Monday, September 30, 2013

A Short Q&A With J. Brownell


1. Why did you start writing?
That’s a really good question and I don’t have a really good answer for it. I’ve been putting my stories on paper since I learned how to write. Maybe because I started reading at a young age I just thought it was what you do with stories that aren’t real.

2. If you had to do it all over again would you still write?
Today the answer to that is yes. But there are times I wish I had an off switch for my brain.

3. Once you’ve written a story do you ever sit down and read it for enjoyment?
No. The only time I ever look at the stories that are posted online is if I need to verify a fact. I do however have alternate versions of stories and chapters that didn’t go where I wanted and those I do go back and read for ideas.

4. How did you start writing Xena fan fiction?
I was a fan of the show and I liked what I was reading online.

5. Is your muse a constant companion, or does it abandon you for long periods of time?
She’s a constant and fickle companion. It’s not always easy to get down on paper what is happening in my head.

6. How do you feel about sequels?  
As a reader, I love them. As a writer, I hate them. Sequels are harder to write than the originals for me. I can’t just write anything this time because I am limited by the choices I made in the first story. I like it best when I can write whatever I want for whatever reason I want to write it.

7. Is writing a quiet thing for you, where there can't be any noise or conversation going on?
I would probably write more often if I did write in a quite space, but I always have the TV on.

8. Do you prefer to write/read romance, angst, horror etc, etc?
I like romance for reading and writing. I like the exploration of relationships and not just those of the main characters. People fascinate me.

9. What usually sparks a story idea for you?  
Song lyrics, something seen on TV or read in a book. There are parts of my brain that seem to always be working on something.

10. Where do your ideas come from?
See #9

11. What advice can you give to future writers?
Write the kind of books you like to read and about what interests you. Books aren’t read the way they are written and you will never be able to satisfy everyone, so write what you like so you’ll enjoy the writing.

12. What has the show Xena meant to you?
I don’t know that I would have ever posted if I had not been a fan of the show and found the wonderful world of uber fiction.

13. How do you feel about the way it ended?
I hated it, but there wasn’t a real finality to that ending for me so I believe that Gabrielle finds a way to bring Xena back and they are together working for the greater good.

14. How real are your characters to you?
They are very real for me. I know everything about them. I am entertained by them. They are with me always in ways that no one else in my life can ever be.

15. Do your characters speak to you?  
Not to me, but they talk to each other a lot.

16. Are you in control of your story, or do the characters run the show?  
I’m in control, but they don’t always want to go where I want them to go. That’s why I have alternate chapters that are never read by anyone.

17. Have you created a character that you would like to meet?
Whitney or Shea from Charade. I would love for time travel to be real and one of them could get me on the fifth floor.

18. How would you feel about another writer giving one of your characters a cameo in their story?
I’m not sure I would like that very much. These people belong to me and I don’t know that I want them playing with someone else.

19. Has online writing changed your life in any way?  
Not really.

20. Have you ever been stalked on the internet by an overzealous fan?  

21. Which one of your online stories is your favorite?
I love them all, but I had the most fun with Charade. I love history and if I could do anything in the world, I would chose to go back into the past. I would never chose to go to the future because I’m a little concerned that the future I envision for this planet is too close to being a reality. I would rather not know that we destroy the planet.

22. Do you have to do a lot of rewrites?
Yes and I sincerely wish that I didn’t. I would probably post more often if I didn’t keep editing things I’ve already written.

23. Is there ever a point in your writing where you get stuck each and every time? How do you get out of it? The longer I write on a story, the closer I seem to get until I reach a point that I am looking at a tiny part of the story and just can’t see the whole of it anymore. When I reach that point, I put that story away and pull out another one.

24. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most and why?
I love the beginning. There are all those wonderful choices to be made and the world I create can be anything I want it to be.

25. When you're working on a story are you obsessed with it until it's done?
No. I am always working on more than one story at a time. Right now I have four going.

26. Who are your favorite top five writers? Online or published.
Nora Roberts (AKA J D Robb), Melissa Good, Mavis Applewater, Catherine Burke, Advocate/ T Novan.

27. The song says "Who rules the world? Girls." If that were true would the world be a better place?
Yes. There could be a debate on how much better, but yes, I do think it would better.

28. Do you write a story straight through, or do you write in pieces, then put it all together.
The story itself is written straight through, but I never work on just one story until it’s completed.

29. Do you read books for pleasure while you are writing?
Yes and I have this horrible little voice in my head that tells me that if I have time to read then I have time to write.

30. Do you have a favorite Greek God?
Not really. My love of history has never extended to mythology.

31. Do you have a pet peeve?
Bad, slow and stupid drivers. I have a video game I can play when I’m driving so that I don’t get absolutely crazy insane when someone’s grandmother drives really slow in front of me until she sees the light go yellow and then speeds up to leave me sitting at a red light.

32. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I see myself where I am now, but hopefully with a few more stories posted online.

33. What is your favorite word?
I don’t have one, but I love adjectives. They are the most awesome words.

34. What is your least favorite word?
Any word that is solely used to cause someone pain.

35. What turns you on?
Ahh . . .

36. What turns you off?
Crude humor.

37. What sound or noise do you love?
A little kid laughing.

38. What sound or noise do you hate?
People yelling.

39. What is your favorite curse word?
I don’t have a favorite word, but phrase would be- Son of a fucking bitch.

40. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
My brain lit up on that question so probably a lot. I don’t know that there is a certain profession I would like to devote my life to doing.

41. What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in?
Anything that does anything with dead people.

42. If Heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I’ve been waiting for you.

Here is J. Brownell's favorite story:
Charade - 184 pages
Whitney Eisner leads a double life. In one she is a playgirl who travels and in the other she works for a secret agency that allows people from the future to travel into the past. Her life becomes even more complicated when she is implicated in a series of assaults on women travelers. When one of the women dies and Whitney is the only suspect, she breaks all the rules when she reaches out to Atlanta Detective Lauren Shea for help.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My 'Xena' Collection 4 by Phineas Redux

My 'Xena' Collection 4. Postcards, Magazines, Videos, DVD's

Once you start collecting in one line or other, no matter what it may be, you suddenly find that you must have every available instance of a particular item’s incarnation. Notwithstanding you have bought the video-tape of an episode, when the DVD comes on the market you simply can’t live without it. This is what occurred with me. Over the course of a couple of years I bought four of the ‘Xena’ series on video-tape; then, when the DVD’s started to replace them, I couldn’t stop myself from upgrading. So now I have four of the complete series on both old video-tapes and new DVD’s. The postcards came as free extra’s.

So, due to popular demand (I’ve always wanted to say that!), I now upload images of further examples of my collection of the official ‘Xena Magazine’ plus samples of the video-tapes and DVD’s I have amassed over the years. First we begin with a few extra postcards I found in a dusty drawer.

Here are several covers of the official ‘Xena’ magazine. It ran from November 1999 till October 2001 with 24 issues, of which I missed a couple. I uploaded those featuring Gabrielle on the covers in an earlier article. The remainder appear to mainly feature Xena, of which the following are a selection—

The video-tapes of series 1 came out singly over a long period of time, from about 1999 till 2000, eventually numbering 8 videos. Their covers exclusively featured Xena alone, except for one where she partnered Hercules—

The video-tape box-sets of the later series came out around 2002 onwards, with months elapsing between the publication of the first box and the second box concluding the series.

