessons that writers can take away, so let's take a look to see what they are. There will be spoilers for all three movies ahead, so be warned.


Big cast= many personalities

As the name implies, there are eleven characters in the team from the first movie, not to mention villains and various other characters. Despite having such a large cast, you know all the different characters and can pick your favorites. How did they accomplish this? They gave each person a distinctive personality.

There's the boss, Danny Ocean, who puts together the heists. There's Rusty, the real brains behind the operation. Lucas, the kid who happens to be an amazing thief. And so on. Each one has an important role in the plot and looks different so you can pick them out on screen.

If you have a large cast of characters, you need to make sure people can tell them apart. Make sure their personalities are different, as well as the way they look. Give them a mannerism that lets people know who the character is once you see it (like Rusty, who is always eating). If you think you have too many characters, see if any can be combined or dropped all together. 

If you've watched Ocean's Twelve, you'll know how important this bag is.

Don't tell the audience everything

One of the best parts of these movies is the way the story is told. Most stories are told in chronological order. And so are these, or at least you think so. Until they suddenly make you realize that you're missing something and then tell you everything they've been hiding from you the whole movie. If there could be unreliable narrators in movies, this series has one.

The second one is the most notable to me. They have to pay back the guy they stole from in the first movie, or else he's going to ruin them. To do that, they have to pull some big heists. The biggest is stealing a Faberge egg while competing with another thief. You think the other guy wins and Ocean's guys are sunk, then they reveal that they've had the Faberge egg long before the other thief. It's hilarious because you realize a lot of the second half of the film is a complete red herring.

You don't have to tell your reader everything all at once. Have your characters have secret plans that you don't tell the reader until much later. Make them feel like they know what's going on, then flip everything on its head. But you also have to drop little clues along the way that if they had taken time to look, they would have noticed. When you reveal what you've been hiding, the reader will suddenly go "Why didn't I notice that?".


Give them a solid goal

Each of the three movies has a goal that you can easily figure out. The first movie's goal is to pull off a spectacular heist with a side of revenge on a man called Terry Benedict. The second one's goal is to get the money to repay Benedict without being caught by the police woman who's on their trail. The goal of the last movie is revenge against the man who hurt their friend. These movies are complicated and full of twists and turns, but throughout the characters are driven by their mutual goal.

Don't forgo putting all sorts of awesome plots in your novel instead of giving them a goal to drive them forward. It annoys me to death when a book has no clear goal. How am I supposed to describe it to someone else when I wasn't even sure what the characters were trying to achieve?


Build a strong team

The team Danny Ocean puts together in these movies are amazing. They certainly aren't what you would think of as a team, but under Danny's and Rusty's leadership, they come together into a cohesive whole. The strength of the team is especially shown in the third movie, when the guy who provides the money for their operations is severely hurt and left in a comatose state from someone double crossing him. Obviously, they then plan a revenge job on the man who did it to him, with a goal of completely ruining him.

You need to show people how much your team cares for each other. They won't root for them if they know they're just going to fall apart. Show the readers how well they work together, despite differences. Building a good team is what made the Avengers movies so powerful, and Civil War so devastating to watch.


Actions speak louder than words

Rusty is one of the most interesting characters in the movies. He doesn't talk a lot, instead leaving that sort of thing mostly up to Danny. He doesn't participate a lot in the heists. He mostly remains quiet and eats something in every scene. And yet, when he does speak, people listen. Rusty saves his words for when they're needed. Instead of talking, he observes. That's why Danny might organize things, but Rusty really runs the heist.

One of the best scenes in the first movie is when Danny and Rusty are gathering the people they need for the heist. They stop by a bar and Danny thinks they've got everyone. Rusty doesn't say a word the whole scene, just looks at the TV, and yet Danny knows he thinks they need one more man, so he finds him. (You can watch that scene here.) What Rusty doesn't say is often more powerful than what he does.

Characters don't always need to say everything they're thinking. It can be more powerful if they don't, in fact, and you make people understand what they want or feel by their actions. Try writing a character like Rusty and see how tricky it is. Don't let them waste words, instead observing everything.


Think outside the box

The final interesting thing about these movies is how they think outside the box with their heists. Partially because they have to, partially because they like to. The things these guys are up against is no joke. Why rob one casino when you could rob three at once? Why beat the other thief in a competition when you can get the egg from his mentor ahead of time? Why steal from the man who hurt your friend when you could completely ruin him?

