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|Cindershadow was a wonderful woman... one who we lost too soon. She had a joy for life and reading and teaching, and she could make a writer feel like a Pulitzer Prize winner while still making comments that would help a writer improve. I miss her. It breaks my heart to think that one day her wonderful birthday wishes to her favorite authors might disappear, so I'm archiving them here. I only wish she were around to either give me permission or tell me to leave her words alone.|
In reverse order, birthday wishes for...
Well, it’s been one of those weeks where I’ve come home from work with just enough energy to read fiction but not enough coherence to write about it, so, while I had hopes that at least one of the week’s birthday greetings would be on time, it was not to happen. However—the three-day weekend begins! So, after a decent night’s sleep and no 5:30 AM alarm, I think I can now actually try to do justice to yesterday’s birthday person, zandra_x.
In the interests of full disclosure, I need to say up front that I have the privilege of being a beta for zandra_x for some of her longer works. What is meant by that is that I offer her some of my limitless supply of commas and catch the extremely rare typo. I don’t have anything to do with the actual creation of her clever, insightful stories, but I do get to see them before most other folks and to offer early praise for them. So thanks, zandra_x, for the honor of enjoying these “sneak previews”! And, yes, this position is indeed evidence of some bias on my part; after spending my workweek reading far too much mediocre writing, I’d only (selfishly) volunteer for such a position because I know that I'm going to get to enjoy quality writing—it is always such a great treat to see her address pop up on my email.
Today, we return to the Whedonverse. First, let me say that zandra_x is a multi-talented individual. I’ll talk about her longer fiction in a minute, but she is also a prolific icon-maker and a crafter of delightfully crisp and effective drabbles. I don’t have much visual arts talent myself, but for anyone who is thinking of exploring icon-making, she’s got a number of informative items under “how to” in her Memories about that, here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=zandra_x&keyword=how-to&filter=all. And for the rest of us . . . they are just plain enjoyable to peek at.
But, much I always enjoy looking at her icons, I’m a words-person myself, so it’s the word-pictures she creates through her drabbles which truly fascinate me. You can find these in her Memories under “Drabble,” “Misc Drabble,” and “Summer of Spike” (did I miss any?). To my mind, writing a drabble requires some of the same gifts as writing poetry: the ability to pick the precise moment, often apparently random or meaningless, and then to distill the exactly right words to capture what is truly significant about it. Her collection of drabbles do this very well. They capture little scenes around the edges of what was on the screen or fill in background that was hinted about or which suddenly adds another layer to something we saw. She’s featured most of the characters at one point or another, but I particularly enjoy the way that she has fleshed out characters like Justine and Ethan, who have so much promise but got so little air time. She also has a real talent for the elliptical view—showing us a familiar character from an unfamiliar POV, or leaving us uncertain until the final line as to who the subject might be. This is never gimmicky; it’s always intriguing and effective. Usually I try to provide a link to a sample work as a point of entry, but—having reread them all from most recent back—I can’t choose just one out of these wonderful bits of the larger mosaic. However, I heartily recommend that exercise, done all at once or doled out like pieces of dark chocolate, one at a time; here’s the page where the greatest concentration is to be found, for bookmarking if you decide to treat yourself to them slowly: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=zandra_x&keyword=Drabble&filter=all. But don’t miss those at the other locations I’ve noted!
And then there is her longer fiction. These can be found in her Memories under “my stories,” here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=zandra_x&keyword=my+stories&filter=all. It’s even harder to pick one of these to recommend first, especially since I feel a completely unwarranted proprietary affection for all of them. You can read these in any order, and they are each a good length for single-sitting reads. That said . . .
A good possible starting point might be the short pieces she wrote as a “Happy Birthday” to Anthony Stewart Head, particularly the two involving cigars. You’ll get a good sense of her humor and her writing style, as well as her insight into character.
“Roman Diversions” is a delightful tale of Dawn in Rome meeting up with that ever-creative Ethan. I enjoy the fact that her Ethan is most definitely the Trickster—very much like Coyote in Native American tales. He interferes with best-laid plans and introduces a note of uncertainty; sometimes the results are benign, sometimes not, but he’s both cause and explanation of the parts of life we can’t always control. You can’t put Coyote—or Ethan—into a neat little box, and that’s what I love about her complex depiction of him. Plus, she understands his charm (and he wouldn’t be nearly so successful in creating Chaos without it).
“California Dreaming” is a lovely slice-of-life featuring Cordelia and Doyle on the Day That Angel Undid. The what-might-have been here is realistic and just poignant enough. The character voices, as usual, are excellent.
“When Ethan Met Tucker” uses a chance encounter to contrast with unobtrusive cleverness the speaking styles and thought processes of these two and to offer insights into growing up and growing old(er); as usual, she’s managed to link it logically into the larger storyline while developing something uniquely her own.
“Sadder and Wiser Girls” features an encounter between Anya and Illyria, which might just be the start of a beautiful—or at least mutually advantageous—friendship. This story demonstrates some of my favorite things about zandra_x’s style: dry, wry, often deadpan, with voices that work just right, and with the emotion going on off-stage, in the reader’s mind. What I mean by that is that she never over-writes; her style can be deceptively distanced, but one can’t help filling in what isn’t being said. This takes real talent.
Another story which has this impact is “Before,” describing Giles’ visit home for his mother’s funeral. It would be terribly easy to overdo the backstory and hand-wringing here; instead, in perfect Giles-voice (internal and external), she sketches out a rich emotional background and leads us to imagine the rest.
“Five Movies Faith Never Saw” uses this familiar format to provide thoughtful insights into Faith’s relationships with others in her life, with tantalizing glimpses of what might have been, had just a few things gone differently.
The Ethan short piece for Theatrical Muse is yet another perfectly envisioned little outtake; Ethan on the road having a cuppa, from the waitress’s perspective. A fine vignette, and excellent development of a non-series character. (She excels at “show, don’t tell,” and we see that here.)
I wouldn’t say that “Mr. Gordo’s Story” is entirely typical of her work, but I will say that it is a relief to have a story told from the perspective of a stuffed animal which actually has an internal logic and a distinctive and non-Disneyish voice!
One of the unexpected benefits of doing these birthday tributes is that I sometimes encounter a story I’ve missed, an addition to a journal I haven’t noticed, or something else I’ve overlooked. Since I’ve just been having her (main) LJ pop up on my Friends page, I’d been keeping up pretty well on icons, drabbles, and current fiction. But when I actually visited her site, I found some interesting links over to the right, and they hook one into some additional LJs, set up specifically for fiction dealing with particular characters. I’m going to be keeping my eye on them from now on, too, just to be sure I don’t miss anything! Again, what is so engaging here: her insight into character and her accurate, distinctive voices. Here are the sites:
I adore her Giles; she captures his complexities and his tone, his ability to see himself clearly and also those persistent blind spots of his.
I don’t know if anyone else could have made me so fond of Ethan, Puritan that I am. Perhaps it’s his honesty about himself—and perhaps it’s a sneaking little desire to toss aside order and responsibility, lurking in each of our inner-Giles.
Justine Cooper was well if briefly played on “Angel”—so much anger, so much strength. I really appreciate the way these short pieces bring us into her world, since we saw her mainly from the outside on the series.
I think you’ll appreciate and enjoy zandra_x’s many talents as much as I do. When I think of her work, I always think of champagne: dry, light, but with more of an impact than you initially notice. It’s been, as ever, delightful to read her work this past week, and to discover yet more that I hadn’t realized was out there was definitely a gift to me! So happy (belated) birthday and many, many thanks, zandra_x!
Saturday, April 8, was the birthday of a truly fine Sentinel slash author, mab_browne. When it became evident to me that I wasn’t willing to dash off a simple “she’s wonderful!” based on my overall feeling about her work, I gave myself the mandate of rereading her stories, knowing I had a deliriously fine weekend of reading ahead of me. What became clear immediately is that she’s one of those writers who is even better than you remember her being (and in memory she was already superb). So, really, the best use of your time (while I fumble on here, trying to use words—her tools, not so much mine!—to describe her artistry) is to go directly to http://www.852prospect.org/archive
, look under “Mab”, and just start reading. In case you follow that excellent advice, but are looking for tips, you might start with the brief, beautiful mood piece “A Little Winter Sunlight.” This apparently simple little scene displays many of her strengths: a clear sense of both characters, incisively expressed through dialogue and action; a narrative voice which is distinctive but never intrusive; a visual sense which is particularly suited to this fandom but would be a blessing in any setting; a confident mastery of a range of emotions, realistically and unsentimentally yet warmly portrayed. That none of this will be immediately obvious to the casual reader is all part of the artistry.
At this point, the wise reader will go directly to her major trilogy, described below, but if you need more reason to be convinced that this investment of time will be rewarded, try “Burning Clean,” a post-TSbBS stakeout discussion which perfectly captures the dynamic between Jim and Blair and the different approaches they have taken to this major crisis in their lives. “Private Universe: Shelter” is an excellent demonstration of love, through the vehicle of sex, providing healing. Another wonderful shorter work is “Pictures of Sandburg,” wherein Jim is reluctant to recognize his growing fascination with and attraction to Blair as their relationship progresses. I very much like “The Things You Like,” which is unobtrusively clever in its approach to how one’s quirks help define and endear one to that certain someone. “Far-Sighted” is the most mystical of her stories to date, but is still grounded in the realism I like so much in her work. “Vino and Veritas” uses mostly dialogue to lift a convention to the level of character study. “James and the Cold Gun” involves character death, which I know some don’t care for; I found it evocative and moving. “Worldly Goods” is another look at the aftermath of final loss. “Eight Sentinel Drabbles” provide an interesting variety of moods and topics, and the drabble form always intrigues me. “So Many Colours” is set pre-series and is another effective character piece, but this time it’s an outsider’s view of Ellison. A somewhat longer work, “Strewn Towards a Heaven” is an AU set in the previous century, which does a honest job of examining some of the challenges these characters would find in that setting while telling a moving tale.
Her tour de force, not to be missed, is the trilogy which begins with “Cloudbusting” and continues with “Crossing the Line” before concluding with “Coastal Shelf.” The only word for this work is brilliant. If this were the quality of work being published as The Modern Novel, I’d be buying more books. Unfortunately, the kinds of things I want to say in praise of it might make it seem like the sort of book you should read but won’t enjoy, and nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps knowing that I’ve read it at least five times now, start to finish, and that each time I get to the final page I want to start re-reading immediately will carry some weight. This is a story about real people, who are often imperfect, who make mistakes, who grapple with both cosmic and petty issues, not always with grace or understanding, but always displaying a fundamental decency. It is a story about love of many kinds (passionate, idealistic, sexual, familial, parental) which is always very real and moving, and always honestly complex. It is beautifully written, by which I mean the impact is equally powerful each time I read a scene, and I am never distracted by the author’s voice or presence. Although sad and difficult things happen, it never leads me to despair; instead, it affirms the best of the human spirit (without being self-consciously inspirational). See what I mean? I can’t describe it without making it seem less excellent than it is. Go—read. You’ll see why I love it so very much.
And then for something very different and yet equally in character: “Cards on the Table.” Most writers who try to emulate Georgette Heyer, the famed author of Regency tales, end up with simpering romances rather than rousing, touching character studies of the kind Heyer created. She’d appreciate this tribute, I suspect (assuming she could accept a slash version of the genre, of course . . . ). As usual with mab_browne’s writing, it was the emotional depth of the story, developed through fine characterization and effective use of plot, which hooked me here. That said, it’s fascinating to realize how authentic this Jim and Blair are; she uses the psychological truths of the characters to make that connection, as well as a deft twist on dialogue which somehow captures the rhythms of each man’s speech without falling back on the conventions of modern slang (which is always the easiest way to create “Blair-ness”). I find the depiction of Jim’s senses and how they shape his reactions to both his physical and emotional reality particularly effective here, and the writing is crisp, clear, and lovely; it’s another story I revisit often.
And, believe it or not, she can make me believe Jim as a vampire. I have to admit that I thought this would be somewhat gimmicky and perhaps mildly amusing, only to find it poignant and real. As is ever the case with her work, it is the shifting, ever-rebalancing relationship between these men which is the real focus, expressed through the vehicle of the plot. How does Jim cope with yet another way he's not so normal? How does Blair? Read them in this order: “Passing It On,” “I Married A Vampire,” “Home Late,” and “A Day Must Come.”
Her more unusual pieces are well worth reading, but I’d save them for later, or you won’t have the same sense of her talents. “Tamlin,” “Living in the Gap,” and “Shades of Grey and Blue” place her solidly realized characters in worlds more than a few degrees off traditional reality, to good effect. “Performance Art” is, as usual, effectively written, but just a bit further out than I’m entirely comfortable with in terms of kink; suit yourself. It is an intriguing experiment, however!
And, as I post this, she’s in the process of writing yet another—I guess it’s clear that I can hardly wait. So, happy belated birthday, mab_browne! Somehow, I don’t think I’ll find it difficult to make an excuse to revisit these beautiful, powerful stories again sometime soon. Thanks so much!
Well, age must be getting to me, because I’m sure not bouncing back from end-of-quarter grading and report-writing as quickly as I used to! So I offer many, many apologies to entrenous88 for being even more belated with her tribute than I’d told her I would be. That said—getting to delve into her stories has done quite a lot to restore my sense of humor, which I badly needed at this point. And, as I suspected, I’d managed to miss out on some rewarding reading, since I only friended her LJ fairly recently despite having enjoyed examples of her work in other venues over the past few months, so I’m glad I gave myself an extension. Thus, while her birthday was this past Monday, April 3, I’ve been having myself an entire entrenous88 week! Since I started with the Spander (yes, I also tunnel into the Haagen-Das to eat all the Vanilla Swiss Almonds first—you are surprised?), these will dominate my recs; there are obviously many, many more stories with other pairings that I’m going to get to explore later on.