Then, of course, came the DVD’s, from around 2004 onwards—

Ah, grand times. I still recall the nervous wait for a particular set of DVD’s; then going to Glasgow to buy them; then the wonderful moment when I arrived back home and could put the player on for a feast of enjoyment. Wonderful!

In the next, forthcoming, selection I will give some images of the contents of these magazines to show what their style was like; upload the remainder of the covers; and show more of my videos & DVD's.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday's Teaser - The Reawkening by J.A. Zollicoffer

Today's teaser is from The Reawakening by J. A. Zollicoffer

"It all began when my father caught me making pictures…"

"What in the name of the Deus are you doing, girl?!" Warren Morgan yelled when he found his only daughter with a piece of coal in her hand.

Keller dropped the sooty brick, frightened of what her father might do. It wasn't the first time he had caught her indulging in this forbidden temptation, but he decided that it would be the last. Drastic measures had to be taken.

Walking past her, he grabbed an empty shoulder sack. "Daddy wha…why are you putting my clothes in the sack?"

Without looking up from his task, Warren shoved every piece of feminine lookin clothing his hand fell on, into the bag. "Since you can't seem to follow the rules, I'm sending you to a place where they guarantee your compliance."

Realizing that she was going to be sent away, Keller started to cry. When Ellen Morgan heard her daughter's sobs, she rushed into the girl's room, where she saw her husband packing their daughter's travel sack. "By the Deus, Warren, what are you doing?"

"Look at the wall, Ellie. Look at what she's done."

Ellen's eyes started to tear up when she saw the drawing. "Why, Keller? Why must you continue to tempt the Deus?"

"I'm sorry, momma. I can't help it. The pictures just want to come out. Please understand," The blonde pleaded.

Ellen reached out and gently laid her hand on her husband's thick forearm. Ranching had built up his body, as well as their three sons. Now their hard work was garnering them praise. Their ranch was one of only three that raised enough beef to feed the entire Province throughout the seasons.

"Can't we give her another chance, Warren?"

The tall blonde looked down into his wife's pleading green eyes and almost…almost gave in, but he knew, deep down in his gut…he knew that if he allowed his daughter to continue her drawing unchecked, she would bring the wrath of The Order down on their heads. And if he had learned nothing else from The Edicts, it was Curtis Poole's first rule: Never is the need of the one, greater than the survival of the whole.

He quickly turned away from his wife's gaze. "No, Ellen, you know the first rule as well as I do." He shoved the full sack into his frightened daughter's arms. "So does Keller. I am not better than the man that led us out of turmoil. If Curtis Poole could send his kin away  to keep the Province strong, then so can I."

He grabbed Keller by the elbow and started pulling her towards the front door. "Wait!" Ellen yelled.

Both blondes turned as one.

"Where are you taking her?"

Warren opened the front door. "I'm taking her to the center. They say the new program they started can heal the affliction that causes the difference, without having to send them out into the wilderness."

Ellen was relieved to hear that. At least her child wouldn't be left to fend for herself like so many others before her. As the wagon pulled away from the house, Keller yelled over her shoulder.

"Tell Sherman, Thomas and Walter that I'll be okay!"

The older woman waved and wiped her eyes. Even as she was being taken away Keller's thoughts were of her brothers. Ellen couldn't contain her sobs any longer and let the dam break free. Fear for her only daughter's safety consumed her emotions and she became weak with it, falling to the floor in a heap.


The wagon pulled up in front of a tall, brick building, it was the only structure built by the ancients that was still standing in the Province. The  fading blue and white sign out front read _ _THE_DA RES_ A _C_  CENTER.

It had been one-hundred years since the current leader, Myron Scott's great-grandfather, James took over control of The Order from the Poole line and almost immediately he started to make changes in the day-to-day handling of the Province.

When James died his son, Oliver walked into the position. The changes he made were not as obvious, but just as memorable as his father's. His most popular proclamation being the well digging incentive. Under his rule, instead of the citizens using communal wells, a personal one for family use was dung on every owner's property.

When Oliver's oldest son, Garland took over leadership he made his contribution to change by decreeing that a celebration could be held twice a year during harvest time. The joy that it brought the people endeared the man to his flock. But after only ten years as the leader, Garland fell ill and one year ago, at the age of fifty, died, leaving his oldest son, twenty-five-year-old Myron, as The Order's new leader.

Wanting to mark his ascent to power in a most memorable way, and also to prove the naysayer's wrong that were of the mind that he wasn't ready to lead, Myron conceived of a project that would distinguish his reign from that of his ancestors.

He decided to make a permanent change to a practice that had been in place since the time of Curtis Poole. No longer would the intuitives be sent out across the Badlands. Instead, with the help of experts, he devised a program where through physical and psychological manipulation he could control their creativity and mold their abilities in a way that would best serve the Province.

It didn't take long for him to open and staff the old Bethesda Research Center, and with the help of people he trusted to get the job done, the last nine months had been productive. After the citizens got word that their loved ones would no longer be sent out into the wilderness, they brought them in themselves, hoping that the center would change them. Now the rooms were almost filled to capacity.

So, when Warren Morgan walked his daughter up to the admissions desk, it was with a sense of hopefulness that he gave the woman all the information that she requested. And when he was asked to make an X  beside what he was told was his name, giving permission for Keller's treatment, he did so with the utmost trust in the leader of the Province's ability to know what was best.

Before they led his daughter away, he gave her a stiff hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. "You do everything they tell ya, Keller, and before you know it you'll be back home, as good as new."


"This is your room, and that's where you'll sleep" the not overly friendly attendant said as she pointed to a cot that was pushed into a dark corner of the large room.

Before any questions could be asked, the woman was gone, leaving Keller alone to get familiar with her surroundings. She dropped her sack on the narrow bed and checked out her new home.

There were three other beds in the room, each occupying one of the shadowed corners. Looking at them filled Keller with a profound sadness. How long would she have to live away from her friends and family, and when she returned to them…who would she be?

Before her thoughts could become any darker, the door opened and in walked three women. The youngest looked to be no older than sixteen, the oldest about twenty. All three shuffled in and sat on their assigned beds without saying a word to their new roommate.

Keller stood up and walked to the center of the room. Deciding that humor was always a good way to make new friends, she quipped, "So what are you guys in for?"

This got a slight up turn of the three girl's lips, but no sound was made as each one rose from her cot to introduce herself to the blonde.

"I tell stories," the tall redhead, who also appeared to be the oldest whispered.

"I hum melodies," said the short brunette.

"I make pictures," said the youngest, and most timid of the three.

This last confession caught Keller's interest. "So do I!" she said with enthusiasm.

The women shushed her and looked towards the door. "Be quiet," the older one said. "If you make any noises that sound like you're having fun they'll come in, and…" here she faltered.

The youngest girl filled in the rest. "They'll take away any joy you have left inside."

Feeling extremely confused, and a little frightened, Keller resisted the urge to ask the girl to elaborate, instinct telling her she really didn't want to know, so she chose instead to ask their names. "My name is Keller, what's yours?"

The young artist extended a shaky hand. "I'm, Jesse Lynn."

The short brunette smiled with warm eyes. "My name is, Paige."

The oldest and tallest of the three gave a small smile that crinkled the corners of her green eyes as she held out her hand. "I'm, Patsy Thirwell. Glad to meet you."

Before the introductions could go any further, a call was heard going out, up and down the hallway. All of the newcomers were being told to line up outside of their rooms.