Find ways to think outside the box with your story. Look for ways your characters can do the unexpected. Throw things at them that force them to make different, trickier plans or have them look for more than they originally thought. Don't make things easy and don't always do what people expect.

Let's talk! Have you watched an Ocean's movies? Do you like heist movies? Have you ever done any of these things in your novel? Tell me in the comments.

December 11, 2017

Bullet Journal Year One: Likes, Dislikes, and Thoughts

Bullet Journal Year One: Likes, Dislikes, and Thoughts

Near the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, I started hearing about this thing called a bullet journal. Being a person who loves planners, lists, and keeping organized, I decided to check it out. My research interested me, so I decided to give it a try. In January it will have been a year since I started using one, so I decided to make a post sharing my experience with it so far.

What is a bullet journal?

Excellent question. A bullet journal (called a bujo for short) is part planner, part journal, and part you. The planner part lets you make to-do lists, plan your month or week, and that sort of stuff. The journal part allows you to create pages for writing about things, making lists, or planning projects. And the you part means you can customize it however you want. The bullet part of the name comes from bullet points, which are used a lot in the journal.

At first, it can seem complicated. There's so much you can put inside the journal. But if you take time to watch the videos, and set up a very basic one at the beginning, it's not that hard. As you get better at things, you can start adding in more pages and customization.

The whole point of the journal is that is for you. Whatever works best. Messy, pretty, plain, or fancy. All you need is a notebook and a pen. (Although you do need to make sure your notebook or journal has lots of pages because you don't want to run out.)

All right, so now that I've explained what it is, let's move on to what I liked about my bujo this year.

Likes

• Everything in one place. As I said, I'm a planner, so love to write everything down. The bullet journal condenses everything into one notebook that can be organized with the index at the front. You can also add pages full of lists called collections like books read, movies to watch, things you love, inspirational quotes, and so on. It's all up to you.


• Physical paper writing. I do keep notes on my computer and phone, but it helps a lot to actually write things down. It's been proven you remember things better if you write them down on paper as compared to a computer. The bujo allows me to write down all my stuff with a real pen and paper.

• Decorating! One of my favorite parts of the bullet journal is how you can decorate it. Of course, if you don't want to decorate, you don't have to, but I love making things pretty. Plus, taking time to sit down and prepare my journal for the next month is fun and great me time. I didn't start out doing this, but as I got better, I added more decoration.

• Trackers. In my bullet journal I have a whole page of trackers. I like to see how much I've done of something in a month and it helps me see, oh, I need to practice violin more next month. Or get in more drawing time. I also have a page where I write down the date and what type of exercise I plan on doing, with a checkbox for if I completed it or not. (It helps me get it done because I like to see the yes box checked.)

I got sick in September, thus all the exercise marked no. But that's the basic layout.

• Goals. I also like to write down my monthly and weekly goals in my bujo. I didn't have my yearly goals in this one, because I also started a planner at the beginning of the year before switching fully to the journal. I need to work on getting better at accomplishing or setting goals, however. Far too many go unfinished.


Dislikes

• Different symbols. There is a whole system of different marks you can put in your journal to mean things. Bullet points for tasks, squares for appointments, x's for done, and more. I found them a little too confusing, so I came up with my own set. That's the lovely thing about the journal. You can do whatever you want with it.

• Looking at them on Pinterest. Or Instagram. If you're just starting out, don't look. The ones you see are so pretty and so fancy. You instantly feel like yours is insignificant and ugly. Yes, it's fun to decorate. But you don't need to go so fancy you don't want to use it. Make it whatever works best for you.

• The calendar layout. The official way to do the bullet journal calendar each month is to write it out like a list, starting with the day of the week and then the date. So for example, Monday the 4th (the day I wrote this post) would be M4. I used that this year, but I don't like it. I can't visualize the month well, plus it's confusing because there are two T's and two S's.

The calendar is on the left side and rather confusing, as you can see

• Collections. This isn't so much of a dislike as a haven't quite figured it out yet. So far I've only tried one collection, and I didn't do well with that. I think I just need more practice and to figure out what ones I really need. I also need to be less picky about messing up my daily log and just going with it.

Thoughts

• I can't wait to do one next year. It might seem stupid to be excited about a new journal next year, but I can't wait to set it up. I've already picked out what journal I want and I'm working on researching better pens, because the gel ones I use now smear too much for me.

