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It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally beginning to move on from my epic retelling of Chuck’s third season, a 190K long, 20 episode, 80 chapter monster that consumed my life for more than a year. I finished it. I made an omnibus version, which I PDF’d and sent to a few people who asked for it. Then I read it and re-edited it and re-PDF’d it. I still find myself checking the special mail folder I set to receive mail from, hoping that someone would have left me a comment. That’s a very addicting side effect of that site, getting feedback on what you wrote and put up there, pretty quickly. For my books I have to go searching for any comments people may have left about them, and that isn’t as often as I’d like.

I really need to start posting on Twitter and stuff, doing more blog posts here. I tend to get very single-minded when I have a project, I focus on it and not much else.

But eventually the PDF was as finished as two rereads could make it and then I put it away, and started watching Castle. Not that I like Castle all that much, but I’d already seen the first 2 seasons and discovered my library had the second two on the shelf, so I figured, “What the hell.” I have to say I’m liking these second two much better. I can’t say I hated the first two but I don’t really remember them all that well, which is indication enough. I do wish they’d get the romantic angst stuff out of the way, though, and move the story onto some other topic. I like the way they expanded the roles of some of the other players, and brought in a different Captain for the precinct.

I can’t help but think of Bones, though, and how they changed her boss from one season to the next. I can’t really say, since I don’t watch TV much at all, but it does seem like these shows are starting to cannibalize each other. I don’t care when the story is good. Seeing a little shout out to some great moment in another show I liked is kind of fun, then. When I can predict the entire course of an episode because it looks so much like some other TV show or movie, well, not so much.

But Castle is for the afternoons. In the morning I reread Ghostkiller, and try to add little bits of text here and there. I plowed through the last several thousand words by alternating with my Chuck stories, and I have to make sure they don’t read like that. When I’m in a hurry i usually focus on the dialog, and let the story just flow as characters talking to each other. I have to go back over the text to fill in the action and movements and stuff, which is what I’m trying to do now.. So far I’ve added about 1500 words, enhanced the backstory, etc. It’s actually quite a delicate business, since sometimes it’s adding three words to a line, and other times it’s rewriting 5 paragraphs to make the story flow work better.

I sometimes wish I had a beta-reader, though, I don’t know how much is really needed and how much is me being paranoid. One of the better aspects of my Chuck writing is that it pulled me into areas I don’t normally write, made me practice different styles. At the end I had to do an entire action-packed episode for my season finale, when my group, fractured into multiple groups, nonetheless manages to come together and bring doom to the villains, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It”s not a style I do much, and I had to figure out a lot about pacing to make it work. My ending for Ghostkiller needs some of that same attention. The climax is just a little too breakneck.

I’ll get around to doing that nine2five prequel. Just not now.


I’ve been getting into the TV series Bones lately. (I know, I know, a lot of you are no doubt saying to yourselves, “But how can you expect to finish your fanfiction series when you’re watching another show?” All I can say is I’m trying my best.) It’s another show like Chuck with a strong central romantic couple with real chemistry to them. Unlike Chuck it doesn’t make romantic angst and its resolution the central theme of the series, which works for me. I was perfectly happy with the idea that Booth and Bones could be the couple they were without feeling the need to make it ‘official’ in some way. The fact that their emotional connection was so blatantly obvious is quite enough for me. I was probably the only one who thought that there was no reason Chuck and Sarah needed to be married, after all they’d gone through. My own ending for season 4 features a double wedding of Morgan and Casey to Alex and Kathleen, with Chuck and Sarah as primary witnesses.

One thing that did bother me about Bones though (the show, not the person), is the way they made her a best-selling mystery author. First of all, we’ve seen that before, from Murder She Wrote to Castle. There’s even an episode of Bones that has murders like those in her book, which was the idea behind the Castle pilot. Unfortunately, I see a lot of ideas redone from one mystery show to another. Fortunately, it’s not the gimmicks that matter, but the characters, and it’s kind of interesting to see the same idea become something very different with a different character dynamic. (I very much liked the High School reunion episode, and couldn’t help comparing it to Chuck’s version. And kudos to Robert Englund for doing such a wonderful job as the creepy janitor!)

What bothered me about her author status was that, given the character of Bones herself, I couldn’t believe that she’d be a good writer at all. I had no doubt that the technical accuracy of her stories would be spot on, like the science of many contemporary SF writers today. But since she has only the most rudimentary empathy or intuition, I couldn’t believe that she could portray a decent character to save her life, like a modern-day Agatha Christie, who for years put me off reading mysteries due to her emphasis on plot over character.