What makes it so refreshing to read her work and why is it a pleasure to recommend it to others? entrenous88 shows her talent in two moods in particular, both done with a deft and delicate touch. She has a gift for light humor and banter, and there can never be enough of that. She also can go tender and poignant. The very first story I read by her, which (after rereading twice) I immediately saved, is “For the Count”, found in her Memories, here: http://entrenous88.livejournal.com/1615
03.html. (I learned about this story via a rec, so it pleases me to be passing that good deed on.) She gets the ache-iness exactly right here . . . and after you have savored it emotionally, enjoy it intellectually by reading through the comments by nwhepcat and others to gain insights into how effectively and cleverly it was constructed. Another story where she shows she can do emotional pain really, really well without descending into despair is “The Reason,” at http://community.livejournal.com/summer _of_spike/147233.html. In her other, much lighter, fluffier, funnier mood, she’s given us “A Few Changes Here and There,” where Xander is bemused as Spike begins nesting in a rather energetic way; find it here: http://entrenous88.livejournal.com/1794 47.html. There is a sweet and cozy sequel, “A Day at Home,” at http://entrenous88.livejournal.com/2095 58.html. I’d be a happy person if I could put my name as author to any of these four stories, much less all of them! New to me this week were “Waste of Breath” and its sequel “Goodnight Kiss”—I found these angsty and troubling and sexy and good. I know many folks don’t like WIPs, but you still might want to amuse yourself with the three parts currently completed of the adorable “Cuddly Predators,” wherein Xander finds himself unexpectedly with a kitten and is surprised to find that Spike’s knowledge of felines is not limited to poker. She also has posted seven of a promised nine parts of “Temporary,” written for fall_for_sx. Where it pauses is good; you won’t feel unbearably frustrated. This story offers a twist on Spike recorporealizing out of the amulet, with Xander in reluctant (and always appealing) caretaker mode. All of these pieces are Spander, and they are under the Spike/Xander section of the “Memories.” I haven’t yet had the chance to check out all the other pairings she’s got listed; go for your own favorites!
One of the many interesting things about going back and reading through an author’s work which has been written over a spread of years is that you can see changes in interests, in style, in subject, and in skill—and you can also start to identify key characteristics which shine through all those changes. I have to say that I think entrenous88 is a writer who just keeps getting better. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have favorites among her earlier stories, found on her website, “Just Between Us,” at http://www.geocities.com/entrenous88/,
because I most certainly do! When you go there, check both “fiction” by title (both pages) and “updates.” Here's just a short list:
“A House, A Home.” Although there’s a logic to Xander/Andrew, it normally doesn’t do it for me. But this is a charming little relationship moment—fun.
“Favorite Things.” Lindsey plays mindgames on Angel.
“Shacking Up.” This longer series is a humorous, endearing tale of Spike and Xander as unselfconscious roommates who start thinking differently about each other after well-meaning friends start to meddle with their living situation.
“Expecting.” Okay, yes, MPREG—but fun banter, and no bad guys among the Scoobies.
“Something Blue, Something Slashy.” This verges on parody and should be read with tongue firmly in cheek. (Hey, demon wedding chapel in Vegas—what can I say?)
“Ministrations.” This is really, truly wonderfully bad badfic, and it is also a crossover with “The Sentinel.” You’ll either find it a wicked delight or just plain mean. Cliches abound!
While she’s consistently a slash writer, there are many different pairings on the website. She appears to be focusing on Spander in her more recent work, but that could be a mistaken impression on my part. The bulk of her works start with canon (i.e., are set in the Sunnydale or L.A. of the shows, but of course are not-so-canon in being slash). She’s also written what I truly consider AU: with the characters as human rather than vampire, and/or with the settings not being consistent with the series. I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed reading her canon stories so much that I haven’t yet gotten to, and thus can’t comment on, the others. She’s clear about labeling stories by pairing and by rating, and she gives accurate warnings; lengths are listed, but you’ll know you have encountered a longer story when there are multiple chapters listed on the story’s title page, and the majority are shorter works. Do try reading something that’s unusual for you, either here or in her “Memories” or by browsing back through her LJ; that’s how I found the delightful piece “The Hidden Significance Of Stake Whittling” (http://entrenous88.livejournal.com/354
796.html#cutid1), which left me warm and smiling, despite the fact that Giles/Xander doesn’t normally grab me. Wonderful Xanderbabble and a sweetly scheming Andrew—just plain fun.
So now you know why I kept delaying wishing her a happy birthday: I kept finding more enjoyable fiction to take up my time. Thanks for lots of much-needed stress relief this week and the promise more fine reading to come. Happy very belated birthday, entrenous88. I wish you lots and lots of pie!
First, don’t be misled: today’s birthday person, wesleysgirl, does indeed write extensively in the Jossverse, but (1) she also has a great recs list (http://home.comcast.net/~wesleysgirl/r
ecs.html) which includes many fine TS and SGA entries, among other fandoms, and (2) she isn’t just “Wesley’s girl,” since I originally fell in love with her writing over at AllAboutSpike (http://www.allaboutspike.com/auth.h tml?au=252), and her own webpage (http://home.comcast.net/~wesleysgirl/f anfiction.html) includes a number of pairings, not all with Wesley, and not all (though mostly) slash. She is also writing, as well as recommending, in SGA. She is clearly an avid reader and a prolific writer, and I’m indebted to her for both reasons. This year, she’s been one of the big forces turning me on to Stargate Atlantis through her excellent story recommendations as well as her own fine stories, and last year, the series “Saturation” and “Pervasion” that she wrote along with Jane Davitt gave me something hot, involving, and moving to look forward to after work, helping to get me through some tiring and irritating days. The women active in the early labor movement used to proclaim, “Give us bread and roses!” because they knew that the spirit needs sustenance as much as does the body . . . and fiction provides the roses in my life. Plus, I really love reading about food in her LJ—I have yet to try any of the recipes, but I’ve mentally savored all of them. So she's got both parts covered! It’s a good idea to friend her to keep up with the imaginary noshing, not to mention to have the great pleasure of reading her stories as they are being written—recent examples: “Deciphering Fire” and “No Going Home.”
Where to start? Well, she has very helpfully divided up her fiction into categories by length and has then supplied ratings and pairings information, so I’d say you are safe to go with your own instincts. That said, here are just a very few of my many sentimental and critical favorites among her works:
“Seeing Distant Things As If They Were Close.” I believe that this was the first story I read by her; I know it’s one I’ve reread often. It’s Spander, ultimately, but what it is, best and most of all, is a wonderful set of character studies, of Xander and of Spike, but also, in a way, of Buffy, in the time following the loss of Xander’s eye. I find the writing very evocative, the voices pitch-perfect, and the moods and tones as finely done as a water-color. I recommend this story very highly.
“Least Obeisance.” This is another intriguing character study, in this case a very short slice-of-life encounter between Cordelia and Spike just after he’s lost the Gem of Amarra to Angel. Again, spot-on voice and characterization and effective mood--just astringent enough, with both characters at their sharpest, but never one-note.
“Ne M’oubliez pas.” This short G/W amnesia-fic really touched me, because it goes right to the heart of that difficult question: what makes one person love another, and how fragile and unlikely is that condition?
“Coming Around Again” series. This was written with Secondverse as a series of LJ tags at Christmastime; it’s heavy on the hurt/comfort and the schmoop (assuming I’m using those terms correctly!)—so if that’s what you are in the mood for, this is your dish. It made a great holiday gift, and I'm saving it up for next year, too.
“Saturation” series. Written with Jane Davitt. I’m not always comfortable with G/X, and I’m not a threesomes person, being intensely monogamous even in my fantasy life. But they did a fine, insightful job of looking at the complexities (emotional, even more than sexual) of integrating a third, wounded person (in this case, a shanshued Spike) into an already established paired relationship which is loving but complex. I found this series involving and intriguing.
“Act of Nature.” With Jane Davitt. Although this is G/X, not my favorite pairing, I found the setting beautiful and evocative and the premises of the story interesting. And it’s particularly worthy of mention because it gave rise to a novel, using the main OC, which is described here: http://wesleysgirl.livejournal.com/5335
74.html. I love that this can happen!
Of course, you could always start with her own selection of her shorter works; she picked what she felt was a good variety and asked her readers which might be best for the WriterCon archive. That list can be found here: http://wesleysgirl.livejournal.com/5328
At the moment, her non-BtVS/AtS fic doesn’t appear to be up at her website (the location of all of the above), but can be found via the links on the right side of her LJ . . . or here:
es.bml?user=wesleysgirl&keyword=Atlantis+Fic&filter=allMy favorites so far: the thoughtful character study “The Way Oceans Do Not Sleep” and the powerful, painful “Two Left.”
(Boy, that tagging is neat!)
Thanks so much for many hours of reading pleasure, WG, both in fiction and in food! I hope your birthday has been a good one.
Well, I hope that Kimberly has been enjoying her birthday today, because I most certainly have! I’ve been hungering to re-read “Late Night Double Feature,” which I seem to do every month or so, but I made myself wait so that I could enjoy all her stories at once on this occasion. So I’ve had a wonderful overcast day of sitting inside with warm cat on lap, indulging myself in the work of a fantastic writer. As usual, they were even better than I had remembered, a characteristic common to all the stories I find myself returning to again and again. (I read once for plot, preferably accompanied by fine characterization; when I hunger to revisit a piece repeatedly, it must also evoke strong emotions and delight me with the just-exactly-right quality of the writing.) Anyone who’s heard enough and wants to get right to the reading, you’ll find her excellent Spander located at her website, http://www.nothinglikethesun.com/SX/
. I decided to relive my introduction to her writing by pursuing the stories in the order I originally read them (which is not, I believe, the order in which they were written). I think it is also a good choice for new readers. Begin with “Beholder” because it’s a shorter piece (my usual practice when encountering a new writer—I find it hard to leave a story unfinished, but I’m reluctant to commit lots of time to an unknown quantity), because it keeps the story in settings less likely to unsettle the reader, and because it emphasizes emotions like trust, friendship, and love. These are of course the lesser considerations; the important reasons I repeatedly reread it are because every word counts and it puts me right inside a Xander I care about. This is post-Chosen, post-Africa Xander, and it is thoughtful and moving.
You might go to “Closeted” next. It’s an amnesia-fic which provides more Spike POV than her other stories and has its fair share of hurt and comfort. Here, as in all her stories, her Xander-speak is delightful, and of course it’s always interesting to speculate on who one might be without all those memories shaping our actions and responses. Or, if you are already hooked (as I was after that first taste of “Beholder”), jump right into my most-favorites of these favorites, “It’s Just a Jump to the Left” and its sequel, “Late Night Double Feature.” Even after multiple rereadings, I get such a strong emotional surge out of these stories that it always threatens to eclipse the great pleasure I get in examining the cleverness of the structure and the effectiveness of the writing. She just builds these stories so darn well! My advice: sit back and let her work the magic, then on subsequent rereadings you can try to figure out how she’s done it all so well. These stories are all more sexually explicit than “Beholder,” but always in a way which illuminates character.
Her most recent Spander, the post-NFA “Through the Looking Glass,” was the first I got to watch unfold on LJ. Much as I enjoyed the anticipation I felt with the appearance of each new chapter, it was a delight to read it straight through today, and it worked quite well for me. Her Xander is never perfect, and since it’s Xander’s humanity which is his salient characteristic—his own version of a superpower, complete with Kryptonite factor—I always appreciate authors who can show his flaws and make them such a part of who he is that I’m not loving him despite them or for them, but simply with them. She also does a fine job of merging both ends of the Spike spectrum; it’s an understandable temptation for authors to stick with sexy, snarky, smooth Spike or with tortured, broody, sensitive Spike, but her Spike combines all those qualities in a way which actually makes sense.
I should also add that these final two stories contain very short sections with settings which may discomfit some readers (a club featuring unconventional sex acts, a San Francisco peep show). When I first encountered those brief scenes, I seem to remember feeling a trace anxious but trusting . . . and the trust was certainly borne out. These are, in fact, stories about love in which sexual behavior is a form of communication and miscommunication. That it is also very effectively portrayed is a plus, obviously—but the sexuality is there to advance the story, not merely to titillate or shock. And that is very much the way I prefer it! While the other stories are on her website, “Through the Looking Glass” is currently found in her writing LJ, beginning here: http://community.livejournal.com/kimber
ly_fan/32265.html#cutid1. If you’d like a quick plot summary to help you choose what to read first, she’s obligingly provided one (though, characteristically, far too self-effacing) in her LJ here: http://community.livejournal.com/kimber ly_fan/41658.html.
If you’d like to be on hand for any new stories, you can friend the community she’s set up for her fiction: kimberly_fan. She also has a private, flocked journal which is mentioned on the userinfo page, here: http://community.livejournal.com/kimber
ly_fan/profile. And she’s provided a great list of Spander recs in her Memories and (longer version, with descriptions) on her website, here: http://www.nothinglikethesun.com/SX/rec s.shtml. I can attest that the ones I’m familiar with are described quite accurately, and I look forward to reading my way through the rest.
Sorry to be so late with your birthday tribute, Kimberly—and it seems rather unfair to blame it on you, just because your stories are so absorbing that I couldn’t merely skim them (and certainly didn’t want to short-change myself or them in that way!). Anyway, thanks again for hours of pleasure, on so many levels. (I love the fact that I feel like I’m the one who is getting a present with each of these birthdays—stories, the gift that keeps on giving!)
Cesperansa AKA Francesca
This was another unexpected birthday; I just saw a short while ago in cesperanza’s LJ that yesterday was her special day. Fortunately, I just happened to be re-reading a number of her Sentinel stories recently, as somehow manages to happen quite frequently. And she has just recently posted a couple of wonderful new SGA McShep pieces, so I feel almost ready to say something useful about her writing . . .
Let me start by noting that, in the world of The Sentinel, she is known as Francesca. For old hands, that’s no doubt sufficient. Newer fans, as I learned, have an amazing treat in store when they first encounter her work. You can find her stories (all most definitely slash) involving Jim and Blair here: http://www.trickster.org/francesca/
, which is a subset of her larger website, http://trickster.org/speranza/, where there are sections for The Dead Zone, The West Wing, and Stargate Atlantis, as well as other goodies.