• I need separate person and blog planners. At the moment, I keep a list of my blog posts in my regular journal. But next year I think I'm going to do a personal bullet journal and a blog planner. It will be easier for me to have them separate. I've also heard of people making writing bullet journals too, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. Maybe later, maybe never. Who knows?


• Make sure you have a good notebook. I used a notebook my aunt and uncle gave me for this year. It worked fine, but there are some things I didn't like about using it. It had lined pages, for one thing, and that makes it difficult for the bullet journal. Blank, dotted, or graph would be better. You should also have a notebook without thin pages.

• It takes time, but in a good way. Using the bullet journal, actually sitting down and working with it, does take time. Prepping it for the month can take fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on how much you do. But it's also sort of therapeutic. There is no right, no wrong. You can do what you want. Doing your daily or monthly planning could even been a you time thing.

So that's what I've got to say about the bullet journal after almost a year of using it. Hopefully I'll remember to do another post like this next year and give you some more thoughts and insights on how it's going for me. I'd also like to do a tip post sometime next year with some of the tricks I've learned.

Let's talk! Are you a planner, like me? Have you ever tried a bullet journal? What do you like or dislike about it? Tell me in the comments.

December 9, 2017

Mystery Blogger Award: A Tag

Mystery Blogger Award: A Tag

I've been nominated for a tag called the Mystery Blogger Award by Victoria from Wanderer's Pen. Thanks and yay! This is a fun one, so let's get down to it.

Rules:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Thank the blogger who tagged you and provide a link to their blog.
3. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link. (The creator is Okoto Enigma. Isn't that a cool name?)
4. Tell your readers three things about yourself.
5. Answer five questions from the nominee.
6. Nominate 10-20 bloggers (or fewer, if you prefer.)
7. Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
8. Ask your nominees five questions of your choice, including one weird or funny question.
9. Share the link to your best post.

Three Things About Me

1. I love baking. At the moment cookies are my favorite, but I'd love to experiment more with cakes in the future.

2. I've been keeping a diary for around ten years. I'm on my fourth journal now.

3. I'm a movie nerd. I know actors well, and weirdly enough, movie composers. I often notice things like movie pacing, lighting, and cuts as well. I love reading and watching books about movies so I can learn more about them.

The Questions

1. What is the weirdest food you've ever tried? The thing that comes to mind at the moment is picked cauliflower. We went to a Mediterranean restaurant and I thought it looked like normal cauliflower with cheese on it or something. Nope. It had a distinct taste of vinegar. There might be something weirder I've tried, but that's what comes to mind.

2. Have you ever ridden a horse? Only ponies, I think. I rode some at a Renaissance fair once, and once at a chateau in France. I think it would be fun to learn, though.

3. What was your first pet? Probably a family goldfish or guppy. But the first pet that belong to me was my cat, Kitty.

4. What's your favorite type of nut? I actually don't care for nuts, but I will eat almonds if they're doused in dark chocolate.

5. Silly question! What kitchen appliance do you relate to the most on a personal level? The mixer. It's got parts inside that are always whirling around, like my brain, but it's also steady, like I try to be.

My Best Post

My most viewed post is Fantasy Map-making for the Artistically Challenged, which has almost 17,000 views.


Nominees

Mem@Music, Mystery, Middle Earth, and Mitochondria
Catherine@The Rebelling Muse
Melissa@Quill Pen Writer

My Questions

1. What's your favorite thing in nature?
2. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
3. What is your favorite type of character in a book?
4. What music do you listen to the most?
5. Silly question! If you were a book, what genre would you be and what would your cover look like?

Let's talk! What are your answers to some of these questions? Have you ever eaten Mediterranean? Tell me in the comments.

December 7, 2017

How To Motivate Yourself: 6 Easy Tips

How To Motivate Yourself: 6 Easy Tips

We've all been there. You have a lot to do, or a big task you have to start. But you don't actually get up to go do them. You tell yourself you will in a minute, after one more chapter or game of solitare, but you're just lying to yourself. You're going to keep sitting there until you suddenly realize that if you don't start now, you'll never finish before bed.

The problem is you're lacking the motivation to tackle whatever you have before you. It's either daunting or you don't know where to start or something along those lines. Believe me, I know all about this. I've had plenty of practice doing this myself. Which is exactly why I decided to share my tips and tricks for self-motivation. Shall we begin?