Keller felt her heart start to beat a little faster. She felt like it was too soon to be pulled away from the comfort she was beginning to feel with her new roommates, but she did as instructed and headed towards the door. As she left the room Keller received three sad smiles, but she didn't see them, as her back was already turned.

The newcomers were lined up and as the director, Steve Hamilton went down the line he asked each person. "What is your affliction?" When he reached Keller her head was bowed, so he placed the tip of his finger under her chin and forced eye contact. "And what is your affliction, my pretty one?" he asked in a purr that sent shivers down Keller's spine.

"I…I make pictures," she said as she tried to stop her knees from trembling. There was something about this tall man that frightened her. Aside from his yellowing teeth and cadaverously thin body, he emitted a kind of hiss when he spoke that made her flesh creep.

"Ah, lovely," he said before finally removing his bony finger from her chin. "After your healing, your pictures will serve the Province well in the new direction we are headed."

Moving down the line he finished his inspection and stood in front of the nervous group of newcomers. "I want you all to relax. There is nothing to fear."

Keller didn't want to, but she couldn't help herself. As he spoke, all she could concentrate on was the extended ssss sound that was made at the end of each word ending in an S sound. The word relax echoed in her ear long after the sentence was finished.

"We are here to help you become productive members of society, nothing more. And I have no doubt that by the time we are finished, each and every one of you will be just as you were intended to be."

His short speech could have been interpreted as a man speaking with compassion about the help he thought the treatments would provide, but to Keller there was something decidedly carnivorous about the delivery, and she got a very bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.


That night while lying in her bed, Keller overheard a conversation that was going on between two men that were walking the hallways.

"We've learned that humiliation helps when adjusting the patients. They either do as they're told, or disappear inside themselves, either way we succeed in our efforts to control their urges."

He flipped his thumb in the direction of Keller's door. "As a matter of fact Mr. Hamilton has decided to break in the new one, says he sees a real defiant spirit lurking in her eyes that only he can cast out."

The other voice laughed a little. "It doesn't hurt that she's very beautiful either…does it?"

A more lecherous chuckle was heard. "Well there's that too. To be honest I wouldn't mind being the one to help here let her demons loose, but it is not to be."

The voices lowered abruptly and the muffled sounds became contrite just before two sets of footsteps could be heard moving down the hall.

When the door to Keller's room slowly opened, she could just make out a man's form in the light of the candle he was holding. As the door closed the candle slowly made its way over to her corner of the shadowed room. The man sat down, and she felt the thin mattress sink down from the extra weight. Just as she was about to ask what the intruder wanted a skeletal hand covered her mouth and the face of the director was lit by the tiny flame.

"It's time for your first lesson, Keller Morgan," he whispered with his rancid breath.

When he sat the candle on the floor she felt his hands start to make a trail down the center of her chest, it was then that the struggle began.

Keller kicked and scratch and pushed with all her might, but the man's size was deceiving. He was much stronger than he looked. Calling for help from her roommates was only met with silence.

She had no way of knowing it, but the three women were laying in their beds with their eyes tightly closed, trying to push out the sounds and memories of their own tortuous first night in the center.

When Keller realized that there was no way she could fight this man off she went completely still, appearing to her attacker as if she were accepting her fate. But that wasn't the case. She was invoking the fifth rule: When faced with a stronger opponent, make his weakness your strength.

When the man had his britches around his bony hips and his manhood was exposed, Keller saw her opportunity, and with lightening speed reached out with all her might and squeezed the fleshy sacks that would bring him to his knees.

His assault on her stopped immediately, but Keller continued to hold on as she slid from the bed, knowing that if she let go, the fight would be on again. She had helped turn enough bulls into steers to know how to handle a pair of scrotums fresh for neutering. She only hoped that wouldn't become necessary…the job could be quite messy without the proper tools.

She whispered in a harsh voice for help. "Patsy." When there was no response she called out again, a little louder. "PATSY!"

To avoid having someone hear, Patsy answered. "What?!"

"Come over here and pick up the candle."

Keller heard the woman making her way over. When she got close enough to see what was happening she pulled in a sharp breath. "By, the Deus. Keller, what have you done?"

"I've just stopped myself from being raped by a beast no better than a bull in heat."

The quiet, but intense conversation caught the other occupant's attention, and Jesse Lynn and Paige made their way over to Keller's side of the room. When they saw what was going on they spoke in unison.

"Oh, no."

"That's right," Steve Hamilton gritted out. "Let go of me or I'll make your punishment last for days instead of hours."

Keller hadn't realize it, but the sound of the hard S's Steve made caused her to reflexively squeeze the man's scrotum. It wasn't until he moaned in agony that she realized she had tightened her hold to the point where she could feel his testicles shifting around inside. She almost apologized until she remembered why she held them in the first place.

Looking at the three women that had formed a circle around her Keller made a plea to the roommates she had just met that day.

"I need one of you to do me a huge favor. I'm not staying here. After this there is no way that I can, but I can't leave unless someone takes a hold and keeps this animal in place long enough for me to escape."

When no one moved, she begged. "Please."

Feeling charged by Keller's bold move, Patsy maneuvered herself beside the brave little blonde and squared her shoulders. She had been at the center for three months, and during that time she had been molested at least three nights a week, under the guise that she still harbored her desire to tell stories.

'Well, of course I do,'  she thought. 'Just because I don't share them doesn't mean they no longer come to me.'

She hated this place. With every fiber of her being, she hated this place. A fury welled up in her like she had never known, and before she could talk herself out of it, she snatched the director's tender parts from Keller's grip and was now in possession of them.

Keller didn't waste any time. She gathered her sack, waved a thank you to her roommates of less than a day, and quietly slipped into the night.

When Patsy was sure that Keller was gone, she looked down at a squirming Steve Hamilton. "Now, what do I do with you?" she asked, and just for fun gave his testicles a little shake, rattling them around.

"Oh, my Deus. Patsy, what's gonna happen to us now?" Paige asked.

Patsy hesitated for only a second. Jesse Lynn, rip the bed covers into strips."

When the girl didn't move immediately Patsy put a little more authority in her voice. "DO IT, JESS. We don't have much time."

After the director had been trussed up like a festival pig, the women gathered their few personal items and left the center for good.


The Reawakening by J. A. Zollicoffer - 269 pages
The world has changed, and new ways of living had to be found. This story takes place in a post apocalyptic world where the citizens had to start over and carve out a fresh existence, much like the pioneers had to do. Troi Donner is a sentry for her village, and Keller Morgan is a recent escapee from hers. When their paths cross it is the catalyst that is necessary to reveal long hidden truths.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Short Q&A With Carole Giorgio


1. Why did you start writing?
Because it’s what I do. I have been writing since grade school. Had my first poem published in Honor Society Booklet when I was 12. It just comes naturally and when I write, as when I read, I’m taken to wherever it is I am ‘visiting.’

2. If you had to do it all over again would you still write?

3. Once you’ve written a story do you ever sit down and read it for enjoyment? 
Not really for the books, but maybe for the short stories and definitely for the poetry.

4. How did you start writing Xena fan fiction?
It was actually on a dare from a friend. When I first found out about FanFic I told my friend, “I can do that,” and she said, “Well, then do it.” So, I did.