Some TS authors are intriguing because they have provide a very consistent characterization of Jim and Blair, and the fascination comes from the placement of those stable characters in different circumstances facing different options. Francesca, like many TS authors, presents a number of “first time” stories, but in these she explores the interactions of a number of different Jims and Blairs, all plausible, but each bringing new perspectives and distinctive reactions which shape the situations in unique ways. All satisfying, all different: try “No Lothario,” “Nothing On,” “The Object of My Erections,” “Armchair,” “Legacy,” “Mia,” “Cheap,” “The Night Sandburg Graduated From the Academy,” “The Thought that Counts”—oh, try any of them! (For example, in one story Blair might be comfortably gay or bisexual, whereas in another he might be completely in denial or straight. Some Jims are reluctantly drawn to Blair; others know what they want but just aren’t sure it’s safe/wise/practical to reach for it. Warning: "The Fire" might disturb some readers because of age-of-character issues.) Then, if you are game for five fascinating character studies which she developed around the theme of voyeurism, try the “In the Eye of the Beholder” set. It’s not surprising that she won a number of awards in the early years of TS fandom, including, appropriately, one for “Best Use of a Sex Scene for Character Development.” If you want to settle down for a novel-length experience, check out the “Nature” series; I hunted her down online after reading eliade’s high praise of this in her set of TS recs which started me off in this fandom. After a wonderful, painful opening, these chapters develop a solid relationship between two strong, complementary individuals. She’s a wonderful, sensual, talented writer whose craft is so well-honed that it isn’t even noticeable—only the impact is. No wonder she has such a solid reputation—I know I re-read her work often.
cesperanza is yet another in the group of TS and BtVS writers who have sucked me into this new universe of Stargate Atlantis. If you don’t want to start with her two most recent longer works, “MVP” or “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead,” you can begin with the shorter “Rodney’s Last Message” to get a feel for her work in this new fandom. I enjoyed all of these; I will admit that the “Haldoria” fantasy is the least satisfying to me, so I wouldn’t recommend starting with that one, though you might find it fun. Again, she demonstrates her skill as a stylist, a master of dialogue, and a writer of steamy, relationship-building sex. Who could ask for more!
I have to admit that I haven’t yet had a chance to delve into her writing in other fandoms, but I’m looking forward to it; sort of like having a stash of goodies waiting for that moment when you need something you know will be wonderful. The “Due South” stories alone should keep one busy for weeks.
So I’d strongly urge newcomers to Sentinel fandom to discover this early TS writer; you won’t be disappointed. (But you might find yourself suddenly reading about Rodney McKay and John Sheppard on Atlantis without being exactly sure how you left Cascade . . . )
It’s so strange to remember that I didn’t even know Linda existed before last July. Such are the wonders of LiveJournal and email—I now think of her as a trusted friend whom I hope to come to know even better over time. (Since I’m not nearly as open or giving as she is, either on or off LJ, this may come as a shock to her, but I hope not an unpleasant one!) She shares herself so generously and so honestly in all areas of her life that it’s just impossible not to feel drawn to her. Because I was raised in something like the Jim Ellison school of emotions (i.e., Let’s Not Talk About Feelings, Just Get the Job Done), I’m going to do what comes naturally and analyze all the concrete, specific ways that starwatcher307 is a delightful human being. So, here goes . . .
Why StarWatcher is one of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met, online or off:
As of a year ago, I still wasn’t doing much commenting or writing of thank-you notes to authors; it seemed too pushy and fawning, somehow. But after coming upon her stories via one of the LJ TS communities, I was directed to Cascade Library and found others, all of which I greatly enjoyed. And at the end of “Spreading the Word” (wherein Blair develops a short-cut guide to Microsoft Word for the folks at Major Crimes), she actually invited us to email her for a copy of the guide . . . since Blair’s creation was actually her own. So I leaped in and wrote her a fanletter along with that request. In return: Riches! She immediately emailed me the guidebook (which I recommend heartily to others, and which she’s still offering). It’s a great tip sheet, so if you are merely coasting along the top of Word but suspect there’s much more you could get out of it, I advise you to ask her for a copy.
But that wasn’t all. She also answered my request for names of additional TS authors with a fantastic and long list that I’m still, several months later, wandering through in a sort of dazed delight. You can find a slightly longer version of it in the comments here, along with recs by other TS writers and readers: http://caarianna.livejournal.com/713.ht
ml. And she responded so warmly, graciously, and enthusiastically to my comments about her stories that I felt emboldened to thank other writers more often and more directly. (So, if you’ve gotten an effusive comment or email from me since last July—she’s one of the important reasons why!)
She’s also been my most informative and helpful guide to the world of LJ: both mechanics and etiquette. If I have a question, I know I can either contact her directly or toss it out where she’ll see it (my most common practice, because I’m assured that way lots of other folks will get the benefit of her friendly and useful advice.) See below re her LJ for how to find these great tips. Suffice it to say I couldn’t have done most of the things I did to format this entry, from boldfacing on, without her help! It’s obvious that she’s a wonderful educator: knowledgeable, supportive, well-organized, and always displaying patience and a good sense of humor, attributes which are vital to our calling.
These aren’t the only ways that she helps make LJ more of a community and a better place. She betas for at least two fine TS writers that I know of, an invaluable service to them and to their readers. She’s calm, informative, and fair in face of the emotional storms which blow up periodically online. And she’s one of the most welcoming LJers I’ve encountered. She introduces us to new people and encourages us to friend them, which makes such a difference when one first ventures out into this big, scary void. She is the person who would bring the new kid on the playground into the game and make her feel immediately right at home. (In fact, that’s exactly what she’s done for me and for others!)
Why you will enjoy reading StarWatcher’s LJ:
First of all, it’s well-organized and informative. A tip for those other folks who’ve friended her for some time now and therefore just read her updates on their friends page—go back and check out her full journal. She’s crafted a really great new first entry (dated March 2, 2010, so it will always show up at the head of the other entries). Follow the cut-tag to a slew of treasures (or just click here: http://starwatcher307.livejournal.com/9
9651.html#cutid1). You'll find TS links to archives, communities, convention reports, and more; her various tips for how to use LJ features; and even some links to new fandoms (Numb3rs, Supernatural). I have been trying to put together a page of TS links for my own use; I’ll now simply link to her page!
Second, you’ll get to know her as a person (as well as an educator and an author). This same page gets you directly to a number of the entries describing her observations of the natural world that I was going to link here (thanks, Linda, for once again making my life easy!). She’s living the life I’d like to live if I were braver or more self-sufficient; I get tremendous vicarious pleasure out of reading her entries. Her tales and pictures of the doings of the flora and fauna in her area are crisp, clear, often humorous, and always engaging. She’s very matter-of-fact about her own place in that world, but it’s evident to me that she’s a good neighbor to all, two-legged and four-legged, winged or finned, quietly doing what’s right in a world where many folks would just turn their heads and walk on by. (I see bits of her in the best of both her Blair and her Jim—reaching out to help others, while demonstrating a kind humor and quiet strength.)
Why you will enjoy StarWatcher’s Sentinel stories:
She did the meme “Top 10 Ways to Recognize My Fic” [actually, 12] here, http://starwatcher307.livejournal.com/9
1509.html, and it’s a very accurate (though typically modest) summary of many of the reasons I enjoy her stories so much. She’s also set up a separate LJ found at http://starwatcher-fic.livejournal.com/ to serve as an archive for her stories, which I originally located via Cascade Library and in her Memories. (Fine scholar that she is, she’s cited the source of the idea as well, crediting orion2303.) She appears to be listing the stories in the order they were written, although posting them in a different order, and she kindly provides the length of each. One of the many advantages of the new site is that she’s included Author’s Notes as the first “comment” after each story; I always enjoy learning more about what motivates and shapes a writer’s efforts.
Of course, I can’t resist adding just a bit more to her own evaluation of her work. What she does is to give us the “real life” moments which are hinted at in the series but which, woven together, make relationships work. Many of these may seem like casual, informal incidents, but they are the glue which hold people and communities together. Her most recent story, “Years May Come, Years May Go,” written for sentinelsecrets and not yet posted at her site, is a fine example. On the surface, it’s a description of Blair’s efforts to put together a 25th anniversary party for Joel Taggart and his wife. It’s actually a quiet, subtle ensemble piece which lets us think about the meaning of relationships of all kinds. Similarly, “The Honor of Friendship” explores grief, comradeship, and reconciliation, all in an understated and non-angsty manner. While only one story so far is officially a “missing scene” (and if you think “nice” means “unfamiliar with/unable to write about anger” . . . “You Damn Well Better” will prove you wrong), I like to think of all of these as missing scenes, reinforcing the non-explosion/human interaction moments which drew us to the series. (“It’s about friendship,” indeed!) In my fanletter to Linda, I said that I found her stories a source of comfort (which isn’t the same thing as “comfortable,” although some also fit that description). What I mean by that is that, in fiction as in real life, she always manages to see and expect the best in people, without shutting her eyes to human flaws or imperfections. She doesn’t feel a need to let one character shine at the expense of others; she treats all of them fairly, without an agenda. She understands that they have the defects of their virtues—and vice versa. These are people I want to spend time with and can like and admire. (And I particularly appreciate the way she has Jim express his feelings about Blair in a very practical manner in “Windsong”—rising above his own needs to put his friend first.)
We get to know writers through their stories. It is, really, an astonishingly intimate relationship, which is why I find LJ so amazing: we can actually communicate directly, responding to these people whose words, ideas, and emotions have come to life inside our minds. Even in the absence of all the concrete actions of friendliness and thoughtfulness I’ve noted above, I’d feel very close to and fond of Linda because of her writing alone. It’s well-crafted, direct, warm, decent, thoughtful, not afraid of pain or complexity but not dwelling on them, healing, self-effacing and modest, and just plain good in every sense of the word. Those adjectives apply to her, as well.
So happy birthday and thank you, Linda, for all you’ve given us of yourself and all you continue to give. The world (virtual and face-to-face) is a better place because you are here. (And I apologize if I’ve embarrassed you with the praise—as I suspect I have!—but I know it’s an assessment many others share.) It's delightfully appropriate that your birthday falls on the anniversary of the debut of the show you've enjoyed so much and honored with your efforts.
Today’s birthday person is the author who writes in TS fandom as charlottefrost. (She has another LJ identity, too, but since I can’t remember whether she wants them officially connected, I’ll leave it up to her to disclose it if she chooses.) As I have been reading my way through Sentinel fiction, old and new, hers was a name I kept running across as a “don’t miss” writer, but I couldn’t seem to find the stories. Then, to my delight, a notice popped up on one of the TS LJ accounts that she had created a new journal to house her stories. This is a very clever way of getting around the lack-of-website issue, so even writers in other fandoms might want to take a peek at what she’s done here: http://charlottefrost.livejournal.com/
. She just added a new story earlier this month, and it looks like she maintained this site as a single page by deleting the previous entry which had served as an index and replacing it with a newly updated one, currently dated March 3. I’m not conversant enough with different LJ styles to know if she had to get a paid account in order to be able to create the links to her stories which run along the left side. However, I’d think that something similarly functional if not quite so attractive and convenient could be done even with a free account by those of us less gifted in this area. This is a very classy and attractive layout, and it’s quite handy that the summaries of the stories are on the same page as these links, which are placed in the order the stories are written (something I always find interesting, since one of the intriguing things about LJ is the way it lets one get insights into how writers work and develop over time). She’s also indicated the specific date for each story in the summary section, as well as the length. As I’ve said before, these are touches I really appreciate; sometimes you want a long story, but sometimes you need just a little short piece to read before going to bed.
This is a good place for readers of gen, pre-slash, and slash; she’s got fine examples of each, and they are clearly and accurately labeled (another plus!). What I like most about charlottefrost’s writing is, I think, her psychological insight into the behavior of the characters. The stories focus overwhelmingly on Blair and Jim, although Simon and occasionally Naomi make appearances; the other series characters play only minor roles, with the exception of a couple of shorter pieces such as (not surprisingly) “Like Their Mothers.” Readers who like Simon to consistently be a warm, fatherly figure to Blair will need to go elsewhere, but those who are fascinated by all the possible Simons that can be created consistent with canon will be intrigued. One of the many things I’ve appreciated about fanfiction is that writers can and do interpret the behaviors documented on the show in so many different ways, and in the looser confines of print they can spin out those behaviors into very divergent characterizations. Such is the case here: her Simon ranges from a somewhat distant boss who exhibits some frustration with and even jealousy of Blair to a solid professional who willingly and unhesitatingly crosses the line to support the pair when danger threatens. On the other hand, I find her characterizations of Jim and Blair to be somewhat more consistent, story to story, while still allowing for an interesting range of responses and adapting to a variety of plotlines. This can be quite comforting to a reader; it’s enjoyable to enter a reading experience knowing that you aren’t quite sure what will happen or how the relationship will develop under these particular circumstances, while still feeling confident that the central characters aren’t suddenly going to alienate you by changing who they fundamentally are. Her style is laconic and dialogue-driven, which appeals to me. She is more inclined to show what the emotions are through action and speech than to explain them, and I like that as well. And her plots are logical, realistic, and never repetitive—another plus! With the exception of one pair of stories, all of her works are set in the familiar world of Cascade PD and Rainier University, although many of them are AU in that they depart from canon at different points and develop different, very plausible and interesting “might have been” scenarios. This is yet another thing I enjoy so much about fanfiction: the multiple, branching realities, very much a Star Trek image in action!
Where to start reading? Hmmm . . . My particular favorite is “Self-Discovery 101”—her first story, interestingly enough. (That’s a good sign: a high level of quality from the start!) Why? I particularly enjoy post-TSbBS; I really like depictions of Jim using his senses, especially when sensuality and sexuality overlap; I’m intrigued by Blair’s spiritual odyssey. It’s also a sentimental favorite because it is the first thing by her that I read, which led me to go on . . . sad but true that one can hit just the wrong story (often in terms of one’s own biases, not the writer’s talent) the first time out and then miss out on lots of potential reading pleasure. “Truths that Wake” and “Heart and Home” appeal to me in that they address very honestly some of the tensions that can arise even when things seem to be going better than expected in the wake of the dissertation fiasco. For those who’d prefer something short and gen for an initial experience, any of the episode-based stories here would provide a good feel for her style and her understanding of the thought processes of our two protagonists. “Drop by Drop” and “Concessions” are the more emotionally intense of the bunch.
So, thank you, charlottefrost, for making your justly well-known stories readily available once again to Sentinel readers, and thanks for continuing to add new ones (most recently, “Admire and Desire”—with, as I've noted, keen psychological insights, this time into the dynamic between adult student and teacher). And thank you for having a birthday and thus giving me the excuse to spend this rainy, squally weekend re-reading these fine tales, warm cat in lap!
Alyburns AKA Alyjude
Well, I should have known that this would end up being late . . . although I knew better than to attempt to re-read all her stories—or even my most favorite of favorites—because I wouldn’t have been done for weeks, I should have anticipated that I would succumb to the temptation to revisit “just a few of them.” But since she’s written so very many stories, and I enjoy them so much . . .