Tip 1: Prioritize

I've had days when I just want to sit down and not do anything because I have so much on my plate. Music, writing, a blog, a YouTube channel, drawing, exercise, actually have time to take a break. It feels so overwhelming that I don't want to do any of it, even though I know I should.

The thing that helps most is to figure out your priorities on that day. Is finishing your editing most important? Practicing for your recital? Editing a video? Figure out your most important thing and do that first. A good way to make sure you get done the important stuff is to write down everything you have to do in order of importance. So most important at the top, least at the bottom. Then work your way down the list.

Also, if you do a lot of things, like I do, it can help to divide days into different focuses. Like on Monday through Wednesday you focus on writing, on Thursday through Saturday you focus on YouTube. You don't have to not do anything else those days, but what you focus on that day is your priority. It just helps you to get done things and not have to worry about anything else.

Tip 2: Break it down

Big tasks can be daunting. There's so much to do that you don't know where to start. So to help you get through it, and not procrastinate instead, break it down into smaller tasks. What little parts go into making the bigger task?

For example, you need to write a blog post. Parts of that include coming up with an idea, drafting it, creating a post header image, revising the post, publishing it, and promoting in on social media. Tackle it one thing at a time and you'll be done it in no time.

If it's something you'll do often, it's often easier to motivate yourself to get it done if you have a mental checklist. Work out the quickest or easiest way for you to accomplish something, and then use that every time you have to do the task. Taking our blog post example, I draft all my posts at the beginning of the month so I don't have to worry about that later on. It helps me get it done easier.

Tip 3: Trick yourself

Don't you love tricking your own brain into doing something? It's like having a covert operation inside a computer that knows everything already. Okay, that sounded weird. My point is, sometimes you can trick yourself into doing things without thinking about them.

The best way to motivate yourself is to trick yourself into doing whatever your next task is immediately. As soon as you think about it, get up and go start it before your brain can talk you out of it, or make excuses about why you can't. Do it before you can actually think about it and you'll be done in no time. 

Tip 4: Reward yourself

Like tricking yourself, bribing yourself also works well. It's super easy. Just think of something to reward yourself after you finish whatever task you're on right now. If it's something small, like writing a blog post, fifteen minutes of reading time or a game of solitaire is good. For something bigger, like editing five chapters, reward yourself with a movie break or something sweet.

Rewards are also good if you need help sticking to deadlines. Accomplishing your goal in time is so much better if you have something to reward yourself at the end. It doesn't even have to be something big. A Starbucks drink or a new tee shirt will do. It helps give you motivation to finish and claim your prize.

Tip 5: Work in small chunks

I don't know about you, but my attention span is fairly short, especially if I'm working on something hard or that is frustrating me. What helps motivate you when you're feeling this way is to work on your project in little pieces.

There are two ways you can do this. The first is to do little pieces of the task at a time. Like if you're working on editing five chapters, tell yourself you'll do one chapter at a time, then take a five minute break to do something like read, play a game, or check Instagram. Then come back, do another chapter, and take another five minute break.

The second way is the time method. Set a time for however long you want to work, fifteen minutes to half an hour is good, and while the time is going, work on your project as hard as you can. It's like a word sprint for your work. When time is up, give yourself between five and ten minutes for a break, depending on how long you worked. Then go back to your project and do it again until it's done. It helps motivate you to break it up because it seems  more manageable that way.

Tip 6: Find ways to boost your motivation

It's hard to be motivated if you don't surround yourself with things that enhance that. How can you work at your desk if it's a complete mess? How can you write your story if you don't know how your characters look? Finding ways to help motivate yourself through the things you surround yourself with, or use, can go a long ways towards getting things done.

Figure out what helps motivate you towards getting things done. Personally, I need a distraction free space to work. If there's too much that could distract me (like my latest read or phone) I won't get much don't. Or for writing, what about Pinterest boards or a novel soundtrack? Getting a cool background on your computer that inspires you? Your favorite music?

It might seem weird that having pretty things or motivational things helps you get things done better, but it works. Why do you think writers collect notebooks, pencils, and pens? Having a pretty pen to write with makes it easier, somehow.

Bonus tip: Don't multitask

Multitasking is actually less productive than it seems. It splits up your attention and makes it hard to work on your projects. Instead of trying to do three things at once, focus on them one at at a time and you'll get done much faster.