5. Is your muse a constant companion, or does it abandon you for long periods of time?
She is usually a constant companion, but in 2001 our only daughter developed a glioblastoma multiform brain cancer tumor. Our world crumbled! My beautiful, smart, Nicole who had just become a speech therapist and who was looking forward to going into the Peace Corps and accepting her assignment in Africa had a terminal disease. She fought for 22 months and then lost her battle. I had lost my Muse, as well as my #1 Fan. Just when I thought it was time to tap the Muse again, I received a diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer – well, there went the Muse. She has finally returned this year, and I intend to put her to work! But I also have a little more help now; I have an Angel who has joined my Muse.

6. How do you feel about sequels?
There are three books in my Alex and Samantha series, Laguna Nights, Sedona Rain, and California Gold (which is not yet finished). Sequels can be difficult when you have to remember all the components to each story and all the characters as they continue on with their lives and new experiences, but the readers seem to love them so. . .

7. Is writing a quiet thing for you, where there can't be any noise or conversation going on?
I would probably say yes to that. When writing I usually unwind from the real world and go into a world of own. My favorite time to write is early, early morning like 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., and then there is being awaken from a deep sleep by the Muse to go write something down before being allowed to go back to slumberland.

8. Do you prefer to write/read romance, angst, horror etc, etc?
I prefer to write romance, poems, and fantasy. Reading has always been one of my loves, and I read quite a variety of genres such as detective, sci/fi, fantasy, and some horror. I enjoyed horror (King, Koontz, John Saul, Robin Cook) more when I was younger and not as much now, and never the really horror/horror like ‘Freddy.’ Reading detective stories is a new thing for me, but I really like James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club;.  When younger I also read Shakespeare and a lot of the classics – but I always preferred the comedies to the tragedies. I loved Dune and the sequels, and anything Anne McCaffrey wrote. I have also always enjoyed self-help and personal growth-type books. I guess I could go on, but will stop now.

9. What usually sparks a story idea for you?
Could be anything, something I see, feel, desire, joy I wish to share, sorrow I wish to get rid of, questions I would like answered.

10. Where do your ideas come from?
Kind of the same answer from question #9.

11. What advice can you give to future writers?
If writing is your passion, be passionate about it. Don’t do it haphazardly, you will never be content with the outcome. If you want to write and need to write to complete yourself ~ then by all means write and continue to do so until you are all written out, and remember to write for yourself first. If you are not happy with what you write, no one else is going to be either and if you try to write just for others you are not going to be fulfilled.

12. What has the show Xena meant to you?
New friends, new interests, writing again, and a story line I absolutely loved!

13. How do you feel about the way it ended?
I absolutely Hated the way it ended; I cried for days (maybe weeks – yes, I was a Xena-freak!). The next day I posted my own ending to the show – “She Who Talks to the Air.” I really needed to vent!

14. How real are your characters to you?
When I am immersed in the writing they are very real to me, they have to be to have the feelings and experiences I want them to have. I do not want them to be shallow figments of my imagination, but complete individuals that readers can actually relate to and believe in.

15. Do your characters speak to you?
They do.

16. Are you in control of your story, or do the characters run the show? 
I’d say it’s a little of each.

17. Have you created a character that you would like to meet?
I believe I have met all my characters in the only way I need to meet them.

18. How would you feel about another writer giving one of your characters a cameo in their story?
If I am asked to grant permission and if the cameo is one that is positive, I see no reason to deny the request, it would even be quite an accomplishment for someone to think enough of my girls to want to include them in a story.

19. Has online writing changed your life in any way?
Yes, in so much that I have a large group of readers who are very devoted. They waited all through the troubled years of my daughter’s and then my own illness and they still write and ask if I am going to finish the third in the series that began with Laguna Nights. I feel extremely blessed to have them and have finally given them two new chapters in the nearly finished California Gold.

20. Have you ever been stalked on the internet by an overzealous fan?
Pretty close to it and it was close enough.

21. Which one of your online stories is your favorite? 
Of my online stories and not my published works, I would have to narrow it down to 2; “And Baby Makes. . .” and “She Who Talks to the Air.”

22. Do you have to do a lot of rewrites?

23. Is there ever a point in your writing where you get stuck each and every time? How do you get out of it?

24. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most and why?
The actual writing because I feel as though I’ve accomplished something and the feedback from the readers because they let me know that although they are my characters and my stories they are very involved with them, appreciate the writing and desire me to continue.

25. When you're working on a story are you obsessed with it until it's done?
Not really.

26. Who are your favorite top five writers? Online or published.
Anne McCaffrey, John Saul, James Peterson, Piers Anthony, and Ann Rice.

27. The song says "Who rules the world? Girls." If that were true would the world be a better place?
I truly think it would be, once we get past sabotaging each other.

28. Do you write a story straight through, or do you write in pieces, then put it all together. 
Write it right through.

29. Do you read books for pleasure while you are writing? 
Yes, but I don’t read much lesbian fiction; I don’t want people to think I get my ideas from other authors.

30. Do you have a favorite Greek God? 
Not really but my favorite Goddess is Isis.

31. Do you have a pet peeve?
People who try to run other people’s lives without knowing the wherefores or the whys.

32. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Writing more and becoming more accomplished doing so.

33. What is your favorite word?
Wow – that’s a difficult one. I love words and to pick just one is impossible.

34. What is your least favorite word?
Probably faggot (and I don’t mean a bundle of sticks).

35. What turns you off?
Mean people, especially to animals or children who cannot defend themselves.

36. What sound or noise do you love? 
My dog running in circles (his bell ringing) letting me know that Tricia is home.

37. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Being a regression hypnotist.

38. What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in? 
Anything to do with sports.

39. If Heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I would want her to say, “Well, it’s about time – the rest of the group is waiting for you to go over what it is you learned this time around.”

 Here is Carole Giorgio's favorite story:
She who talks to the Air - 18 pages
Epilogue to A Friend In Need.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesdays With Phineas Redux

My Rational 'Xena' World. Or maybe 'Rationale of'?

My view of the ‘Xena’ fantasy-world.

Looking for inspiration on the ‘Xena’ front I thought it might help if I listed the various aspects of the TV series plot-lines with which I am less than enamoured and would therefore not pursue in story form. Characters and story-lines are often interwoven, so I shall just declare my preferences as I come to each in turn; though I may very well be forgetting some important points or people. The following describes what, I suppose, might be called my interpretation of the ‘Xena’ world—

Joxer— Oh alright, he can stay—but he’ll have to butch up. His original incarnation is simply too naive and useless for words. And if you think you’re going to see a lot of him, think again.

Virgil, Joxer’s son— No. No, absolutely. No.

Cyrene, Xena’s mother, and her peculiar demise— Never happened. In my universe she is alive and well.

Lila, Gabrielle’s sister— She really must buck up and stop allowing her daughter to be kidnapped and taken as a harem member for North African warlords, while her parents are slaughtered. Not that such an instance, in my view, ever actually occurred, either. She does eventually have a daughter Sarah, but this girl has a conventional life, never meeting Gurkhan.

Gurkhan— Never existed.

Xena must be much more accepting of the Amazons, as they of her. The back-story, of her earlier warlord deprivations against the Amazons, I choose to ignore and take as never having happened.

Xena’s back-story in Japa— Never happened, her only history is with Chin and Lao Ma.

The last two episodes and Xena’s demise— Never happened.

Xena being nasty to Gabrielle— The Warrior Princess is never, that’s never, physically nor mentally brutal to Gabrielle.

The Conqueror— There are those who enjoy this manifestation of Xena’s cruel aspect. I am not one of them. This twist of Fate in Xena’s life does not exist in my Xena-verse.