Finally, in a recent episode (I’m plowing through the series on DVD, so for me it’s recent), she gets involved in a case while dealing with an interviewer from Japan, who keeps asking her questions about the characters, while Bones keeps emphasizing the technical aspects of the chapter in question. She finally admits (not that she was keeping it a secret, but she simply didn’t think it mattered) that those elements of the books are supplied by Angela, her friend the sketch artist and her beta-reader, who reads her stories and makes suggestions for the more human scenes. While it’s still not perfect, since I still have trouble believing she could write such a scene once the idea for it had been pointed out, it makes a lot more sense to have someone else as the inspiration. Bones thinks so too, and gives Angela a quarter of the proceeds as recognition of the contribution, once she recognizes it as a contribution. I wonder how many of her fans went home wondering why they came, after hearing her talk about forensics at a book signing. I can only imagine public appearances having a negative effect, like the court appearances she makes.

The next question is, why do they always have to be best-selling?

My fourth novel, Ghostkiller, is completed at long last. It is the fastest novel I’ve written to date. The earliest copy of the file that I can find is dated January 2011, which means this story wrote itself in considerably less than two years. Which I think is pretty cool, my fastest time ever. My previous fastest time was two years exactly, for A Warrior Made, which was also a somewhat longer book.

I described the first and only origin story of this novel here, although I have a vague feeling that I may have had some other ideas which were shapeless and allowed themselves to be taken over by this one. But that origin only got me the first line, and the rest, as usual, spun out from there. I know some of my usual tricks came into play early on. With a first line like “Aren’t you a bit young to be raising the dead?” the obvious follow-up is that the guy is as old as they come.

My first tag line for this thing, back when I had no idea what it was going to be about was, “It’s about a man who kills ghosts for a living”, which I would tell to anyone who asked and then watch their brains explode trying to figure out how to kill something that was already dead. Now that I actually almost a little bit maybe know what the story’s about, I have no idea what the tagline should be.

One brilliant idea later…

How about, “Stealing from the dead is no way to get a life”?

nine2five, a chuck fanfic – FanFiction.Net.

It’s interesting to me the way stories bleed over into each other. In my last fiction I had my characters at several points pondering questions of faith, although given my usual penchant for dream sequences and other devices I’m not sure pondering is the correct word to use. I’m not much of a ponderer myself, I have to actually use something to figure out what it does and how it works. Contemplation and manual-reading don’t do it for me until after I’ve got some concrete experience to attach it to.

In chapter six of my last Chuck story Sarah was troubled by issues of her lost identity, and has a dream sequence featuring her father, a con man who counsels her with discussions of faith. In chapter ten (the HEA of the story), and elsewhere, Sarah has learned the hard way what faith is and what it isn’t.

So now I’m trying to get back into my novel Ghostkiller, which stalled out because I’d been straining to finish it for Lunacon, which didn’t happen, and because the focus of the story at the time was a minor character, stuck in a moment of crisis of his own. Should he go where he was ordered to go, or should he follow a hunch when he didn’t even know what hunches felt like? In addition I was also trying avoid the cliched device of having him appear at the last minute and save the lady, even though that’s what he’s going to do anyway, but the question is how.

Until today, when I was considering questions of faith, specifically his faith, and who he has faith in, and now I know how to proceed.

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Not This Time Chapter 4, a chuck fanfic – FanFiction.Net.

My first attempt at combining song lyrics with my story. I don’t think I did it the normal way, but then, when have I ever done anything the normal way?

I was just re-reading a story I particularly like, and discovered a plot flaw. Gasp! Shock! I know, a story with a plot flaw! Well, it happens, and quite often they don’t get noticed unless you get someone like me who obsessively over-thinks these things. What started to bother me was trying to figure what sort of plot flaw it was, since ‘plot flaw’ is a generic sort of category.

The basic flaw is this: A woman finds out her husband is under a termination order, and runs away with him, after asking a trusted third party to find an alternative. After she runs, the trusted third party discovers a method to make her husband safe, so the order is cancelled, and now TPTB want them to come back before something bad happens. In order to do this they take the husband’s sister hostage, and place a false story in the media about it, to send a message to the fleeing couple, as well as incentivize them to return, so that they can be told the order was terminated.

That this plot is flawed is obvious, but it occurred to me to wonder what type it was. Plot flaws come in a multitude of types, just check if you don’t believe me, but they basically boil down to two, flaws of omission and flaws of commission. At first blush this looks like a sin of commission. Why take the sister hostage when all it will do is piss off the wife and make the situation worse?

Well, the whole rest of the story, and there is quite a lot, depends on the wife racing off to rescue the sister. Since this depends on the action of taking the sister hostage in the first place, I initially considered the problem to be an Act of Plot, an action undertaken simply to advance the plot. While it is true that the general’s logic in ordering the hostage-taking may be sound, the subordinate who has greater knowledge of the interpersonal dynamics of the situation certainly should have known better and argued against it. Which he didn’t.

However, there is a further plot flaw than just this.

After the sister is taken hostage, TPTB place a false story in the media to let the fleeing couple know that they have done so. Okay, fine. But if that’s the case, why not place a message in the local media that the termination order was cancelled? Sure they’re not likely to believe you, but it at least let’s them know there’s a new situation they need to verify.