There are exceptions to this, of course. Like if you're baking something, you obviously can go do something else, not sit and stare at the oven for ten minutes while the cookies bake. Or if you need a break from something hard by doing something else for a bit. But try to avoid multitasking if you can.


*   *   *   *

There are your six tips. This time of year is a perfect time to apply them, since it's almost 2018! (Can you believe we only have less than twenty-five days left this year? Panic time.)

Let's talk! How do you motivate yourself? Do you have any tips or tricks you'd like to share? Tell me in the comments.

December 4, 2017

Book Review: The Christmas Doll

Book Review: The Christmas Doll

The Christmas Doll
by Elvira Woodruff

Blurb: Lucy and Glory Wolcott are sisters and the best of friends. They have no one but each other to rely on. They have little to eat and their nights are cold and damp. To keep their spirits up, Lucy invents stories about the family she barely remembers- and a lost doll named Morning Glory who Lucy is sure they will find again one day.

When a deadly fever sweeps through the workhouses where the girls live, Lucy and Glory flee for their lives to the mean streets of London. Now they must learn how to survive on their own.

One day the sisters find an old, discarded doll by the river that Glory is sure is their long lost doll. But Morning Glory is no ordinary doll. . . And she works her magic on everyone around her.

Cover Review: The cover has an old-fashioned and Victorian feel to it, which perfectly matches the story found within. It displays the girls and their doll in a pose like you would see in a photograph from the era, along with morning glories, which are prominent throughout the plot. Well designed, and if not the most eye catching, still beautiful.

My Thoughts

I don't remember when I first picked up this book. I've always loved stories about dolls and Victorian times, so that probably drew me to it. Ever since I've read it many times. It's one of my favorite Christmas stories, so I suggest you give it a try and see if becomes one of yours too.

Plot: At only 150 pages, this is a short book, but it has lots of heart. The plot follows the sisters as they navigate Victorian London, learning the ins and outs of the streets. Eventually Lucy gets a job in a doll shop, and that's when the plot really starts to pick up. It's not an action filled story, but a story about sisterhood and kindness. It kept me reading all the way through, cheering for the sisters and their friend Nick.

Characters: Lucy Wolcott is the main character of the novel. She's resourceful, brave, and very loving to her younger, weaker sister Glory. She might be a bit rough from all she's gone through, but she's still sweet and a talented seamstress. Glory is the sort of younger sister character that you want to hug and protect from the world. She's naive, but adorable. Then we have Nick, a boy who helps the girls on the street, and Miss Thimblebee, the woman who gives Lucy a job in her shop. They're all great characters, Nick being a favorite of mine.

World: Like I said, it's based in Victorian times and the world makes me think a bit of Dickens works. It also focuses on the orphans and street children, though it's not about injustice so much as finding a family. The author does a great job of immersing you in the setting and you can tell she did her research.

Other: I don't know why I've always had a fascination for dolls, but I do. There's something about the magic that they have that I love reading about. So if you're a fellow doll lover, you'll probably enjoy this book.

Rating:







Let's talk! Have you read this book? Do you like stories about dolls? Historical fiction or modern fiction? Tell me in the comments.

November 30, 2017

NaNoWriMo Update #4

NaNoWriMo Update #4

NaNoWriMo ends today. Can you believe November is already over? I feel like this has been one of the shortest months this year. Isn't it weird how some months feel longer or shorter, even though they don't physically change?

Current Wordcount

51,115 words! *sets off fireworks*

How It's Going

I won today! This morning, in fact. This is my third year winning NaNoWriMo in a row. I love the dorky little videos the NaNoWriMo team puts together for winners. It's silly, but it makes me feel good to watch it.

I had a bit of a panic around Saturday when I finished my novel and still had about five thousand words to write. So I went back through and found some places where I missed scenes, or told instead of showed, and added a sort of side quest, which brought my wordcount up to the one I won with today.

If you can, I suggest getting ahead in your wordcount at the beginning of the month when the fire to write is still fresh. It really helps later when you don't feel it as much anymore. Like the past few days I've only had to write about five hundred words, or today when I only wrote fifty-something.

Other Thoughts

• I had a great Thanksgiving. My mom's family came over and we had a great time. I tried a Pioneer Woman (my mom loves her) mashed potato recipe that was simply divine. And my aunt beat my siblings and me at Uno tournement.

• I love Indiana Jones. I've seen the first and third movies (the second is too scary, my mom says) and I want to see the fourth one soon. He is so awesome. Doesn't hurt that he's played by Harrison Ford.