I have to admit that I often feel a bit abashed, writing tributes to so many fine writers who have been admired by lots of folks long before I learned about them. If nothing else, I hope I’m creating a quick go-to page for folks who love the stories by that particular author. That’s certainly all I can hope to do for this birthday girl! Because alyburns, a.k.a. alyjude in TS and sideburns in SG1, is both talented and amazingly prolific. What’s stunning to me is that she can write so much, from short pieces to long, across so many moods and themes from humor to angst, and never seems to repeat herself. Her stories are all slash, by the way.
I really enjoy the dynamic between her Jim and her Blair. She writes a smart, feisty, funny, earthy Blair, although she also shows him feeling pain and rejection and anger. And her Jim is big and warm, just like I like him, and with a full share of the imperfections that make him human, and more of a sense of humor than we sometimes see. Often there are pangs and chuckles in the same story, although in varying degrees. (There are also some food descriptions which really make my mouth water!) Since I’ve been wallowing in her TS, I haven’t even attempted to start in on her SG1 tales, but she offers information on where to find them in the bio section on her userinfo page, along with references to the following locations for her TS stories. I’d like to offer an important warning here—although she’s got so many stories I can’t be absolutely positive, it’s my sense that you will not find all the same stories on all three of these sites. So check all of them! (I keep trying to verify this, but I keep getting sidetracked into re-reading, and since they aren’t posted in the same order in each archive . . .)
tm(her own TS webpage)
gi-bin/search.cgi?ShortResults=0&Title=&Author=Alyjude&Summary=&Date=0&SortBy=0&SortOrder=0&NumToList=0&FastSearch=0(the new 852 Prospect site; it appears to have many—most? all?—of the stories from the skeeter site)
in/search.cgi?ShortResults=0&Title=&Author=alyjude&Summary=&Date=0&SortBy=0&SortOrder=0&NumToList=0&FastSearch=0(the old 852 Prospect site, now the mirror archive . . . the stories here are not in the same order as those on the new site, and there appear to be some on one which aren’t on the other, and vice versa)
I thought another good deed I might do, for myself as well as others, would be to post all the links to her popular Jakeverse stories here in one place and in order. (And if I miss any, somebody please note in a comment or email, so I can fix it!) I will say it up front: I never thought I’d care for kid-fic. But I adore Jake, and I’m hopelessly stuck on this loving, committed, sexy relationship between Jim and Blair. While it starts out achey, and there are some crises along the way, most of this is domestic fiction at its warmest. You can trust your emotions to Aly; it’s safe to feel the pains, because the payoff is there. If you aren’t willing to risk getting involved in a long story right off (though I suspect the first page of the substantial opening tale “Everything’s Jake” will hook you, as it did me), you could try one of the shorter, later episodes first. The versions archived at 852 Prospect show story length; those at skeeter do not.
(this appears to be the only place to find this start of the Jakeverse)
“We Gather Together: Thanksgiving”
“We Gather Together: Christmas and Chanuakah”
“The Bestest, Most Perfectedness Vally Times Day Card Ever”
“Full Circle” (a trilogy containing “Cold Case,” “Three for the Road,” and “In the Name of the Father”) begins in her LJ here:
You can simply follow day-to-day from here, or use her archive as an index:
“The Big Five”
“A Day at the Zoo”
E.T.A. 3/28/06: "A Strange Anniversary" is now up at the 10th Anniversary site and fits here, chronologically
She also has a lovely short story which comes chronologically well after all of these but which actually inspired the rest of the series. However, although I very carefully saved it to disk, I don’t remember at the moment where I found it! I’ll post a link here later if/when I relocate it . . . or if one of you lovely folks can pass it on to me . . .
Part of my tardiness is due to my foolish thought that I could pick just a very few of the stories I tend to go back to again and again to use them as samples of her range. Since this plan has turned into a seductive sort of quicksand, I’ll just name a couple of the many I seem addicted to (more of an ink-blot test of my emotional needs than a clinical overview of her work!). These should all be findable on both the newer 852 Prospect site and her own webpage. I’m particularly fond of “-30-” with its depiction of a Blair facing . . . and making . . . some changes when the Big Birthday hits. It has her trademark combination of pangs and warmth. When I want lots and lots of pangs before the pay-off, I go to “You’re Already Gone” (short) or “Polar Ice Caps” or “Future Tense” (both long). And if I need a bit of humor . . . well, lots of options! (And since attempting to pick titles here has led to several hours of detours into reading already, I'm going to quit and let people find their own way.)
She’s also contributed to SVS (Sentinel Virtual Season). While her contributions are at the 852 Prospect site, the series itself can be found here: http://www.squidge.org/5Senses/. I’m saving this for when I have time to devote to it (this summer?), because there are three seasons listed, and I recognize a number of the names of authors of different parts. I suspect this will trigger even more exploration on my part of those different writers, so I’ll need the time. But those of you with more self-control are welcome to check it out now!
Although, as I’ve said, I haven’t yet delved into her SG1, she has a SG1/TS crossover series which I have indeed been enjoying. At the moment, it’s not yet all in one place, so use these links to read it in this, the correct order:
“Comedy of Errors”
“Measure for Measure”
She’s at work on the third story in this series; it’s currently friends-locked in her journal.
And now I’m going to go back and read just one more story before starting my Sunday tasks . . . though I’d better post this first, or it will become even more belated! I hope you and Lucy had a lovely birthday, Aly!
After being late in my last two greetings, I'm going to jump the gun here, rather than risk forgetting to post after both school and a visit to the dentist tomorrow . . .
I only began to read _beetle_'s writing recently, having run into her work on bloodclaim. But she well and truly hooked me with the wonderful (and completed) "Awakenings," which can be found here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=_beetle_&keyword=%22Awakenings%22&filter=all. Not surprisingly, it has been nominated for an award. I'd think that anyone who enjoys Spander would fall for this story, which has become one of my favorites. It is a loving yet realistic depiction of a post-shanshued Spike who regains his lost memory only to discover that his alter ego William is living with . . . and in love with . . . Xander. Spike's flaws—as well as his virtues—are very authentically portrayed here. She's indicated that she might continue it, and I certainly hope she will, but it comes to a very emotionally effective conclusion here.
After you've read this story, you will no doubt want to read others.
I must admit that I didn't have much luck at the website indicated on her userinfo page; maybe I am just clueless, but her Memories appear to be the way to go. They are here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=_beetle_Be aware that the list is long, however, so you'll just sort of have to go on a treasure hunt through them. Some are WIPs, so you might want to check out the final posted chapter to see if it really is a final chapter, if you don't like committing before a story is done. Since I'm still just starting the fun process of going through her Memories myself, I apologize for having so few specific recs just now. I feel particularly apologetic, because, as I learned upon friending her, she's very, very generous about recommending other people's stories. (And people pay attention: my little one-and-only picked up six of the total fifteen commenting readers it has due to her rec! I'm still breathless with thanks for that generosity.)
Since I began reading her work on bloodclaim, I'm most familiar with her Spander, though I get the sense that she's written other pairings. I will say that if you like your S/X funny and sexy, with an unrepentant Spike, you should get a kick out of "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." Xander's spending that summer in Oxnard, and guess who turns up and complicates things in his own inimitable way? The story is complete, and it can be found here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
I've also gotten hooked by two of her WIPs. "Demon Magnet" has great snark and Xander getting some of the kind of quality attention we know he deserves, but maybe the Scoobies should be listening to Spike's concerns . . . There are nine wonderful parts as of last December, and I'm eagerly awaiting more. "Taken" has a rather darker mood and an interesting, effective structure; it oscillates between an earlier relationship between Xander and Jesse and a later one between Xander and Spike which is threatened by the previous events. It was most recently updated last July. Although I often shy away from WIPs, these have been interesting and distinctive enough that I am glad I succumbed, and I'll willingly do so again!
And I just learned by going through her Memories that she has done a handful of lovely Sentinel drabbles and ficlets, which can be found in her Memories, here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=_beetle_&keyword=Sentinel&filter=all. Clever, sensual: excellent little pieces. Since I’ve really been enjoying my excursion into that fandom, this was like a delightful unexpected gift!
So, happy birthday-in-advance, _beetle_! I'm really enjoying getting to know you through your LJ and your stories.
Connie AKA Riani1
In my defense, I didn’t know when Martha’s birthday was, until I saw a comment that very day in her LJ, saffronhouse. Certainly, Martha is so well-known and admired as a Sentinel author that I could have just said: Go—read! But of course anyone who knows her work has already done that, whereas it’s my hope that these tributes introduce my favorite writers to people who haven’t yet had the experience of enjoying their work . . . and, selfishly, I wanted to engage in my version of these online birthday parties, which involves re-reading as much as possible of an author’s work and then explaining to everyone on my flist just exactly why I fell in love with that person’s writing in the first place. She has some great long, involving, suspenseful tales that demand to be read through in a single sitting—and which can leave you rather too jumpy to sleep—not the best thing for a school night. So, since I was already late, I figured . . . just go ahead and read the shorter pieces first, then dive back into the long ones over the weekend . . . and I’m still in the middle of that rewarding experience. (Believe it or not, this is actually intended to be an apology . . . )
So . . . assuming you’ve never had the delight of reading Martha’s work, where should you start? Well, first, you should know that she is a master of both horror and smarm—she runs the gamut, and she runs it incredibly well. While I love all of her writing, because it all combines great and subtle artistry with fine characterization and emotion, some people will prefer one mood but might be less drawn to the other. So now I can at least become somewhat useful by identifying which story is which! I’ll also note relative length, because Martha has some wonderfully long and complex tales, and she also has some delicious short pieces. Again, she’s hitting both ends of the spectrum. And she writes gen and also slash; I’ll identify those which are clearly and intentionally slash or pre-slash (since much of the smarm can be read either way).
Martha’s Sentinel stories can be found at her website, http://soulcake.skeeter63.org/#Star
gate, an address which is a bit misleading since it contains mainly Sentinel stories. Some of the shorter pieces fall into what she calls “smarm.” It is not slash, which had been a matter of confusion to me. (Since I’m always worrying that I will display my newbie status by misusing all these terms, I was pitifully grateful that she includes a helpful definition of this term, as well as other interesting information, in her Cascade Library Featured Author profile, found here: http://tslibrary.skeeter63.org/feat ured-author/featured-author-martha.htm) However, she also has sensual, erotic stories here. I would think that any lover of TS would find all of these simply too beautiful to be missed.
“Grail” takes what can easily be a cliché and shows what a master of the craft does with it. From wet and cold to burning up, you feel every moment. Definitely gen and what she would call smarm. “Voir Dire” is yet another moment when the fragility of life hits Jim hard; smarm again, according to her definition, though I have to say that the sound of that term doesn’t do these emotions justice. “The Anthropologist on the Edge of Forever” is another precise and perfect portrait of the relationship between these two men. Gen or not isn’t clear—unless you think no kiss can be fraternal—and it frankly doesn’t matter, because this is about love, not sex. (It also incidentally addresses the question, just how useful is Star Trek as a guide to building a personal philosophy?) Not on her website for some reason is the perfect, pain-edged “In Thicket,” which depicts what might have happened (and probably should have happened) after Jim read Blair’s first chapter of his dissertation. It’s, ultimately, pre-slash. Find it at: http://www.852prospect.org/archive/arch
She also has some fine collaborations, including examples of her definition of smarm, which is to say, stories about the nature of relationship, not intended to be sexual, although some could be read that way. “Drunken Goo” is classic in vino veritas. “Borneo Eyes” examines the fear we have of failing those we love. “Listening” explores the question: how do you deal with the fact that the person who eases your pain takes it into himself?
Writing on her own, Martha has three beautiful short pieces which use Jack Kerouac’s writing to great effect. “Kneeling” is itself a poem, set in the everyday world; “pre-slash” seems too sharp-edged a term for a piece that is so lyrical. “ “The Portable Jack Kerouac” can be read as either gen or pre-slash, and it is so beautiful, so perfectly written, so clear in its insights into both men that no one should miss it. “Something or Other” is an erotic continuation of that story, wherein Jim and Blair examine, among other things, what is it to zone; this is a sensual, sensory exploration which, as is always the case with her stories, is ultimately about understanding character. It also exemplifies, perfectly, the term “love-making.”
Martha also writes in a darker vein, but these stories are ultimately reaffirming and always show in the characters the fine qualities that drew us to them. They also tend to be longer . . . much longer, so leave enough time, because you won't want to stop once you've started one. They range from an examination of the all-too-human evils which fill the nightly news to explorations of the supernatural. I found them all well-worth the commitment of time and emotion. It’s not surprising that a number of these are award-winners. One of the many, many things I appreciate about Martha is that she’s not writing horror just to see how much she can scare or shock the reader. She uses this genre to explore the inner lives of the characters and to help us understand how they grapple with the bigger questions. “Plank” is the most reality-based and thus the most easily accessible of the longer works. The structure of the story serves the characterization perfectly, without ever seeming intrusive or artificial. It involves a Waco/David Koresh-type cult. She does a brilliant job of putting the reader inside the minds of both Blair and Jim. “Unsleeping” straddles the line of realism and the supernatural . . . and it may be the more familiar horrors which strike the reader most deeply. As an academic myself, I’m always interested in stories which use the University setting and show Blair as a scholar; fortunately, I’ve never had anything like the experiences chronicled here. “Ordeal,” “Snake Oil,” and “Cake” are listed as a trilogy, but each works perfectly as a standalone. “Ordeal” is another excellent character study, showing the conflicting tangle of emotions and obligations Blair feels as Jim’s friend and as scholar and student of The Sentinel; it blends spiritual elements with a realistic core. “Snake Oil” is definitely creepier. “Cake” is long and emotionally and chronologically complex, and it deserves the time it will take me to read it again . . . something to look forward to this coming weekend! If you need a step back closer to “normal” which still has a foot in other worlds, try her post-TSbBS collaboration with Lemon Drop, “Distant Journey, Unknown Lands,” found at http://www.852prospect.org/archive/arch
ive/3/distantjourney.html. Again, what matters here is the human story.