Musical episodes— Ha! Ha! Don’t talk to me about musical episodes!

Aphrodite— What a gal. I prefer her Valley-girl incarnation, especially in inter-actions with Gabrielle. And, of course, she’s always good for annoying Ares.

Ares— He can stay the way he is, though I’m not enraptured by his single-minded focus on destruction and war for its own sake. I’d prefer to tone his thinking and actions down somewhat.

Callisto— I’ve thought long and hard about this lady, and her ways. My conclusions are that I’d use her in stories—but only in her non-supernatural human form. The mad psycho, certainly—but not a semi-goddess.

Alti— I rather like her. But she would need to appear rarely, and then to some important purpose.

Gabrielle— I like Gabrielle’s naivety in her early association with Xena. This gives latitude for all sorts of humorous scenarios. But I much prefer the blonde toughened Amazon Queen, with her sais and positive attitude. It is this latter Gabrielle whom I most like to write about.

The Rift. Where Xena and Gabrielle famously fall out big-time— Never happened. (OK, OK, this is my imaginative response to dire problems. And I say it never happened, so there!).

Hope— Gabrielle never had that unfortunate meeting with Dahak, so this means her daughter never came on the scene either.

Solan— He does exist, but was never raised by centaurs; instead being sent to an old friend who lives on a remote Grecian farm.

Centaurs— There are no centaurs in my ‘Xena’ world.

Eve/Livia— Who?

Amazons— These exist in my Greece, and other parts of the world too. They are grouped together in tribes and associated bands with Queens as leaders. Gabrielle being the over-all leader of one of these larger groups of tribes.

Supernatural entities— I am reluctant to use these with any regularity. I prefer the actual physical world, with all its social problems, to activate and be the driving forces of my stories.

The Gods— They do exist in my ‘Xena’ world; though perhaps re-acting with humanity, and Xena and Gabrielle, rather less than in the TV series. I also acknowledge the existence of other Gods’ domains—the Norse Gods; Egyptian Gods; Chinese & Japanese Gods, etc.

25 year Ice-Tomb Gap— Rubbish. OK folks, we have a problem here. Xena and Gabrielle co-exist with Julius Caesar—who we all know was assassinated on the Ides of March 44 BC. Yet they also had intimate personal contact with Caligula, who kicked the old tin bucket in 41 AD. An 85 year time span—impressive! That’s not taking into account those early episodes where the gals met Homer and were present at the Siege of Troy! Yes, yes, the historical time-line in ‘Xena’ is a hopeless jumble. So what’s the answer? —

The Gods’ as Time Machines— The Gods, of whichever Pantheon happens to be currently operating, can send Xena and Gabrielle into different time periods at their will—problem solved.

The Indian Cycle; Dahak; and the Eli Cycle— None of these entities, persons, or prophets ever engaged with our heroines.

All Those Damn Crucifixions— Not one ever happened, or will happen. In my ‘Xena’ world neither Xena nor Gabrielle ever experienced, or will experience, this form of execution.

The End— If you’re thinking ‘Friend in Need’ here think again; go and wash your mouth out with Hudson’s Soap, and do try to be rational. The last we see of them, in reality in the TV series (I admit my imagination is working overtime here—so what?) is of them both trudging ankle-deep through the Egyptian desert sands trying to find the Bent Pyramid (don’t ask!). Gabrielle is determined to have her way, in that it bears south-south west; while Xena knows perfectly well (she’s almost certain) it bears sou’east by east, but try telling that to an Amazon! And so we leave the happy couple, bickering loudly as the sand gets in all those places it shouldn’t; while both gals are rapidly losing their tempers together. Ah, happy days!

~Phineas Redux~

On Convoy Patrol by Phineas Redux
The eighth in my on-going 'Mathews & Parker' series. Zena Mathews and Gabrielle Parker are requisitioned into going on a submarine patrol, complete with depth charges.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Short Q&A With Jane Fletcher


1. Why did you start writing?
My partner refused to listen to me outline yet another plot. She told me if I wrote it down she'd read it, and sent me off to our new PC with its word processor.

2. If you had to do it all over again would you still write?
Yes - no question. I'm not somebody who has to write, but it's been a blast.

3. Once you’ve written a story do you ever sit down and read it for enjoyment?
I used to. My first book, I read mainly with a sense of ecstatic disbelief.  Now when I read it is usually just to ensure that a new book in the series won't run into continuity errors.

4. How did you start writing Xena fan fiction?
I'd have to confess to writing very little fan fic. Generally, I'm not a short story writer, and if I'm heading for a novel I want to do my own world building. There are a couple of Xena short stories out there by me, but nothing major.

5. Is your muse a constant companion, or does it abandon you for long periods of time?
My muse ran off to join a travelling fair. She still occasionally sends me postcards.

6. How do you feel about sequels?
They launch sneak attacks on me whenever I'm not expecting them.

7. Is writing a quiet thing for you, where there can't be any noise or conversation going on?
Yes. I don't even like background music.

8. Do you prefer to write/read romance, angst, horror etc, etc? 
I don't really have a genre preference, but with both reading and writing, I'm a plot junkie. I need something happening, and I need it to make sense.

9. What usually sparks a story idea for you?
A random idea blindsides me.

10. Where do your ideas come from?
I have not the first clue.

11. What advice can you give to future writers?

12. What has the show Xena meant to you?
It's the only program that I have ever become an obsessive fan over. The only other program that come close is Dr. Who.

13. How do you feel about the way it ended?
I actually appreciated it. I've been a mythology junkie since I was 8 years old. I can relate to the pain other fans expressed, but I'd worked my way though it 35 years before with Le Morte d'Arthur. Xena's death was a direct take from Irish mythology - the death of Cú Chulainn and I was (yet again) blown away to see a woman take over the role of a true mythological hero - which I'm afraid requires dying on her feet, in battle. Anything else is a cop out.

14. How real are your characters to you?
More real than characters on TV. Less real than people I meet in the flesh.

15. Do your characters speak to you?
Not when I'm sober.

16. Are you in control of your story, or do the characters run the show?
I'm totally in control. If a character isn't working with my story, I replace them with another one who does. Although, since I plot out in advance I have my characters set before I put pen to paper. They do shift in the planning stage though - like with Ellen in Shadow of the Knife when I realized my original character for the role was too mature.

17. Have you created a character that you would like to meet?
Oh yes. I've written my share of sexy, intelligent fun people. My only concern is how they might feel about me.

18. How would you feel about another writer giving one of your characters a cameo in their story?
On one level I'd have to be flattered. Other levels would depend on how well their vision agreed with my own and whether it left me having to resolve legal copyright issues, which are a pain in the bum.

19. Has online writing changed your life in any way?
It's been responsible by various direct and indirect route of me meeting a load of great people.

20. Have you ever been stalked on the internet by an overzealous fan?
No, though I've had emails from one or two strange ones.

21. Which one of your online stories is your favorite?
Probably "The Queen of Magpies"

22. Do you have to do a lot of rewrites?
I do a lot of editing. Huge chunks of rewriting are rare.

23. Is there ever a point in your writing where you get stuck each and every time? How do you get out of it?
I don't start writing until I get the plot sorted in my head. Getting the plot to line up can hit various snags, but I just need to wait. With luck, eventually, the plot will resolve itself. If not, I just need to keep on waiting and write one of the plots that is sorted.

24. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most and why?
The last edit. The hard work is done, and the sense of achievement takes over.