• It's time to get ready for Christmas! We're decorating this weekend and we went to a Christmas train display on Sunday. One of my favorite new albums this year is Lindsey Stirling's Warmer in the Winter. You must listen to it. Part electric violin, part big band sound. Complete awesome.

• Oh, and you may have seen a little trailer dropped yesterday for some film called Avengers Infinity War? Watch it because it is so freakin' awesome. I literally had to keep myself from squealing aloud when I saw it. I can't wait to see how everything ties into it.

Some GIFs


Me trying to think of ways to up my wordcount.


That feeling when you've finished your novel.


And the feeling of accomplishment that follows. Just think of all the free time you have for two days before you start writing or editing something else because you're bored and don't want to shot holes in a smiley face on your wall. (If you understand that reference, and that one, you're awesome.)

Let's talk! How did NaNoWriMo go for you? Did you do it or did you finish? Are you ready for Christmas time? Tell me in the comments.

November 27, 2017

My First Short Story!

My First Short Story!

I'm quite excited and nervous to share this post with you today. Why? You might have guessed from the title, but because I'm going to share my first short story! It's a Doctor Who fanfic piece that I enjoyed writing and learned a lot from. So, here it goes. Enjoy!


Misadventure in the Vuluvian Markets

“How do you feel about shopping?” Amy said. She leaned back on the console next to the Doctor.

“Shopping?” the Doctor said. “Go to the shop, buy something? That sort of shopping?”

“Is there another kind?”

“I suppose not. I've never really liked it myself. Seems pretty pointless.” As he talked, he worked on the TARDIS- flipping switches, pushing buttons, and looking at Gallifreyan writing on the screen.

“But would you take me shopping if I asked?” She twirled a lock of her red hair around her finger.

“Well. . .”

“We don't even have to go to a normal shop. We could go somewhere more exotic.” Amy played her trump card. “We could even look at some new bow ties.”

The Doctor adjusted the red bow tie he wore currently. Amy could tell she had him.

“Exotic, you say.” The Doctor typed something into the TARDIS console. “How does another planet sound?”

“Perfect.”

The Doctor jumped into action, preparing the blue box for their trip. “Ready?” he said, his hand on the final lever. They grinned at each other, then he pulled it down.

Vworp vworp. The TARDIS took off with its usual noise. The two companions clung to the center console to avoid being thrown around the room. In a few minutes, the TARDIS landed.

Amy ran to the door. “Where are we this time, Raggedy Man?”

The Doctor opened the door and extended his arm. “Welcome to the Vuluvian Markets, home of the best and rarest shopping in the galaxy.”

Amy ran out of the TARDIS and stopped, taking in her surroundings. As far as she could see, tall buildings stretched up into the sky, covered in bright neon lights. Holograms floated around their shiny sides, showing what you could buy in each building. On the surface of the planet sat tents and stalls of all kinds. The sound of thousands of voices talking in different languages filled the air, as did the smell of all sorts of food, not all of them pleasant.

They seemed to have landed in a parking lot of sorts. Vehicles of all kinds were parked around them, including a spaceship, a hover board, and a Volkswagen. Amy raised her eyebrows at the last one, wondering how it had gotten here.

The Doctor finished locking up the TARDIS and came up behind her. “The Markets were created because the people of this galaxy loved shopping so much, stores were starting to cover their whole planets, leaving no more room for actually living.”

“This isn't a planet, then?”

“No, just a small, terraformed moon. Look, you can see one of the planets up there.”

The Doctor pointed up in the sky. Amy looked up and saw the distant form of a blue-ish planet. Amazing.

“So,” he said, “where do you want to start?” They started walking across the parking lot towards the Markets proper.

“I'm actually looking for a piece of jewelry,” Amy said.

“Jewelry?”

“Yes, Doctor, jewelry. You know, necklaces, bracelets, rings, that sort of things. Where do you think we should start?”

He looked around. “The Markets are divided into sections according to what they sell. Apparel, home goods, food, spaceships, things like that. It looks like we're already in the apparel district, so we just have to find someplace selling jewelry and bow ties.”

“Let's go then.”

Amy grabbed the Doctor's hand and dragged him out into the Markets. She took in everything as best she could. The stalls full of racks of clothes for all body types, aliens hawking their wares, others offering to buy anything you had, including yourself. She let go of the Doctor's hand as she turned, trying to look at everything.