She’s also done some work with SG1 and has a new SGA story out. “Lovely” is a TS crossover with SG1, with all the characters incisively drawn and the supernatural circumstances bringing out the very human frailties and strengths of each. “Danny Can’t Dance” is pure SG1, a character study which has Daniel Jackson and Jack out on the town for the evening, trying to sort out the aftermath of a particularly unpleasant occupational hazard. Even though I haven’t kept up with this series and thus didn’t know the events being addressed, the writing here is so effective that it simply didn’t matter. While these are on her website, the newest is over at the SGA archive “Wraithbait”: you’ll find “Moka” at http://www.wraithbait.com/viewstory.p
hp?sid=4992, and you’ll enjoy it!
She also has three original works posted on her website. I just began them this past weekend with “Monkey Brains.” This is classic Martha, providing great characterization combined with her trademark creepiness . . . never shock for shock’s sake, but rather to help us understand a bit better what it means to be human. Since, like all her work, this was too good too rush through, I haven’t yet finished the next two . . . but I’m looking forward to next weekend, when I’ll get the chance.
A whole weekend of reading Martha, with yet another ahead of me—now that’s what I call an incredible gift! Thanks so much for the brilliance and humanity of your work, and happy very belated birthday.
Today's birthday tribute belongs to eliade. This is one of the writers on LiveJournal who knocks me out with her talent. Primarily, she writes slash, and I've followed her from Spike/Xander in the Buffyverse to Jim/Blair in The Sentinel to Jack/Vaughn in Alias and now to Rodney/John (and even Rodney/Ronan) in Stargate Atlantis. (She also wrote Jack/Daniel in SG1 when it was the only Stargate out there.) Simply put, I'll read whatever she writes. She's an amazing stylist who writes with elegance and economy, and yet the artistry is only apparent after repeated re-readings. It's also intriguing to see the subtle differences in her style at different times and in different fandoms. Her Sentinel stories display a lush sensuality, expressed, however, with a precise, almost mannered care in word choice; it's a style intimately suited to this particular fandom. In contrast, the Jack/Vaughn stories are leaner and use dialogue much more extensively to tell the story, while character is frequently illuminated through very simple, spare, eloquent descriptions of action. The SGA stories have yet another style, with somewhat more wryness (although it's the dry humor in much of her writing which attracts me as much as the rich sensuality so often intertwined with or juxtaposed to it).
Her BtVS, TS, and SG1 stories are at her website, http://www.drizzle.com/~eliade/. (The Sentinel stories can also be found at 852 Prospect at http://www.squidge.org/archive/, and the Spander can be found at http://www.allaboutspike.com, in both cases under "Anna S" as author in the indexes.) Her website is also where you can find recommendations for both SG1 and TS. Suffice it to say that it was her Spander which led me to her TS stories, which led me to her Sentinel recs, which spun me off into my current delighted immersion in TS; it's an informative, amusing place to start if you are new to that fandom. First, let me note that her website doesn't provide different URLs for different pages, so you'll need to follow her menus to find the various stories and recommendations. That said, a great place to start is with the charming, romantic, funny, and endearing Spander piece, "Your Horoscope for Today." There's a DVD-style commentary linked at the bottom of the story, the first I read and one I found both clever and enlightening in terms of understanding how and why writers make the choices they do. "A Week of Wrong" is another example of a great blend of humor, sexual confusion, and, much to their surprise, sweetness between Spike and Xander. "Sidelines" (with Xander rather precipitously out on his own and Spike becoming involved with a stray cat) keeps some of that warmth but also has some darker edges; I enjoy re-reading it but find the two sequels rather more unsettling in tone. "Involuntary Bodies" is a longer and sadder, though ultimately hopeful, story set in the wake of Glory, with Xander and Spike left on their own to deal with Dawn and a still-damaged Tara. If you are up for even greater length, more angst, and some powerful and dangerously-edged eroticism, try "Subtleties." She also has a long WIP entitled "Buffy: Season Noir" which is Spike/Buffy; a number of those who have read it express anguish that she has firmly stated that it is on permanent hiatus, so thus far I've resisted the temptation to become enmeshed in it, but . . .
Anna's take on TS is slightly different in both tone and content than much of what I've read, though I lack the skill to describe exactly how or why. But to get a taste and see if you want to read more, a fine place to start would be the short work entitled "Curtains," which examines a "day in the life" that involves buying curtains, answering phone calls, and having sex, all described lyrically yet realistically. "First time" stories are a TS staple, and "A Long Time Looking" takes its own unique and apparently roundabout approach to that convention; I loved the descriptions, which put me inside Jim's head perceptually without being unduly obvious. "Sex" gets there rather more quickly and a lot more explicitly and unconventionally; I really like the interplay of writing style and subject matter in this one. "The Woods" trilogy deals with traumatic subject matter, yet I find myself drawn back to it for the beauty of the writing and the painful reality of the emotions; while it is officially unfinished, I find each portion complete in itself. And if you need an optimistic closure for it, you can do as I do and read the short piece "From a Distance" as filling that role. I find the other TS stories equally powerful but often more challenging and/or potentially disturbing both sexually and psychologically, so they may not speak to those who prefer more romance and camaraderie in the Jim/Blair relationship.
Her Alias pieces are located in her LJ Memories, at http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=eliade&keyword=Jack/Vaughn&filter=all. In May and June of 2005, she produced a wonderful flurry of Jack/Vaughn pieces. You might start with the fine (and completed) series "Shortcuts," begun on 5/27/05 . . . in some ways the most conventional relationship path she provides for this pairing--but there is nothing ordinary about the writing here. The first long piece of this "festival of J/V goodness," as I dubbed it, is a series ultimately called "The Mission" (still untitled in the Memories) beginning on 5/18--find it by that date listing. It starts from an exotic, erotic premise and, in her trademark way, expresses all sorts of complex, intricate, important things about character. And although the third series "Bona Fides" is currently unfinished, it is still well worth the trip: Jack and Vaughn are undercover as a couple, but things start to get confusingly real for Vaughn. Again, it's beautifully written with an economy and artistry which make me shudder with amazement each time I re-read it.
She's just begun venturing into SGA (although she's compiled a fine and lengthy list of recs, available in her Memories). A good sampling of her as-yet shorter list of SGA stories are tagged here: http://eliade.livejournal.com/tag/sga+f
ic. I'd say these were lighter pieces, for the most part; I've enjoyed them all, and all are brief enough that any would do as a starting piece.
Fortunately, eliade lives in my time zone, so I'll get this posted before her birthday is entirely over! Thanks, Anna, for the great pleasure your work has given me, and thanks also for your generous and cleverly written recommendations which have sucked me into TS and SGA--which is certainly not intended as a complaint . . .
I encountered danawoods over at, you guessed it, the place I began my immersion in the Buffyverse: http://www.allaboutspike.com. She was one of the writers I followed over to LiveJournal, so I owe her not only for writing some pretty darn fine fiction but also for tempting me into this wonderful place which has become a gigantic candy store for me. What I find so appealing about her work is that these are all character studies . . . plot and structure vary, in intriguing though never stilted ways, but they always exist to help us understand these individuals more deeply. She's got BtVS stories on her website, which can be found here, http://www.brokensymmetry.net/index1.ph
p, but that's not all. So if you have a taste for Jossverse RPS or lean more toward AtS or are curious about what she can do with "Firefly," you've definitely got options.
If you are willing to start with a longer, extremely rewarding piece, here's where I'd go: "Medlar and Sorb Apple," Part 3 of the "After the Opera" series, which just blows me away on several levels. Yes, you should read the first two parts first, as I did . . . or read this first, then go back for them, or read it all on its own. It works any of these ways, it's that well done. This was the first story I read that put me inside Faith's head, and it set a standard that only a very few authors have been able to come close to since. She's used an usual approach to express character in a just-about-perfect way, and without ever making it seem like an artificial sort of exercise. Officially there's one more part of the series to come, and I'd certainly leap at the chance to read more in this series. But since, to me, at least, what's happening of importance here is indeed the development of character, with plot primarily serving to advance that process, I don't think you'll be left feeling hanging. I certainly wasn't. This was one of those works that I reread immediately and have gone back to again and again. The series can be found here: http://www.brokensymmetry.net/fic/ato.p
If you feel more comfortable starting with something shorter before committing yourself (my usual practice when encountering a writer new to me), here are some fine and varied options, listed alphabetically. You'll find that they differ in style, but all illuminate character in intriguing ways.
"Doable." Can Faith help Spike survive surviving the big battle in L.A.? The voices are spot-on, and she understands not to pound a message home. It's at http://www.brokensymmetry.net/fic/doabl
"Grid Systems." Graham/Riley. I wouldn't have read this by another author; I'm glad I read it. See why at http://www.brokensymmetry.net/fic/g
"The Periodic Table of Wesley." Fred contemplates the various incarnations of Wesley in imagery that speaks to the scientist in her. Here: http://www.brokensymmetry.net/fic/perio
"Sixfold Symmetry." An incisive, insightful look inside Faith and Buffy—like and unlike. It's at http://www.brokensymmetry.net/fic/sixfo
"Visiting Privileges." What do Angel and Wes talk about with Cordelia in that room at Wolfram and Hart? http://www.brokensymmetry.net/fic/visit
So here's hoping you had a lovely birthday, danawoods! Thanks for thoughtful, well-written stories which have given me new insights into Faith, Wesley, Fred, Lindsey, and Gunn, as well as Buffy, Spike, Angel, Cordelia, and Dawn. And Willow, Tara, and Oz. And that's not all. (So, readers, start with what you know and love, then branch out, as I did. It's worth it.)
Well, late in the day, but I'm still on the right day in my time zone . . .
Today's birthday tribute is in honor of the delightful makd. Among her claims to fame is, as I'm sure everyone knows, the compiling of fantastic, specific, detailed rec lists for BtVS/AtS fanfic. This is a very impressive feat, and it's invaluable to us readers, especially but not merely those new to the fandom. There's a whole lot out there to read, and it can be pretty confusing and a little scary trying to figure out where to start . . . and encountering too much unintentional badfic as a newbie is more than enough to drive away the faint-of-heart or refined-of-palate. I don't recall ever being disappointed by a story I've read due to one of her recommendations, and I've lost count of how many of my now-favorite authors I found because of her. This kind of generosity and organization really help to build and connect the online community . . . we all owe her big-time, both readers and writers alike! So if you are eager to find a good read, head on over to her LJ, and you will be sure to find exactly what you are looking for.
Here's just one example: http://www.livejournal.com/users/makd/3
9280.html#cutid1. You can find more, similarly clearly labeled, just by scanning forward and backward in her LJ or, since she's put the relevant info in her subject line, by clicking on "Calendar View" when on her journal entries page, then tapping "View Subjects"--just a tip for people like me, who are still trying to figure out their way around LJ. Like I said, organized, and very user-friendly!
I really can't thank you enough, makd, for leading me to such fine fiction! I hope it was a great birthday (and continues to be, for however many hours you have left of it).
Here's to another of my favorite writers. (She also made me my very first icon, of my lovely grey guy. Obviously, this is not her major Claim to Fame, but it is indicative of her generous spirit and is much appreciated!) Speaking as a reader to fellow readers, if you enjoy character studies which consistently display versatility and quality, you'll definitely want to explore her work. (Frankly, that's much more important information than the more pedestrian facts that it's BtVS/AtS, and when there's a pairing it's het B/S. What it is, is darn fine writing.)
I first encountered shadowlass's writing at http://allaboutspike.com, where I read the absorbing longer piece "Bag of Bones" and the haunting short sketch "Tabula Mortis." "Bag of Bones" finds Spike back from Africa, but someone isn’t happy to see him in Sunnydale again; it's an insightful mix of character study, romance, and mystery, one so clever constructed that I couldn't figure it out and yet, once you know whodunit, turns out to be exactly right. "Tabula Mortis" is a selection of character voices and emotions in the aftermath of . . . something. It is painful and poignant and perfect. These, and many more, can be found at her website, the unduly modestly titled "Small Bites," located at http://www.angelfire.com/cantina/shadow
lass/index2.html. One of the longer works is the achingly effective "Scar Tissue," with Wesley, seeking redemption after the loss of Connor, encountering a Faith taken captive by Wolfram and Hart. Another I always find moving is "Settling In," which examines the impact of a post-"Chosen" Shanshued Spike from seven different POVs. This is a powerful way to explore character and plot, not a mere writerly device. You'll also find the delightful "A Very Joan and Randy Christmas," a light-hearted piece which uses the memory wipe in "Tabula Rasa" to set up a charming, funny story. These descriptions give some sense of her talent and versatility: the works indexed here range from G to NC-17, from light comedy to angst, from character study to carefully plotted longer work. There's never repetition; the only constant is the high quality of the writing and the depth of the development. Her mastery of voice and character: awesome. You simply can't go wrong with any of these. She's been gracious enough to let me spell-check some of the recent chapters of her current WIP, "Possession." (In all honesty, I can’t really call myself a beta here, since there's no way I'm qualified to give a writer of this caliber editorial advice . . . and she almost never lets a typo slip by, either, so mainly it's just a great excuse for me to get to read the newest chapters before anybody else--and I love that!) This is a very distinctive story, so one can easily follow the roughly monthly updates, but if you are simply philosophically opposed to WIPs, you'll find plenty to keep you busy among the other fascinating works I've noted above, and the many more I haven't. I could rave on and on about them . . . but since your time would be much better (and more enjoyably) spent reading them . . .
So happy birthday, shadowlass! Although I've tried here, I really can’t tell you how much I admire your writing. But thanks so much for giving it to us!
(Okay, one of these days I'm going to do a better job of thinking through this time zone business . . . so it's more like "happy belated birthday" now!)
Not only is today's birthday person yet another individual with a fantastic LJ name . . . she has also written a charming romance involving a grown-up Dawn and Spike, which, as the title indicates, is set "Ten Years After" the events in "Chosen." You can find it in the "Wombatzone" at http://www.speaker-to-customers.me.uk/w
ombatzone/cwfiction.htm. This story won Best Romance Fic Winner and Best Het Fic Runner up in Round 3 of the Love’s Bitch Awards . Some of us had the delightful experience of reading this as it unfolded on LJ; for the rest of you, settle in for a nice, long, cozy time, since there are 22 chapters of this lovely tale. (Suffice it to say that, among other things, it instilled in me a still-unfufilled desire to go out and buy frilly undergarments . . . those who know me in RL would do a double-take at that and say, “Wow, that’s a successful romance!”)
She's also a resident of the Isle of Man, and I've enjoyed following her journal to learn more about the life of someone half a globe away from me! While some of the superficial aspects of our lives seem quite different, her comments and descriptions always make me feel comfortable and right at home. It's really been a pleasure getting to know you, curiouswombat, and I look forward to another year of LJing together.