25. When you're working on a story are you obsessed with it until it's done?
It tends to take over, if only by a sense of guilt that I should be writing rather than doing anything else.

26. Who are your favorite top five writers? Online or published.
Samuel R Delany
Jane Austin
Terry Pratchett
Agatha Christie
Rosemary Sutcliff

27. The song says "Who rules the world? Girls." If that were true would the world be a better place?
I very much doubt it.

28. Do you write a story straight through, or do you write in pieces, then put it all together.
I assemble it in my head jumping back and forth, but once I start writing, I begin at the beginning and work my way through to the end.

29. Do you read books for pleasure while you are writing?
Yes. Although at first it was hard, because the author's voice from the other book would drown out mine. Authors with very strong voices can still be a problem.

30. Do you have a favorite Greek God?

31. Do you have a pet peeve?
Bad use of maths and statistics

32. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Getting older

33. What is your favorite word?

34. What is your least favorite word?
Delayed - it never occurs in a sentence I want to hear

35. What turns you on?
My partner

36. What turns you off?
Stupidity and aggression

37. What sound or noise do you love?
Seagulls and running water

38. What sound or noise do you hate?
Fingernails on blackboards

39. What is your favorite curse word?

40. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Anything that gives a big enough payout when you get sacked that I could afford to retire on the proceeds of failure.

41. What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in?
Sewage plant worker

42. If Heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Do you want a beer?

Here is Jane's favorite story:
The Queen Of Magpies - 15 pages
A vengeful King, an inane Princess, several sullen guards and a priceless statue - just another day's work for the most famous thief in the world.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Black Wolf

Original Air-Date January 8, 1996

When a band of freedom fighters, following a shadowy figure known as the Black Wolf, ambush and kill a group of armed bullies collecting taxes, Xerxes, the cold-blooded ruler of Argos, threatens the villagers with death unless they betray the identity of the rebel leader in their midst. A dozen courageous citizens step forward claiming to be the infamous Black Wolf, and Xerxes angrily orders his guards to arrest them all.

Xena  arrives a short while later, just in time to witness her old friend Hermia being abused by Xerxes' guards when she begs to see her imprisoned daughter, Flora. After Xena teaches the guards some manners with their own spears, Hermia tells her that Flora has fallen madly in love with one of the Black Wolves, and is now in prison for having taken up their cause to overthrow Xerxes. Xena vows to come up with a plan to rescue the young woman.

The warrior princess fights her way into Xerxes' palace and interrupts the ruthless despot while he's threatening his Minister of Security, Koulos. Xerxes tells Koulos he will be killed if he fails to capture the Black Wolf in time for a public execution during the fast-approaching Feast of Zeus. Pretending to sympathize with Xerxes' predicament, Xena offers to go undercover for a hefty price and expose the identity of the Black Wolf. Xerxes agrees and the next day, Xena stages an attack on Koulos in the village square, witnessed by a Black Wolf sympathizer. After a rousing battle, Xena is "captured" and taken to the dungeon.

When Gabrielle arrives later that day, she runs into Salmoneus, who is furtively selling Black Wolf merchandise, and learns that Xena is in Xerxes' prison. Knowing the only way to reach her friend is to be thrown into the dungeon herself, Gabrielle begins hassling Xerxes' guards to provoke them into locking her up. Her first few attempts backfire and result in Salmoneus' arrest instead. Meanwhile, Xena makes her way to rebels' corner of the dungeon and sees Flora for the first time in many years. She offers to help her escape, but quickly learns that her determined young friend won't consider leaving without the rest of the Wolf Pack.

Just then, Koulos arrives to intimidate the rebels into giving up their leader by locking Xena into a pit covered by a wooden grate, and flooding it with water. Moments before drowning, Xena is able to make a spectacular escape when she knocks out a guard by hurling a bone upward from the bottom of the pit and grabbing his sword to slash through the grating. As Koulos angrily exits the cell, Salmoneus is unceremoniously dumped at Xena's feet.

Later, Xena turns to Flora's beloved Diomedes, a courageous young rebel in the Pack, and tells him she has a plan to free all the prisoners. Believing that Xena may be setting them up, Diomedes begins to listen to her only after she admits that she allowed herself to be captured in order to rescue Flora. Under Xena's direction, Salmoneus begins collecting various materials from all the prisoners, including their belts, bits of rope and sticks of wood.

After fashioning makeshift bows, arrows and netting, the Pack puts Xena's plan into action. When the guards enter to feed them that night, they are surprised and overpowered by the rebels, who drop down from the netting they have secured to the ceiling with their arrows. The prisoners escape into the woods, only to find Xerxes and his men lying in wait to recapture them. Back in the dungeon, Xena is accused of betrayal and is challenged by Diomedes. After a no-holds-barred battle, Xena gains the upper hand but spares Diomedes, insisting that she is not the traitor in their midst. She soon reveals that the real traitor is the prisoner Parnassus.

Later, when Koulos threatens Salmoneus' life, Flora steps forward to admit what Xena has already guessed -- that she is the Black Wolf. As Flora prepares to die, Xena -- still in Xerxes' good graces -- agrees to accompany him to the public execution. At the last moment, with Gabrielle's help, Xena is able to free Flora and the rest of the Wolf Pack, who rise up in battle to defeat the evil Xerxes.



Lucy Lawless as Xena

Renée O'Connor as Gabrielle

Robert Trebor as Salmoneus

Kevin J. Wilson as Xerxes

Nigel Harbrow as Koulos

Emma Turner as Flora

Ian Hughes as Diomedes

Maggie Tarver as Hermia

Ross Duncan as Parnassus

John Dybvig as Brigand (Ox)

Jonathan Bell-Booth as Chief Guard

John Pemberton as Arresting Guard

Tim Hosking as Blacksmith

Colin Francis as The Grump

Adam Middleton as Black Wolf Sympathizer

Jimmy Rawdon as Father


Ox, the brigand: Looking for the man of your dreams, darling?
Xena: Yep. (Xena punches him in the gut) You're not him.

Xena: You've grown up.
Flora: You've grown legendary.

Flora: Would you believe, Xena taught me to swing a sword and embroider linen for my wedding chest.
Diomedes: You embroider?
Xena: I have many skills.

Xena: "The times change people, and people change the times."


In the previous episode (Hooves and Harlots) Gabrielle was given a staff with a bird head on it and an Amazon outfit. In this episode she has a plain staff with no bird's head, and a new outfit (the prototype of which was seen in Death In Chains), which she presumably acquired between episodes.

The writers originally intended to have Gabrielle remain in her Amazon outfit from Hooves and Harlots, but decided that it just didn't feel right, and they didn't want Gabrielle to be known as "Gabrielle Amazon Princess," so they went ahead and gave her a new costume that would be used to show her growth and developement throughout the series. The reason for change in staff design was never explained.