“Now remember,” the Doctor said. “This is a nice area, but there are black markets here too. They'll buy just about anything here. Keep your wits about you and make sure to stay together.” He looked around again. “Amy?”

Amy had seen a tent that was full of sparkling necklaces and went to see what they had. She hadn't told the Doctor why she was looking for jewelry. He didn't even know about the reason.

She was getting married tomorrow, or at least whenever she decided to have him take her back. The wedding had started to weigh on her mind during their last few adventures. Perhaps finding something special to go with her wedding dress would help her relax about it.

“What did I just say about staying together?” the Doctor said as he came to her. He was using his peeved voice.

“I didn't hear. Besides, look at this stuff.” She swept her hand towards the racks and racks of necklaces. “How am I ever going to find something if everywhere has this much to chose from?”

“I actually think I know a good place around here. A friend recommended it to me.”

“A lady friend?” Amy said, getting a teasing look in her eye.

“No.” The Doctor looked the other way. “Maybe. Oh, come on.”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her through the crowds. They soon arrived at one of the tall skyscrapers, this one advertising all sorts of clothes and accessories on the outside. The one thing in common was they were all in human Earth styles.

As soon as they stepped inside, an android came to meet them. It looked like a young woman with blond hair and shop girl clothes. “Good afternoon,” she said in a crisp British accent. “How may I assist you today?”

“I'm looking for some jewelry,” Amy said.

“And I'd like to look at your bow tie selection,” the Doctor said.

“Those are both on the tenth floor. Would you like me to accompany you? I can help you find what you're looking for, carry your purchases, and even aid you in buying your items.”

“We'll be fine,” he said. “Tenth floor, here we come.”

The tenth floor was as big as a normal department store back on Earth. Large signs hung above the isles, announcing what you could find in them. The two things they wanted to look at were in different directions.

“All right, I suppose we'll split up,” the Doctor said. “Here's a card with plenty of money on it for you to use. If you have any problems, just give me a yell.”

“What could possibly happen in a shop that I'd need to call you for?”

“You never know. Be careful.”

Amy smiled at the Doctor and headed for a large sign reading “Jewelry”. Beneath it were necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more. From plain to fancy, this place had everything. Amy began her perusal.

• • • • •

Halfway across the floor, the Doctor found the bow tie selection. It was bow tie heaven. All colors, shapes, and sizes hung on the racks. He pulled off one and held it up to a mirror to see how it looked.

• • • • •

Going through all this jewelry was discouraging for Amy. She didn't know what she wanted, and there was so much here, she didn't think she'd find anything. Perhaps she should have had the Doctor take her to a nice little shop in West End or something. A gift shop would be easier to look through than this place.

“Excuse me,” someone said behind her. Amy turned around and barely managed to suppress a yelp. Standing behind her were two normal-looking women, except for one thing. Their heads were shaped like eagle heads. One had blue feathers, the other red.

“We didn't mean to startle you,” the blue one said.

“Startled? I wasn't startled,” Amy said. She put her elbow on the counter. “Why would I be startled?”

“Some people don't care for our appearance,” the red one said. “As I was about to say, we noticed you seemed dissatisfied with the selection here. Can we help you find something?”

“Not really. I'm looking for something for a special day, but I don't know what I want.”

“I'm sure it's overwhelming. We actually have a small selection of pieces for special occasions in the back, if you want to look at them.”

“I don't know.” Amy looked around for the Doctor, but he was out of sight. She couldn't be distrustful of all aliens. These two were probably nice and trying to help her.

“If it's not too bold, may I ask if this is for your wedding, perhaps?” the blue bird woman said. Amy's face said it all. “I see. Well, we have some excellent wedding accessories back there too. Would you care to come see?”

“I suppose it wouldn't hurt.” She pushed aside the seeds of doubt that tried to take root in her mind.

Amy followed the women to an almost invisible door in the wall. It opened into a dark hallway with few lights. Still, that was probably only because this was the storage area. They probably didn't bring people back here a lot. Nothing to worry about. She continued towards the room at the end of the hall.

• • • • •

The Doctor had found two bow ties he liked, one in purple, one in blue. He decided to ask Amy which she thought was better. “Amy?” he said as he arrived in the jewelry section. His Scottish friend was nowhere to be found.

He turned around, looking for her. He spotted her red hair disappearing through a door almost hidden in the wall. Where was that girl going now?