(Although maybe not if you’re like my colleagues who needed a definition for "luddite" when it got bandied about by the history and science types when we were first setting up the school computer network . . . unfortunately, these confused folks were not helped by the suggestion that they "just 'google' it" . . . )
In case you'd like to get right to the reading rather than listen to me ramble, you'll find the Buffyverse fiction of ludditerobot in two places; since there's overlap but not an identical list of entries, you'll want to check both. Some are here: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/384948/
and others are in his LJ memories, here:
"Children of the Sun" (6 parts)
"Eyeless" (4 parts)
"Faith Fiction” (4 of the 5 stories listed are by him)
“Five Faithless Moments"
"Kill City" (WIP with 3 parts up; this is a prequel to "Eyeless" and involves Faith's Watcher)
"Questions Answered" (5 entries where readers ask a question about a character in a story and the author answers. I find these exercises fascinating, as a part of my quest to learn more about how writers actually do what they do . . . plus, it's more of a favorite story, so, hey!)
"Snowblind" (this is the sequel to "Eyeless." WIP, with the 7th part up in February of 2005; I look forward to seeing more of this interesting tale.)
Since I hadn't known about the stories on the fanfiction.net site until tracking it down for this tribute, I can't speak about all the stories there . . . yet! Because now I have the pleasure of more to read—one of the delightful unintended consequences of these hunting expeditions. But I did steal a moment to read "Perishable," and I'm glad I did. It's a fine Buffy/Xander character study, poignant and well-written. So I know I'll enjoy the ones I haven't yet gotten to as much as those I've already discovered.
ludditerobot's writing is a very good place to go for fine Xander and Faith, sometimes with a side order of Dawn or Kennedy or others. I first came on over off of a rec by one of "my" other Xander/Faith authors (was it nwhepcat or lizmarcs?) which brought me to the "Eyeless" series. This begins with "Eyeless," which is complete and works wonderfully as a stand-alone story. The shifts in voices are exactly right, and it is an excellent set of character studies—of Xander, of Faith, but also of Dawn, Willow, Kennedy, and Andrew. I strongly recommend it! "Snowblind" is actually the first story I read by him; suffice it to say that I began at about 10 PM, read eagerly without stopping, and surfaced, in the early hours of the morning, hungry for more. (So be warned, if you avoid WIPs, because it will indeed suck you in! But if you read for characterization even more than for completion of plot, as I do, you'll find this well worth your time.)
E.T.A. 1/7/06: "Snowblind" is now complete!
ludditerobot also deserves high praise for originating two clever ficathon ideas. (I really enjoy ficathons, because they are a great way of discovering writers.) The first challenge was to write about one of those newly activated slayers brought online by the spell Willow did. It was called "When the Clock Strikes," and the assignments were divided up by time zones, so that writers could incorporate the actual moment when the spell took effect. That's what the GMT stands for in the index. (See what I mean by clever?) You can find the index at http://clockslayers.anbaric.com/ . This ficathon caused nwhepcat to write "This Little Light," which led to "Xander’s Slayers," so for that alone, we owe him big-time. And since I only discovered this index while putting together this tribute, I now have more fine stories to read—so yet another thanks, ludditerobot! The other has just begun. It's "Scatterlings and Orphanages: The Africander Ficathon," and here he's divided the opportunities up by country. There are still a few unassigned nations; find their names and other information about the ficathon here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/luddit
erobot/tag/africander. I love Xander-in-Africa stories, so I'm really excited about this! I truly admire folks who come up with ideas like these; they're a large part of how LJ becomes a community, to my mind. I also love that both of these ficathons get us thinking about the larger human experience out there (hey, I'm a history teacher . . . of course I'm going to be delighted by that!)
So—for fine fiction, for expanding my reading list, and for bringing us together and getting us to learn more about the world, thanks so much, and happy birthday, ludditerobot!
See, this is the great thing about research (as I’m always trying to tell my students): You go looking for one thing, and you end up finding other great stuff completely by accident. I set out to do my usual “re-read and remember all the reasons why you fell for this writer in the first place,” and then I discovered she had a whole ‘nother LJ identity and I had just fallen down the rabbit hole into a lovely pile of yet more wonderful stories!
So—happy birthday to bettyp, writer of The Sentinel and popslash, who also just happens to be hth_the_first, writer of SGA, Due South, Oz, X-Files, and, yes, Buffy/Angelverse! You can find her Betty Plotnick Sentinel stories at http://www.waxjism.org/betty/; they are also linked on her other site, http://hth.gatefiction.com/, where you will find all the other fandoms represented. While she has recently updated the second site, the Sentinel page as of last check had her fine 12-work series “Sixteen Instinctive Behaviors” (which she does intend to complete--hooray!), but not her most recent story, “Lexicon,” written for the ts_ficathons delightful “Getting a Sense of Cliches” opportunity. I have to showcase it here, because I think it is one of the most perfect short stories I have read, on every level: emotional resonance, character development, authenticity of voices, tightness of plotting, beauty and effectiveness of writing. Multiple rereadings have only reinforced this conclusion. Although it doubtless has a particular appeal for TS fans, as one of those post-TSbBS tales we can’t get enough of, I really feel it works equally well as a standalone and would be every bit as powerful for a reader who knew nothing of this fandom. In case you’d like to see if I’m right about that, you can find it here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/be
ttyp/143256.html#cutid1. (And to discover yet more fine TS authors, go to the ficathon masterlist at http://www.livejournal.com/community/ts _ficathons/2180.html#cutid1.)
As may be evident by now, LJ makes me a little light-headed, not only because it lets me mainline fiction on a nightly basis—I’m talkin’ the good stuff, here—but because it also gives me a peek inside the Writer’s Mind. Although I’ve quite happily come to realize that Writers need Readers and therefore I can just sit back in my Reading Chair and simply enjoy while those talented people out there sweat for my pleasure, I still get a vicarious thrill out of hearing what they were thinking as they wrote and after they wrote, and maybe even why they wrote. For intriguing insights in that vein from this author, go to:
e_first/9149.html. Here, she provides analysis of a number of the stories she wrote in 2004. I was particularly interested in her comments on her RPS story “Fire and Rain,” which I read and enjoyed, even though I know little about boy bands and care(d) even less, and even though it was clearly going to be . . . long. (Because initially I was just reading it as research, doncha know?) But then it turned out to be interesting and complex and involving and just sucked me in. (I’m not saying I’m a convert; I’m going to wallow in the newly discovered SGA and DS first, and RPS has never really been my "thing." But it’s a tribute when a writer can get me to read something which, if there were a checklist of descriptors, I’d be marking: no. no. no. no.) It’s also a tribute that all of the characters were equally believable; apparently some were OC, and others were RPS, but it was the depth of her characterization even more than my ignorance of this fandom which made them all feel equally alive.
As for the DS and the SGA--just let me say that I've enjoyed every single one I've read thus far. Period. Full stop. Take it from there!
So, whatever name you call her, this is an author whose work I both greatly admire and greatly enjoy. I hope you will, too! But since I found her first via The Sentinel, let me just say:
Happy birthday, Betty Plotnick!
Okay . . . since I’m not very clever about time zones, that’s going to be "happy belated birthday" in her part of the world, no doubt . . . but no less sincere for being a bit tardy.
I’m still enjoying the thrill of discovery with flurblewig. I only recently encountered her work, and I’ve been treating myself to bits of it, trying to pace myself rather than gobble down the whole box of candy at once. And since she writes mainly short pieces (mostly between 1000 and 3000 words), they are just the perfect length for a quick pick-me-up . . . and, like that box of candy, since they are all delicious, all different (humor, sex, angst, you name it), and all such a handy length, surely it can’t hurt to read another . . . and another . . . and . . .
flurblewig writes in the Buffy/Angelverse (though she’s now branching out into Dr. Who, and she’s got some House in there, too). She’s written about every conceivable BtVS/AtS pairing, and her website conveniently offers links to stories organized both by character and by pairing. So suit yourself! Not surprisingly, I went for the Spike stories first. For poignant, try Spike/Dawn in “Happy Birthday.” For humor and sexiness and wishes gone wrong, go with Spike/Xander in “Whatever You Want.” For heat and sexiness and a surprisingly helpful Spike with Wesley, you can’t beat “The Leather Pants of Evil.” A rather different, earlier Spike/Wes encounter takes place under “Controlled Circumstances.” An interesting twist on post N.F.A. brings together Spike, Illyria, and Dru in “Long Live the Game.” And, sans Spike but with a moving, tough, vulnerable, battle-scarred Xander in yet another version of that Buffy-less Sunnydale, try “Seven Highly Effective Uses of the Word ‘Fuck.’”
You can find these fine stories at her website, http://www.ck.mk.btinternet.co.uk/
. These are, thus far, all BtVS/AtS; check her LJ for Dr. Who and others. She seems to update the site pretty quickly, since stories I found going back through her LJ were already posted—a big thank-you for that!
And if you’d like to start with something longer, you can’t go wrong with the story which introduced her work to me and hooked me immediately: “The L.A. Patient.” This is—believe it or not!—a AtS/House crossover, and it works . . . perfectly. Great characterization, delightful snark and humor (hey, Spike and House, what can I say!), and fun, clever plotting. (You don’t need to watch “House” to enjoy this; I’ve only seen a handful of episodes, myself.) The seven parts are all together here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
If I haven’t convinced you to sample one of these treats yet, try this on for size. It’s the opening to “Best in the Business”—a little Spike/ Gwen AtS devilry found at
"The first thing he'd noticed about her - well, no, not the first; that honour actually had to go to the red latex hotpants - was her absolute confidence. She wore it like a second skin, and it certainly covered more of her than the latex usually did. It was the confidence of someone who was pretty sure they were going to be better looking than most people they ran into - and very sure they were going to be more dangerous. It was a feeling Spike was well acquainted with himself."
So happy birthday, flurblewig, and many thanks; I know I’ll be dropping in frequently!
And it’s another one for the Buffyverse . . . but definitely not Spander and not Spuffy, however much it may shock those who’ve got me (correctly) pegged as an anyone-with-Spike gal. The fact is, I’ll read any pairing (or no pairing it all), so long as it’s well-written. And thus I found liz_marcs. There are some really wonderful stories here, but if you simply must have Spike along, you won’t want to take this trip. That said, if you are interested in a well-developed Xander, some great Faith, some fine Xander and Faith, and more . . . these stories are for you. If you want a trio of shorter works, all different in mood, tone, and plot, but all with fine characterization and absorbing storytelling, you’ll want to check out the following. “Contrite Spirits” has Xander and Faith heading up to Canada to check out a Potential; it’s about friendship and memory and unease and, maybe, redemption. “Ishmael Sings of the White Whale” has Faith in a post-NFA Los Angeles, trying to save Angel from himself: angst and insight, leading to important questions about which enemies to fight and how. “Cuckoo in the Nest” is an intriguing examination of Xander’s life from childhood to post BtVS as told by his erstwhile father Tony Harris—it both expands upon and illuminates canon and character. She also has a much longer completed work—“Living History,” weighing in at 70 parts—which I can’t comment on yet since I’m saving it for vacation reading. And there are yet other tantalizing titles in her Memories which I’m going to enjoy catching up on.
She also has some fine WIPs out there. Whether or not you’re willing to let yourself get hooked or prefer to wait till they are completed is, of course, a matter of personal taste! Although I tell myself that I could spread these out, reading a chapter a week, and have enjoyment for months, I know myself too well--when I like an author's work, I want to gorge myself, and staying up till the wee hours of the morning and then having to wait for resolution requires more will power than I possess. I know in the case of her ongoing longer project, “Water Hold Me Down,” I arrived at the party (friended her LJ) well into its progress, so I am resisting temptation for the time being. However, I did succumb to the charms of the farcical “No Myth,” which I’m hoping she’ll get back to soon, since the prospect of Faith pressing Xander to date and then having second thoughts was just too good to miss. And “The Acme Heartbreak Repair Kit,” with Buffy doing the Mata Hari bit in Italy while coping with housemother Andrew, recently broken-up Kennedy, and a possibly-cursed Xander just in from Africa hooked me immediately. So—read at your own risk, because you are going to want “more, right now!”
You can find the fine works of liz_marcs in her Memories, located here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=liz_marcs. I’m sure you’ll appreciate her versatility and fine storytelling skills. Go, read, comment, and wish her a happy birthday!
I’m starting to feel wickedly self-indulgent here; since I’ve given myself the “assignment” to re-read my favorite stories by each birthday author before writing these tributes, I’m getting to fall in love with these wonderful writers all over again as I immerse myself once again in their work as I try to figure out how best to describe what is so delightful about each one. And that has certainly been the case with shadowscast’s work this week!
I’m going to start with something that sounds very pedestrian, but it’s an attribute I really, really appreciate as a reader: shadowscast is particularly good about posting her completed stories very quickly on her website, which you can find right here: http://shadowscast.popullus.net/index.h
tml. For example, she’s already gotten up the most recent installment of her fantastic Fragmentsverse, “Before the Time of Dawn”—since this was just finished in November, that’s quite impressive! This series is about a shanshued Spike (“Not the End”), one who finds being human rather harder than he expected, physically as well as emotionally, and about a returned-from-Africa Xander who has some nightmares of his own to deal with, meeting up with each other in a rather interesting setting in L.A. (“Late Night Porn Store Blues” and its excellent sequel, “How the Light Gets In.”) I really appreciate the fact that she doesn’t go for the quick and easy payoff here, but she also doesn’t make us wallow in pain just to prove she can write it so very, very well. Instead, the story unfolds in a brilliantly understated and believable—and very emotionally satisfying—way. The two most recent installments—“Human Frailty” and “Before the Time of Dawn”—combine her trademark humane touches of humor with just the right kind and amount of pangs. (“Before the Time of Dawn” is a particularly lovely and well-crafted piece. It is set the furthest toward the humor/warmth end of an always-pleasing scale; personally, I’d read them in the order the larger story arc unfolds, but since she wrote some of them out of order, she’ll probably forgive you if you want to start with this one and then uncover all the backstory afterwards.) Her voices are excellent, the conversations are real and engaging, and her plotting keeps me right there with her. I’m always eager to read anything new she posts; it gets opened the moment it appears, which is pretty much the top of my rating standard! [E.T.A. 12/4/05: She's just posted a "DVD commentary" to "Human Frailty" which can be found here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/shadow scast/69882.html?view=726778#t726778. In it, she indicates that she wrote this one first, so it might be a fun place to start with this 'verse . . . reading the original, of course, not the one with comments until one has read all the others, so one doesn't get "spoiled"!]