This is the first appearance of Robert Trebor as Salmoneus. He was in four episodes of Xena, though only 3 as Salmoneus.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My 'Xena' Collection Part 3 by Phineas Redux

My 'Xena' Collection 3. Magazines & Postcards

I thought I would upload further copies of my 22 issue collection of the Official ‘Xena’ Magazine from 2000. I also started buying the early videos just after that time. The videos came pre-packed with free postcard sized photos, of which I have kept a selection. So we start with the postcards—

The Official ‘Xena’ Magazine ran to 24 issues—of which I seem to have managed to collect 22. They all date from late 1999 through 2000, to late 2001. The magazines were printed and published here in Britain, but under licence from Universal Studio’s. So all the photos in the magazine were from the official files. I fancy several of the text articles in the magazine were also produced in-house in America and re-printed here. Towards the last few months of publication original photos seemed to have become harder to find; the magazine publishing several which had already appeared in months gone by. In the January 2000 issue there was an editorial, part of which ran ‘This will be down to the photograph situation we told you about some months ago. Until new stars of the show have signed the rights for us to use their pictures, we aren’t able to use shots of them in which they are recognisable.’ Then there came a strange moment when, although the event had been covered in the magazine including photos of several of the other stars of the show, the editor had to print an apology for not showing photos of Lucy or Renee at the ‘Xena’ Wrap Convention in Pasadena, as the magazine couldn’t gain publication authority from the two main stars in time for the magazine’s print run. Then came a few articles from the editor saying what wonderful things would appear in the magazine as it ran on past the ending of the TV series 6. A month after which, suddenly, a message was printed that the magazine was, in fact, shutting down; only a few months after the end of the TV series. And that was that.

I hope you enjoy these photos of the magazines and postcards I’ve managed to keep in my collection for, goodness me, thirteen years!

Thursday's Teaser - Shine by BadSquirrel

Today's teaser is from Shine by BadSquirrel

"I think I'm ready to date again," Maureen announced after Jim and Carol had ushered their kids to bed. "It's been nine months since Beth put me…" Her throat tightened and she couldn't speak. Even after so much time she still could hardly bring herself to say it out loud.

"It's about time," Carol interrupted firmly. "I know you needed time to heal physically and emotionally, but I've always thought that getting back on the horse was best. I'm glad you've finally come to your senses."

Maureen wasn't at all sure that her decision could be termed sensible. In retrospect, her choices in women had all turned out to be rather poor and there was no way to tell if her heart had wised up. All she knew was that as easy as it was to be alone, she was tired of being lonely. Somewhere out there was a woman she could build a life with and she wanted to find her. "There's a reason I'm telling you," she said nervously.

"Looking for a chaperone?" Jim asked lightly.

Maureen had considered this moment for weeks. Jim was the engineer at a local radio station and knew Shine Avery. Maureen had been listening to that husky, velvet voice for over 4 years and knew from Jim that she was gay. She had expected to run into Shine accidentally through the local gay community a long time ago, but it seemed that no one knew of her. Having no other interesting women in her field of view, she had talked herself into at least meeting the remote disc jockey. She remained a little uncomfortable asking her friends to help her. "Not exactly. I need an introduction."

"To whom?" Carol asked.

Maureen watched as understanding widened Jim's eyes. "You want to meet Shine, don't you?"

"What a great idea," Carol said enthusiastically. "Maybe we could invite her over for dinner. What do you think, Jim? Will she come?"

Maureen held her breath waiting for Jim's response.

"I don't know," he said slowly. "I do know she's single: that's one of the few things she'll admit to about her personal life."

"Are you sure she's gay?" Carol asked.

"Ninety-five percent sure," Jim nodded. "I've never asked her and she probably wouldn't answer me if I did, but yes. She's a lesbian."

Maureen frowned at his certainty. "How do you know? Does she look like a lesbian?"

Jim laughed. "Don't worry, Maureen. She's attractive enough. I just figured it out."


Jim glanced at his wife covertly before speaking. "She doesn't display any awareness of men as potential mates. When she looks at me I'm just another human to her."

"Are you telling me," Carol said with wry amusement, "that you think you're so irresistible that women 'size you up' every where you go?"

Maureen grinned at Jim's discomfort.

He turned to his wife with a sigh. "Do you remember that guy in the grocery store last week? The one with the tattoos and his belly hanging out of his shirt?"

"Of course."

"And what did you say about him?"

Maureen had to bite her lip at Carol's expression. Jim was usually the loser in their lover's spats but it looked like today was different.

"I don't remember," Carol said tightly.

Jim chuckled. "You said-and I quote-'Not in a million years.' You sized him up in a single glance and rejected him out of hand as a potential mate. That's what I'm talking about. Shine doesn't do that."

"You make women sound like predators," Carol objected.

"I understand what he's saying," Maureen interjected. "Even when you're not looking, you're assessing."

"It's a reflex," Jim said. "Maybe men do it more than women. I don't know, but even if you're not interested there's a drive that makes you aware. When Shine looks at men she's not seeing them as men: they're just people. At first it made me feel defensive, but now I like it."

"Why?" Maureen was even more intrigued with the voice on her radio than she had been.

Jim scratched his chin while staring at the ceiling. "I think it's because there's no pressure. She doesn't have any expectations about me. If she likes me-and I think she does-it's because I'm likable. I don't have to be a man for her."

Carol drew her knees up and pulled an afghan over them. "What is she like around women?"

"Respectful and polite." Jim cocked his head and stared at Maureen. "Why the sudden interest?"

This was the part of asking that she had dreaded. "It's not sudden really. I've been listening to her on the radio for a long time and she has such a beautiful voice. I've always been interested, but I haven't been available." Maureen spoke as steadily as she could and tried to pretend that she wasn't blushing. Even though these two people were the dearest friends she could imagine it was hard to open up about matters of the heart. Pain was so much easier to discuss. "I know almost every lesbian in the area and I don't see anyone else appealing to me. The fact that you like her," she said directly to Jim, "carries a lot of weight with me."

He nodded absently. "I'll see what I can do. I won't make any promises, but I'll do my best."


Shine Avery looked up see Jim entering the booth. "Hey. What's up?"

"Just stopped in to say goodbye to my favorite radio personality." Jim dropped into the guest chair across the counter from Shine. "Good show today."


"What are you doing this weekend? Anything exciting?"

She shrugged. "Not really. What are you going to do?"

"Just family stuff." He hesitated, then continued. "Actually…"

Shine felt her defenses go up and she waited quietly for him to get to the point.

"I'd like you to meet my family."

She smiled to take any sting out of her words. "Well, I appreciate the offer, Jim, but I…"

Jim held his hands up. "Let me finish before you turn me down, okay?"

She leaned back in her chair and bit off her words.

"I know you never socialize with any of us," he said. "I'm not sure why, but I'm hoping it's not because you think we don't want to. I was going to ask you over a long time ago, but I heard you turn down Bill's invite a couple of years back. You were real nice about it, but you were quite clear about not wanting to mix business with your personal life. I respect that," he said quickly, "but we're already pretty friendly so it's not much of a stretch. All I'm asking is an hour or so. Just long enough to have dinner with us. If you hate us I'll never ask again and I won't hold it against you."

Shine held up a hand for silence as the song came to an end and turned on her microphone. After four years as the mid-day jock, most of what she did was by rote. She considered Jim's request as she played commercials and read the weather.

Shine liked most of her co-workers, but Jim was easily her favorite and the closest thing she'd had to a friend in years. She liked his quick smile and sharp wit. She had found him to be surprisingly intuitive in spite of his California surfer boy good looks. He was watching her intently as she worked and she tried to ignore his gaze. If she was honest with herself, she did want to accept his offer and that desire was what made her most uncomfortable. She had spent years pushing people away and while she had achieved a measure of peace in her isolation, she wasn't particularly happy and she was frustrated by it. It occurred to her that Jim had children and she felt a tickle of anticipation. Kids were her weakness and she got along better with them than with most adults. Shine started up another song and turned off the mike.

Working quickly she put things away and arranged her next commercial break. "Will your children be there?"