The door, when he reached it, was locked. Worry started to grow in his stomach. The Doctor slung the bow ties around his neck and pulled out the sonic screwdriver. It made quick work of opening the lock. He glanced around, then ducked inside.

• • • • •

The bird women showed Amy a whole table full beautifully jewelry. She could barely take her eyes off of them. A necklace made of white and blue diamonds caught her eye.
“What about this one?” she said, picking it up.

“You have a good eye,” the blue one said. “That would look lovely with your hair and complexion. Let me help you try it on.”

Amy lifted her hair out of the way and the bird woman clasped it around her neck. Amy looked in a small mirror hanging on the wall. It did look gorgeous on her.

She was about to ask how much it was when the Doctor burst through the door. “Amy, get away from them.”

The instant he spoke, the necklace turned into garrote, tightening around Amy's windpipe. It completely cut off her air. She gasped and clawed at it.

The bird women stepped in front of her. “She's ours,” the red one hissed. “We caught her.”

“Well, I'm taking her back,” the Doctor said.

He pointed his sonic in the air. It let out a high-pitched noise that made the bird women cover their ear holes and yell in pain. In a few seconds they ran from the room.

The Doctor instantly moved to Amy's side and pointed the sonic screwdriver at the necklace. It loosed and he ripped it off. She gulped in air and coughed.

“There, there,” he said, patting her back. “You're fine.”

“What were those?” Amy said as soon as she got her breath back.

“Chokstra. A species that lures in other creatures with shiny objects, then chokes and eats them. You're lucky I found you.”

“Apparently I shouldn't be tempted by pretty things next time.”

“If you're feeling better, we had better head for the TARDIS. The Chokstra are notoriously bad at giving up their food once they've caught it. The sonic will have only drove them off for a few minutes.”

Hand in hand, the two of them ran back down the hallway. They headed straight for the elevator back down. The Doctor tossed the bow ties he had been looking at on a rack as they went by.

It seemed at first they would make it find. They dashed through the Markets without spotting the Chokstra. Then there came a shriek from behind them. Amy looked back to see the Chokstra pushing their way through crowds.

“Doctor,” she said, pulling at his sleeve.

“I see them. Come one, I've got a plan.”

“One of your good ones or one of your crazy ones likely to kill us?”

“Let's test it and see.” He grinned at her.

He dove away from the main path. He waited until they were in the middle of a thick crowd, then ducked down and crawled under a table. Amy followed him.

“This is your brilliant plan?” she said. “Hiding until they go away? I'm getting dirt all over my skirt.”

“I never said it was brilliant. Now keep quiet.”

The bird women walked right past their hiding place. Amy saw they had bird feet underneath their pants. After a second they moved on.

They remained under the table for a few more minutes before crawling out and running back towards the TARDIS. Amy smiled apologetically at the stall owner as they dashed away.
As they reached the police box in the middle of the parking lot, the Chokstra found them again. They started running across the asphalt towards Amy and the Doctor.

“Hurry up, Doctor. They're coming,” Amy said, tapping the TARDIS door.

In the nick of time, the Doctor got the door open and the two of them ran inside. He slammed the door shut behind them. The Chokstra banged on the outside with shrieks of rage. Amy high-fived the Doctor.

“That'll show them to pick their meals more carefully,” she said. “No one messes with Amy Pond and the Doctor.”

A little while later, the Doctor came over to Amy as she sat on the steps leading down from the console. “I'm sorry the shopping trip didn't go quite as planned,” he said.

“It's all right. I was the one who got us into the mess anyway.”

“I know you didn't have a chance to buy what you were looking for, so I dug around in the back rooms of the TARDIS and found this for you.” He held out a white jewelry box. “It's not much, but I hope you like it.”

Amy opened it. Inside was a simple chain with a round red stone hanging on it. The Doctor hurried to explain.

“It's a special stone from my planet,” he said. “The necklace has just been lying around and if you don't like it, we can go somewhere else and-”

Amy threw her arms around him. “Raggedy Man, it's perfect.” She could already see it with her wedding dress.

The Doctor awkwardly hugged her back. When he managed to get away, he adjusted his bow tie. “So, where to next? The gladiator matches? The no-longer-lost moon of Poosh? The 700th Olympics, which take place on Mars?”


Amy looked up at the TARDIS ceiling with a smile. “Anywhere, Doctor.”

*  *  *  *  *

There you are. What do you think of it?

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