She’s also got some stories in two fandoms I don’t know: “Once a Thief” and “That 70’s Show.” I know I’ll get sucked into them, too, because she’s just that gifted; however, she’s been keeping me so busy with the Fragmentsverse that I haven’t yet had the chance.
If you are new to her writing and want to start with something shorter for a “getting-to-know-you” encounter, I’d recommend either of the two lovely hurt/comfort pieces, “Unintended Consequences” (an AU set after the Trio’s hidden cameras are discovered) and “London Calling” (where Spike takes a detour to the homeland after getting the soul, and Xander’s sent over to see what’s what). They have just the right mix of tightening-in-the-throat emotion and growing-from-the-moment wryness, and she’s deft with the plot-twisting and the character-unfolding. As a lover of the Spike/Xander relationship, I warm to these immediately each time I read them. She’s also got some even shorter character sketches, all beautifully written: “On the Way to Tara’s Funeral,” told from the perspective of Willow’s mother, is an excellent example, with just enough distance from the narrator to shape the reader’s mood in an evocative way. But she’s got such a perfect, light, sure touch with Spike and Xander that goes right to my heart, I keep going back to those aforementioned pieces.
And while you are at her site, don’t miss her Buffy recs—the stories I’m already familiar with she’s nailed exactly, so I’m confident that I’d like all the others she’s described so enticingly here.
So let me very selfishly thank you, shadowscast, for having a birthday and giving me the excuse to slide back into your wonderful worlds tonight—what a wonderful way to start the much-deserved weekend. I hope you enjoyed your birthday as much as I did!
Well, real life (i.e., the need to get work done and thus remain employed) is having the temerity to get in the way of my fiction reading, so I'm just going to wish a very happy birthday to doyle_sb4 today, before it's too late (it's still December first in my time zone, anyway!) and then steal time away from housecleaning ASAP to wallow in her writing and offer more complete recs later. (I'll put them as comments to this entry, just to make them easier to find.)
But in the meantime, go read the story that hooked me: "All Our Exploring" which can be found at http://www.livejournal.com/users/doyle_
sb4/212909.htmlor by title or author at that great archive http://www.allaboutspike.com. It's spare, beautiful, haunting, and real. It's Spander in Africa, but if you visit doyle's website at http://www.exitseraphim.net/, you will discover an author who has written numerous different pairings and has graciously indexed them by gen, het, slash (m/m or f/f), or threesomes, as well as by characters. So there is literally something for everyone. The site also has other recs--it's a really helpful spot for an introduction to the Buffyverse. The more recent works found on doyle_sb4's LJ tend to be Dr. Who, a fandom I'm not familiar with . . . but a writer this fine is no doubt going to tempt me into it sooner or later! Happy birthday and many thanks, doyle_sb4!
And now, back to the Whedonverse . . . or, more specifically, in terms of my “most favorites ever” . . . Angel and Wes as written by thebratqueen.
I’ll be honest: I never expected to like this pairing. I had only started reading Spander because I was such a Spikeaholic and had gone through most all of the Spuffy on http://www.allaboutspike. But I wasn’t yet committed to slash. And I certainly couldn’t imagine Wes/Angel (not that I didn’t like them well enough individually, and I’d read a little S/A that was . . . interesting). So when I say that TBQ completely changed my perspective on this—at least (and most definitely) when she’s writing it—that gives some inkling as to her talents. Whatever your feelings on W/A, or even on slash in general, you really owe it to yourself to read what may be her best-loved series (judging by the quality and quantity of the comments) . . . “Protocol.” If the pairing or the concept puts you off, read it anyway—change the names; change the genders, if you must. Whatever. You’ll love it—I guarantee it. You’ll find it in her memories here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
es.bml?user=thebratqueen&keyword=Protocol&filter=all. It’s definitely AU, in a funny, sexy, poignant, realistic fairy tale kind of way, yet the characters are completely recognizable and delightfully true to themselves. (Hey, if we can’t suspend disbelief just a bit more to enjoy an incredibly well-written and emotionally satisfying tale like this, why are we reading about vampires in the first place?) Yes, it’s still a WIP, with 45 official chapters and some assorted related bits. That’s actually good news. Frankly, some of us hope it never ends. And I suspect I’m not alone in reading parts or all of it over and over and over again. Because it’s delicious. Because it’s clever. Because the banter is great. Because it’s romantic. Because it’s beautifully written. Because she writes Spike better as a secondary character than many people do as a main character. (Wait, that’s me being a Spikeaholic again . . . ) Because there are a multitude of reasons so many people love this story so much they just melt when a new chapter is posted.
“Protocol” is probably the most AU example of what TBQ calls her “hyppogryff fics,” where she explores what she calls “insane plot bunnies” while “stroking fic kinks.” If by “kink” you mean everything from that tender feeling you get from seeing a guy’s bare feet to . . . well, outright kink, and if by “insane plot bunnies” you mean anything from a slight twist on Wolfram and Hart canon to a creative mix of medievalism and modernity, then I guess that’s an accurate description. All I know is that four of my five most favorite of her longer works (“Protocol,” “Pet,” “Strategy,” and “Habit”) come under this category by her own definition. I’m not sure what that means in the larger scheme of things, but I will say that they have nothing in common with each other in terms of plot and present four very different views of these characters while somehow creating completely plausible depictions of the individuals and of potential relationships between them.
When I can force myself up and out of these fascinating stories (and it definitely takes an act of will to be analytical rather than absorbed), I'm amazed at her originality and versatility. Two examples from very different ends of about every spectrum show that clearly. “Protocol” mixes humor and comradeship and romance and richly sensual (and character-advancing, just in case you prefer it that way) erotica in a wonderful balance, with a young, determined, honorable and quaintly innocent Wesley encountering an Angel who is strong and funny and kind and gentle and, not coincidentally, father to a nearly grown-up and untraumatized Connor and long-suffering, patient grandsire to one of my favorite versions of annoying, loyal Spike. An equally recognizable, equally believable, completely opposite Angel dominates (yes, that’s definitely the right word) “Pet,” teamed up at Wolfram and Hart in a variety of ways with a Wes who believes he’s worldly-wise and a Spike who is developing a much more complex relationship with Angel than AtS ever planned on giving us . . . and that isn’t even taking into consideration the hot and kinky sex. “Protocol” is a read for everyone; “Pet” is for those who are willing to walk on the darker, more dangerous side of Angel and Company. Sex illuminates character here, too, but there’s a higher quotient of it to plot, and it’s definitely edgier. If you want something wickedly hot and more than a bit naughty, you’ll find “Pet” here: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
Looking for something in between these two? Here are some suggestions, which range from the more AU to the less, and from lighter to darker, not in any particular order:
In “Trust Me,” yet another, different version of Angel-as-successful-and-happy father of a high school-aged Connor encounters a down-on-his-luck Wesley with an infant in tow and gives him a job in his New England diner. I know, I know—I put off reading this one for quite a while because of that premise, and then felt like an idiot when I broke down, read it, and loved it. This one is on her website; here’s the direct link:
Still pretty AU, but closer to the Whedonverse version is “Strategy.” In a world where Connor remains an adversary of Angel, Wes sacrifices the only thing he can—himself.
Read the original story on her website here:
Then treat yourself to a glimpse inside the author’s mind by reading the “dvd commentary” version, here:
The shortest of these recs is “Habit,” with Angel at his best even at Wolfram and Hart, and Wes at his most heartbreaking because of a mysterious situation he’s hiding from old friends. Find it in her Memories at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
Her older works, including some I’ve discussed here, can be found at her website,
. But I have to admit that my favorites, especially the more recent works, are in her LJ Memories:
es.bml?user=thebratqueen. Obviously, I’ve only mentioned a few of the many things she’s written, and I’ve totally neglected the shorter pieces and anything non W/A. So go, discover for yourself (and feel free to make suggestions in the comments here). And if you get hooked on "Protocol" (is it possible not to be?), you might want to friend her to avoid missing the next installment.
Because thebratqueen, she is multi-talented. She knits! She belly-dances! And she writes literate, emotionally absorbing fiction, with a powerful erotic thread! Who could ask for anything more?
So happy birthday to you, thebratqueen, and thanks for all the pleasure your writing has given and continues to give me.
This birthday snuck up on me . . . so I haven’t had a chance to do my usual re-reading of all my favorite works by her before writing this tribute. (One of my favorite aspects of doing these!) Since I only discovered her a few months ago, however, my memories of what attracted me and why are pretty fresh. TS fans will definitely want to add her to their reading lists. (She also writes in Voyager, the X-Files, and other fandoms, but thus far I’ve been wallowing in the TS writing, so I can’t point anyone to specific stories in those other areas, with the exception of the “Obligation” series, a seductive TS/X-Files crossover.) Her milieu is slash, but it’s never mere PWP. Instead, as Blair might say, “It’s about the relationship, man.”
The first story I read by her was a serial she posted on sentinel_thurs with each chapter title beginning with an “R.” It’s now all in one spot under the title “Retrieval” and can be found here on the web: http://www.geocities.com/pollyabywa
ter/retrieval.htm. I found it an excellent introduction to her other work, since it combines many of the characteristics which attract me in her writing as a whole: She does a fine job of addressing the dynamics of family, both biological and constructed. She has a strong Jim/Blair relationship which treats both men fairly. She creates very effective Original Characters but doesn’t let them dominate the story disproportionately. And she tells an absorbing, unique tale. Her stories combine many of the elements about TS which I find most appealing. I like the sense of connection between the characters, which incorporates the tensions and differences as well as what draws them together. I like the sensuality, expressed in the context of that connection. In “Retrieval,” in particular, I like the way she’s squarely addressed the flaws of the parental generation but also treated William and Naomi with understanding and compassion. And I like that she’s not afraid to present a strong romantic and sexual link between Jim and Blair in “Set in Stone” (just right for the upcoming holidays) and “A Round of Tumult” (in which there is a post TSbBS “coming out” in all possible ways and an examination of what comes after). In addition to these longer works, her website includes short pieces written for sentinel_thurs challenges up through #59; since this week’s challenge is #117, you’ll want to use the link to that site noted below to catch up on what she’s written since then. I particularly enjoyed the lush “Filling the Gaps” and (especially since we get lots of "first times" but rarely a "second time" story) the sensuous “After the First.”
On her own website, you’ll find both her Jim/Blair stories and also the “Obligation” series, an X-Files crossover which is not only effectively written but is also just right for those moments when you feel Blair has had to take too much pain with too little recompense and that Jim and Simon deserve to have him just move on with his life somewhere—and with someone—else. It’s got angst, it's got hurt/comfort, it’s got hot sex, it’s got repentant Jim, it’s got a Blair who suffers yet survives and succeeds . . . and even the fact that I know nothing about this part of X-Files was not an issue.
Her website can be found at http://www.geocities.com/polly_bywa
ter/index.html. Her journal is friendslocked, but she seems happy to welcome interested readers. I strongly recommend asking her to let you in, so you won’t miss anything. While I’d been keeping up with her work via sentinel_thurs, she had, unbeknownst to me, completed a wonderful sequel to “Retrieval” called “The Good Fathers” which appeared in her LJ on Oct. 14, 2005, and which I only discovered today while putting this recs list together. No doubt she’ll eventually post it elsewhere, but if you are as greedy as me, you just don’t want to wait! Also, you’ll get to know her a bit more as a person, and one of the treats of LJ is to see how those personal elements get incorporated into the fiction. This lovely, loving story of Jim and Blair as parents is a fine example; it has a warmth and a reality about family life which combines laughter and tears in a solid, comforting way.
E.T.A. 12/11/05 I just found out that she's now put this story up at 852 Prospect with her other work. Her page can be found here: http://www.squidge.org/archive/cgi-b
She posts fairly frequently at sentinel_thurs, which provides a weekly prompt and has authors create stories of 2000 words or less. You can catch up on earlier entries by checking out the list of challenges, which can be found at http://terri.populli.net/New%20Story%20
Page_ST.html. This is also a way to find other fine TS authors; I’ve been using it to expand my reading list over the past few months.
So—happy birthday, polly_b, and thanks so much for the gift of your writing!
( . . . and the fans of Highlander and Quantum Leap and a few other assorted fandoms.)
I found T.W. Lewis, a.k.a. gardendoor, via a rec on ts_fresh_air. Since her userinfo page lists “Friends” but not “Friend of” LJers, I can’t be sure how many folks know about this extremely talented writer. While there’s an almost illicit thrill in thinking one’s found a fabulous author that “no one knows about” (surely not the case here!), one also feels a certain messianic zeal to get the word out, so that other people can share the enjoyment and admiration.
So, let me say it loud and clear: Anyone who loves Jim and Blair (or simply enjoys fine writing) needs to read these stories A.S.A.P. They are perfectly crafted, by which I mean none of the seams show, and you just find yourself swept along by the experience, only truly appreciating the skilled writing after several rereadings. They are also nicely original; much as I enjoy exploring some of the tried-and-true themes in this fandom, I also appreciate it when an author finds a new take on the interaction between these characters, especially if it seems natural rather than forced.
Her longest and most complex work is “Kaleidoscope” (and I’m happy to say that she’s begun a sequel to it in her LJ which bids fair to be every bit as intellectually and emotionally challenging and satisfying). I’ve read and appreciated other stories where Blair suffers some sort of physical or emotional injury and loses his memory. But she’s taken that theme and made it a rich character study of both Jim and Blair . . . or, more accurately, many Blairs, since his head trauma results in a fragmenting of memory which means that he wakes up on any given day experiencing himself at a different age from his past. How he and Jim attempt to cope with this situation is nothing short of fascinating; the intersection of a skillfully plotted criminal investigation with the appearance of the different Blairs is so masterfully done that one is left free to focus on the personal development of the characters. And the different incarnations of Blair, all of which continue to grow and change as they build new experiences, give new meaning to the concept “Original Character.” This perfectly named story never descends to gimmickry, retaining its intensity and emotional honesty to the final page . . . and into the intriguing and promising start of the sequel. (The original story is on her website; the sequel begins in her LJ, here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/garden
Another longer work is “Illusions,” which features a Blair who is kidnapped and forced to work with Alex as an underground team of assassins. Again, the plotting is thoughtful and sophisticated but, again, it appropriately takes second place to the real, painful, ultimately rewarding examination of the impact of how actions affect emotions and shape character, and how character endures. It is painful and brilliant. This was the first piece I read by her, and it was an accurate predictor of how wonderful all her work would be.