This is a plot hole, in that the whole subplot about dropping the order is completely ignored, even though it’s the reason for taking the sister hostage! All that TPTB want is to tell them that they don’t have to run, but instead of just telling them this they try to capture them first, which makes zero sense to me. If there was no trusted third party available to verify the matter I could see it, but there is.

So the author committed two plot flaws in one scene, one of which masked the other. The act of plot acted like a band-aid, covering up the plot hole, and sending the story off in a wholly unnecessary direction. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, provided the writing is good and the grafted on plot is useful and/or interesting (which it was). But it should be done very carefully, since it can clearly break the flow and pull people out of the story.

I don’t usually write fanfics. I get all hung up sometimes about using someone else’s characters and making sure the voices sound right and all that stuff that applies to anyone monkeying around in someone else’s back yard. It’s possible they may like what you did with their flower beds, but then again…

I do take inspiration from other people’s work, usually negative.

  • ‘Why did they do that?’
  • ‘I could have done this better.’
  • ‘I’d rather the story went this way…’

Many times I take these ideas and use them to enhance my own stories. Not in any way that violates copyright, of course, but there’s no need to say where the idea came from or use names anyway. It’s the scenario that matters.

A fanfic is a different beast, and there are different types of fanfic. Many are enhancements of something, a story written to add corroborative detail to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Or it could be hairy and convincing, but not enough for the guy writing the fanfic. Some TV shows try to mirror their weekly schedule in the script, and fanfics are written to fill in the gaps. One fanfic author I especially like blithely ignores the romantic tension plot of our mutual favorite series and has the characters expressing their affection openly, if not explicitly.

What makes a fanfic work for me is whether or not the storyline of the original story needs to be changed to accommodate it, a technique known as retcon, for retroactive continuity. (I’ve read some novels that try to do the same thing, which to me is a sign of bad writing. We won’t even mention Highlander 2.) The less ‘retconning’ there is, the better the fanfic, at least to me. My respect for the logic flow of the original story sort of requires me to try to carry it forward into any fanfics I read, or write. A story that at least doesn’t contradict the original is minimally OK. If the logic flows into the fanfic, if the fanfic explains something in the original story using the story’s own logic (which I’ll call explanatory power), so much the better. (Of course the author of the fanfic may have a different idea of what that logic flow is than I do, in which case he’s wrong.) Clearly multiple fanfics can be written to extend or embellish any story at any point, and as long as they satisfy my criteria I’d say they were all equally good, qua fanfic. The actual writing may still suck.

I have so far written all of two fanfics, not counting the scenes in my books which were inspired by other stories. Those were scenes, not complete stories, and the characters were my own. I’ll give you points if you can tell me what the scenes are and what the inspirations were. Points are cheap.

My only reason so far for writing a fanfic is that I felt a complete or partial lack of closure to a story arc, i.e., the logic is incomplete. Incomplete logic annoys me in and of itself, which often means that the story itself bothers me, given how tied together the two are. My first fanfic was written solely to scratch an itch inflicted upon me by the TV series Chuck, back in season three, when a story arc that stretched for four episodes ended abruptly, without a happy resolution, or even a sad one. I suppose I could have lived with a sad one, but since I prefer happy endings that’s what my fanfic gave her, sort of. It’s on this site as Free Story #2, above. It was a short exercise for a minor character. No retcon involved, nor any explanatory power.

I just finished my second fanfic yesterday. Again it is for the series Chuck, one of the few TV shows to have characters that involved me enough that I would care enough about them to write a fanfic. The series just ended, and the final episode ends with a major plotline unresolved. The producers say this is to allow viewers to make up their own endings, but the more likely explanation is that they wanted a hook to hang a new series or movie possibility onto. Innocent that I am, this rather cynical second possibility did not even occur to me until after I’d plotted out the fanfic I wanted to tell, to resolve the plotline as I felt it ought to be resolved, i.e., no retconning, maximum explanatory power, and an HEA.

This was the fastest writing I’ve ever done, 7K words in three days, or about 9 pages a day. The characters were there and I knew them all and loved them. I believe they all act in character and sound right. I knew the story intimately, and even though the logic isn’t exactly the tightest in the world, there were certain conventions to be observed and standards to be upheld, and I think I did. It’s one of the few I’ve ever plotted out from beginning to end, or was able to. This story wanted to be written and it wanted to be written right now! (Plus I’m in the middle of another novel and job-hunting so I really don’t have a lot of time.)

I sent it out to a few beta-readers already, and I’m hoping to post it either tonight or tomorrow. If you like the show Chuck I hope you’ll check out my story and tell me what you think.  For other fanfics about all sorts of stories, not just TV, check out I’m sure there are others.

Remember, all authors love feedback. If you have a favorite author, write and tell him so. Tell his publisher so. The only way to keep the stuff you love available is to spread the love and spread the word.

Unbinding the Stone

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A Warrior Made

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St. Martin's Moon

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Off the Map

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