When one starts to think of an author as a “favorite,” it’s often because one finds a kind of consistency in one’s response to the work. That doesn’t mean, however, that the author is repetitive or unsurprising. I think I’ve indicated that the consistency I’ve found in her work is a high level of craftsmanship which places the clever plotting secondary to insightful character development and precise, evocative writing style. Thus, her other stories range widely in setting and in mood, but have never failed to delight me. This is certainly true in her “first time” stories, a Sentinel staple. Whether it is the poignant “All In White,” where Jim’s discovery of an unusual article of clothing in Blair’s closet prompts a change in their relationship, or the humorous-turned-hot “Merry Christmas” or the rollicking, farcical “Laws of Murphy,” these trademark qualities shine through.
Normally, I’m not drawn to mpreg, although it can provide some intellectually interesting or sexually burlesque comments on gender roles. However, “Problem, Child” (her second-longest work) uses that device to explore the complex emotional ties between Jim and Blair . . . and the Epilogue reduces me to tears, in the best and most positive way, every single time I read it.
She also puts her own spin on the post-TSbBS relationship of Blair and Naomi in “Happy Birthday, Blair,” the complicated path to trust in “Secrets,” and what to get the person who has it all in the sweet and funny “Gifted.” All different; all well worth the trip.
One of my particular favorites (because they are all my favorites!) is a little story called “Missing You” which is found on her LJ rather than her website; read it here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/garden
door/19096.html#cutid1. It’s technically an SG1 crossover in that Daniel Jackson appears as an old friend—and lover—of Blair’s, but the core of the story is most definitely the Jim/Blair relationship. Again, this is a character study, set after “Sentinel Too, Two.” This actually is a popular moment for TS authors to explore, but the introduction of the third character allows her to mingle perceptions, thoughts, and voices in a very rewarding fashion. Again, the crafting of the story is superb, so much so that it only became apparent to me after repeated readings and never diminishes the emotional impact, however often I revisit it.
You’ll find these beautifully written, deeply felt stories at her website: http://www.geocities.com/gardendoor/
. You might want to explore her work in the other fandoms, too, as I’ve begun to do—but (although it may just be my own character preferences at work here), to me, the Sentinel stories reach a level of richness, purity of writing, and emotional resonance which leave the others in the shade. I’m hoping many of my other favorite authors in this fandom will enjoy her work as much as I continue to do.
E.T.A. 12/21/05 The sequel to "Kaleidoscope" is done. "Kaleidoscope II: Lame Wolf" will soon be available at 852 Prospect and can also be found here: http://www.geocities.com/gardendoor/ksc
ope2.html. She's done an amazing job of following through on the complexities of the original; it's yet another beautifully crafted and moving work.
So— about savoytruffle . . .
Selfishly, I'm going to start with this: I've met lots of incredibly gracious folks on LJ, and they've been really forbearing and kind about my tendency to leave long-winded, rambling comments. That said, from the very first time I ventured rather timidly into her journal to say "thanks" she's made me feel so valued and welcomed as a commenter that I've felt free to be personal and experimental and loquacious and just plain comfortable and accepted there. That's a really great thing for a newbie and permanently shy person. When I talk about her being accepting of long, personal, and possibly eccentric comments, you can see what I mean by looking at how she responded to what I dumped on her that first time I commented back last March: http://www.livejournal.com/users/savoyt
ruffle/27955.html. So I won't repeat any of that here; I'll just get to praising the stories, so you can get to enjoying them ASAP.
Personally, I love it when authors list and link to all their stories and include summaries or teasers. Here's her excellent Table of Contents: http://www.livejournal.com/users/savoyt
ruffle/46060.html. The descriptions are a perfect example of Truth in Advertising, so you can be very sure you are going to get exactly what you are looking for, out of a wide range of possible moods and plots. And to supplement that, just some hints about why I adore her work almost as much as I do her can be found below:
savoytruffle writes Spander. She writes wonderful Spander. She writes sweet, funny, sexy, real, delightful, downright delicious Spander. It may be AU that's a slight left turn from canon, or it may be all-human AU, or it may be something in between. Who cares--it's all fantastic. I think what I love most about her writing is the way she deftly combines humor and kindness and eroticism and humanity. A perfect example of this is "Waking Up": Xander comes to in a Barney-like purple demon body, and his friends don't recognize him, and the Initiative snatches him, and who should he happen to be imprisoned next to but . . . Spike. Who is the only one who can understand him when he talks in his new demon language. And it just gets even better from there. Tender, sweet, snarky, laugh-out-loud funny . . . unbeatable.
Unless, of course, it goes up against "There's Your Trouble," her current WIP, where Buffyverse Xander gets switched with AU Xander, and there are sexy Spikes in both worlds, but one Xander is out, and the other is . . . not . . . and . . . I don’t know how she’s going to end this, but I’m loving, loving, loving it. As usual. [E.T.A. 11/20/05--She's finished it! It has a perfect ending! She dedicated the final chapter to me! This is why we need a punctuation mark beyond the exclamation point . . . ]
And then there are the rather more daring pieces, with just enough sweetness to balance the kink, and sometimes a bit more angst . . . from the twisty "Fulfilling a Fantasy" to the darker "Three’s a Crowd" to the wistful "Wonderverse." I'll read plotlines from her that I'd never be attracted to otherwise, and these three are examples of that. There's a fundamental--decency--toward the characters that always attracts me and makes me understanding and caring toward them. That's an impressive gift.
And then there's "Survival Instincts" and the Xander-and-Spike in Africa tales. These are actually what brought me to her and hooked me firmly in the first place, which I think says it all. Good, good stuff!
She's such a love that she actually posted fiction for us readers in celebration of her birthday. Be sure to go to her LJ for November 16 or her Memories to read "They Tell Me It Rained"--poignant, tender, loving, and, as usual, beautifully written. She just keeps getting better and better.
You can't write about savoytruffle without noting the lovely work she's done in collaboration with reremouse. The first such that I encountered was "In From the Cold," the all-human AU I commented on at length in the thread linked to earlier in this entry. This was, indeed, a leap of faith for me, and one I'm very glad I made. While the concept of all-too-human twins named William and Spike meeting up with a non-Sunnydale, very sweet Xander who finds himself attracted to both of them is intriguing, it was also a bit emotionally risky for me. I can be a bit . . . conventional . . . in my tastes, especially regarding eroticism. (Can I say that as a person who reads so much slash? Oh, well . . .) So it's saying a lot that I find the final scene of IFTC to be incredibly tender and moving and romantic and loving . . . and, yes, very, very sexy. (Don't cheat and start at the end! You have to earn that moment to get its full emotional resonance, and, believe me, you'll enjoy every moment of the trip!) These two fine writers have now formalized their partnership; check out trufflemouse. Go there for the hot, funny, and charming "Sense and Sensibilities (Objects in the Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear)" which has Xander as the not altogether unwilling object of desire of Spike and . . . someone else.
(The Special Tribute Day for her periodic co-author reremouse won’t come around till next June 3, but that’s no reason to deny yourself: visit the Mouse!Verse now at http://www.excessant.com/mouseverse/ind
And if you're not into Spander but would love to read about the true adventures of a young American Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, Africa, visit savoytruffle’s other LJ, call_me_abide. She’s asked that we not disclose her BtVS identity there, but it's a great stop for anyone who loves effective, moving writing and a humane, warm, complex insight into a very different, yet sometimes amazingly familiar, world.
Now--go enjoy! You'll understand immediately why I say that my heart always gives a little jump for joy whenever I see something by her pop up on my friendslist.
Now that kind folks have shown me how to know when birthdays are occurring, I thought I’d try to use them as an opportunity to say “thank you” one-by-one to all these wonderful folks on my flist . . . and maybe introduce their great writing to the other fabulous people on my flist. My apologies to those of you whose birthdays are on the wrong side of November 10 . . . you’ll have a bit of a wait, but I’ll do my best to keep up and get to you when your birthday pops up. (And the shy?discreet?private? people who don’t have birthdays listed—I’ll tuck you in during the weeks or months where there’s a gap.)
So . . . in case you don't already adore nwhepcat, some of the many reasons to do so are discussed at length below:
I got into BtVS fiction mainly via http://www.allaboutspike.com, so I was pretty Spike-centric at first. Spuffy, then Spander (see, I always liked Xander too!), then some Spangel, but not much Spawn (except friendship—as a teacher, the underage thing squicked me big-time). But I kept reading references to this “Xander author” nwhepcat by authors I really admired. Plus, I’m a former Pacific Northwest resident myself, though decidedly unhep, so I loved the name. I finally dipped a toe into “Lilac City” one evening when it was, as I later wrote her, “one of those generally crummy weeks where your perfectly good life just doesn't seem worth the effort” and I was feeling not-quite-depressed but close enough. When I surfaced after being swept along into this wonderful, complex, humane story, I felt inspired to pick myself up, stiffen my spine, and get back to being of some use in the world—inspired by her Xander and how he builds himself a new life after the fall of Sunnydale. He may try to bury himself as a manager of a market in Spokane, but goodness and courage and character will out, despite his own intentions. Fiction is its own justification, but for those of us who are perhaps overly fond of things having deeper meaning, I’ll just say that this story gave me something I really, really needed at an important moment . . . and I didn’t even realize it was happening, because I was so caught up in the events and characters.
From there, I blazed through the rest of her website, trying hard to pace myself so that I could enjoy each “first time” as a special and separate event . . . but it wasn’t easy to go slow. She’s obviously well-known for and brilliant at writing Xander and Faith. She can make you understand and like Anya and Riley. She’s also created some of the most vital and appealing original characters I’ve encountered: Jenny Grimaldi, inspired by that snippet of the young ball-player in “Chosen,” holds a special place of honor in my heart, as does the completely different but equally real and appealing young New Zealand runner Kallie—first appearing in “This Little Light” and joining Jenny, introduced in the story named for her, in “Xander’s Slayers.”
I’ve mentioned how well she writes Faith—how about Faith and Willow? How about a perfect character study which reveals so much about both of these oh-so-different women and also, as an apparently casual aside, helps you understand why art really matters? Try “Annunciation.” It is exquisitely perfect.
I said I had trouble with Dawn and sex? Not a grown-up Dawn confronting her problematical origins with the help of the Xander we all knew he could be. Great Oz, too. Read “Indelible.”
Want to get to know a Wes who manages to get baby Connor away safely and learns about the joys and worst possible heartaches of fatherhood? You need to read “What Gets Left Behind” and its sequel “Three Fathers.” It will break your heart, and you won’t be able to stop reading it.
And in the current “Keeper of the Book,” she’s brought together Wes and Xander and Spike and a touch of Willow and Giles and perhaps the most fully developed Anne, guardian of the shelter kids—and again, the voices and the characters and the plotting all come together just exactly right. I love a great Wes-centric story that still gets Spike just the way I love him, even as a minor character.
The problem is that I can’t really identify just one or two of her stories as my favorites—if asked, I’d always have to say, “The one she’s writing now,” because each one is original, distinctive, and real. Not to mention superbly written! I’m going to quote a bit more from my thank-you note to her: “You have a style which is so beautifully effortless that it is invisible--that is to say, the heart and soul of the story comes through without the reader being distracted by the thought, ‘I'm reading a really well-done story here!’ precisely because it IS so well done. And you use that craft to tell stories that have meaning and substance, as well as/not merely fantastic plotting. (I keep alternating the words ‘craft’ and ‘gift’ as I write this sentence because I don't want to minimize either your talent or your skill.)”
So, thank you, nwhepcat, for going and getting yourself born and then growing up and now gifting us with such beautiful, meaningful, downright enjoyable work. If all my much-less-skilled wordiness introduces just one more person to your writing, I’ll have done my good deed for the week!
Or, if you prefer the short version: Go! Read her stories! Save them! Read them again and again! You will be very, very glad you did.
You’ll find her stories here:
Her Holiday wishes to four authors:
Iky, Jael Lyn, Susan Foster, and sheffield
. . . and a special treat for the TS gen readers on my flist (and those slashers who enjoy an occasional change of pace). Here are four authors whose writings I've really enjoyed discovering over these past months. They are all slightly different from each other, but all have created realistic, intriguing stories (whether canon or AU or very AU) which have given me a great deal of pleasure and entertainment.
Although lky is indeed on LJ, she doesn't have a birthday listed—so this gets to be her day! I first found her through a recommendation by the ever-helpful starwatcher307, my first and always guide to All Things Sentinel. You can start with the standalones, and then she has separately indexed her "Dry Falls Chronicles" with her inimitable OC, Blair's Uncle Buck. Especially in the Uncle Buck stories, Blair seems fairly young, but certainly bright, capable, and not unduly vulnerable, and the mentoring aspect is strong. Many stories work as standalones, but be aware that the most recently posted story is very much a cliff-hanger. If you'd rather not wait on tenterhooks, the good news is that there also are plenty of fine standalone stores. The fact that I can't point to one over the others as a favorite is actually quite a compliment; the quality and interest level were consistently high. So pick one to start with by your preference of length and plot summary! You can find these fine stories at: http://smorgasbord.phpwebhosting.com/lk
And the wonderful alyburns recommended a holiday story by Jael Lyn the other day which I enjoyed so much that I pursued her, finding her website at http://www.idol-pursuits.tv/jaellyn.htm
A couple of Jael Lyn's stories are set in the intriguing GDP universe of Susan Foster, and that site can be found here: http://www.susans-stories.co.uk/content
And, last but not least, I found yet another author who writes both gen and slash: you'll find sheffield’s gen stories at the top of the page at http://angeltowns2.net/sheffield/sentin
So, I hope this has been helpful for the TS gen readers on my flist . . . and those willing to give it a try! I've certainly been successfully avoiding getting my grading done by reading and re-reading these authors this week. And it's only fair to pass temptation on, right?
(Whenever I have the time or it's a "slow birthday month," I'm going to continue to slip in recs and tributes for LJ and non-LJ authors who don't have birthdays listed. Hope that's helpful! I know it's a treat for me to do.)