"Yes." Hope flared in Jim's eyes. "It'll just be me, my wife, her foster-sister and my three kids. If you want to bring someone, too, I have no problem with that. It's just a very casual dinner and you can leave right after dessert."

A wave of nausea rolled over her and she closed her eyes to get it under control. This is ridiculous, she thought.


"All right."


She grinned with embarrassment at the incredulity in his voice and took a deep breath before opening her eyes. "Really. But just this once."

Jim leaned back, arms hanging loosely at his sides and a goofy grin on his face. "I can't believe it. I've been agonizing over how to ask you all week and it was easy."

"Don't make me change my mind," she said sternly.

Jim gave her his address and almost ran from the booth. Shine tucked the note in her pocket with a feeling of nausea. I just hope I'm not making a huge mistake.


Shine by BadSquirrel - 200 pages
Maureen Baird has been listening the the velvet voice of Shine Avery on the radio for years. When they meet, there is a connection for them both. But can they overcome their fears, regrets and an old love to find a future in each other?

A Short Q&A With Iseqween


1. Why did you start writing?  
I love exploring philosophical issues/conundrums. RETURN OF CALLISTO, when our hero calmly watches the villain sink in quicksand, stunned me. I realized the show was about a lot more than the female warrior who initially got my attention. RoC sucked me in like the helplessly sinking Callie.

I started doing ep reviews and posting them on the Chakram list (as IfeRae). IDES OF MARCH moved me to write first-person, in-the-moment reflections – one from Gabrielle’s perspective, the other from Xena’s. I titled the pair, “So Close.” The Chakram moderator rejected this submission, indicating the forum did not accept fiction. I was shocked, as I never intended to write fanfic, nor considered my “review” as such.

A writer on another list encouraged me to send “So Close” to the Ausxip Bard’s Corner. I blame Mary D for accepting the darned thing and planting the seed to consciously try doing a story.  I wrote the first, “Under Other Circumstances,” as a lark, fully expecting it to be my last. That was some 80 or so stories and over 10 years ago.

2. If you had to do it all over again, would you still write?  
For whatever reason at the time, things happen. Without the magical ability to return to the past, “could’ve, would’ve, might’ve” don’t matter to me so much as building on where I am in the present and may want to go in the future.  XWP fanfic is my outlet for creating a fantasy world where characters can sometimes spend time questioning (or reliving) previous decisions, in the process helping me gain insights into my own motivations.

3. Once you’ve written a story, do you ever sit down and read it for enjoyment?
Frequently. I write for myself – to explore questions and honor the characters Xenastaff so lovingly created. I am a journalist at heart and by training. I observe and report. I try mightily to stay true to the show’s spirit, “personality” and themes. The TV version is my bible. I can’t pretend whatever I saw or heard didn’t happen, just because it doesn’t agree with what I might’ve preferred.  I still watch an ep or two on weekends when I can. My stories are like extensions or new versions, enabling me to continue giving life to and enjoying XWP.

4. How did you start writing Xena fan fiction?  
See question 1.

5. Is your muse a constant companion, or does it abandon you for long periods of time?  
A day rarely goes by when I don’t think about a story I’d like to do. Beginning in 2000, I used to post one a month, at least five or so a year. My last was in 2011.  It’s more like I abandoned my muse on the altar of “real” life. However, I do remain open to writing again.

6. How do you feel about sequels?
Of the show? Only with Lucy and Renee – no matter how old they are. If you mean stories, good writers usually do good sequels.

 7. Is writing a quiet thing for you, when there can’t be any noise or conversation going on?
I tend to write at night, just before turning in. I guess I like being able to immerse myself in the “other” world I’m creating. Stuff can be going on around me, but I tune it out.

8. Do you prefer to write/read romance, angst, horror, etc.?
I love that XWP covered nearly every genre, often in the same ep. I try to make most of my stories a blend of heart, serious chats, action/adventure, and playful banter.  

9. What usually sparks a story idea for you?
What doesn’t? A walk through the woods, my martial arts class, two senior citizens sailing a boat, young people arguing about who’s “right.” XWP explored issues and settings that could happen anywhere, to anyone at some point in their lives. I’m often moved to “noodle” what might occur between Point A and Z, using XWP as the medium. I believe Steven King said he started most of his books with the question “What if?” Works for me.

10. Where do your ideas come from?
At first, the eps themselves – filling in the gaps, imagining what was going on in the characters’ heads, delving into the ambiguities. After the series ended, I felt free to go beyond what I’d seen on TV in terms of X&G -- their relationship, growing older, adapting to new challenges, being with friends and family for extended periods. As I’ve “matured,” I sometimes have them dealing with situations I’ve personally encountered.    

11.What advice can you give to future writers?
Don’t worry about others’ opinions.  Follow your heart, your interests, your questions. Create characters who are different from yourself in some ways. Respect their viewpoints and try to see the world through their eyes. Put them in situations you might find personally uncomfortable. If you’re true to them, they can teach you something new – in the process, possibly stimulating the interest of readers. As example, I’m very much a Xena girl. I used to fast-forward through Gabrielle moments. Forcing myself to “be” her made me appreciate her strengths and understand why the series (and Xena) would have suffered without her. I believe it actually made me more empathetic and open minded.  

12. What has the show Xena meant to you?
I may be searching for the words to convey that for the rest of my life. What I know now? Self-discovery. The framework to express my creativity in a way that satisfies me. Learning from and being inspired by strangers around the world. Being motivated to delve into technology, new media, activities and journeys as I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Feeling I have companion spirits whom I can call upon whenever or however I want.

13. How do you feel about the way it ended?  
I didn’t like losing the show, but loved that Xenastaff stayed true to its “bold” vision. As a bard, I found myself even more inspired, than if X&G had simply strolled happily into the sun. It forced me to imagine how to resurrect the characters, how they might evolve, what they might do if the series continued. I feel lucky to have that choice.

14. How real are your characters to you?
Flesh and blood.

15. Do your characters speak to you?
Absolutely, especially X&G. I disagree or get impatient with them sometimes, but they always get their way.

16. Are you in control of your story, or do the characters run the show?
I have definite impressions of them, based on wonderfully confident and nuanced portrayals I saw on TV. I control the “What if” that starts the ball rolling, as well as the extent to which I’m open to honoring the actors’ interpretations and to creating new scenarios true to the show’s spirit. The characters dictate how everything plays out.

17. Have you created a character that you would like to meet?
I can’t think of one. Yes, I try to make them “real.” Frankly, I mainly use them to draw out what’s interesting to me about X and/or G. I only write “classic” XWP fanfic, with no desire whatsoever to do stories beyond that.

18. How would you feel about another writer giving one of your characters a cameo in their story?  

19. Has online writing changed your life in any way?
Definitely. As mentioned above, it opened up a world of new friends and ideas. It’s amazing to think a part of me will live on – even if anonymously – in cyberspace or somebody’s collection of saved stories.

20. Have you ever been stalked on the internet by an overzealous fan?
That hasn’t been a problem for me. Most mail (which I always answer) is quite kind. I nip the rare questionable messages in the bud.

21. Which one of your stories is your favorite?  
I like a few equally for different reasons. I’m particularly satisfied with my vignettes, many of which give the viewpoints of minor characters (e.g., Minya, Salmoneus, Tataka, even Argo). The Academy of Bards’ 50-word fiction was a great challenge.  “Seasons” was a series of them where I tried to capture the essence of each year of eps. I like the precision required of these shorter pieces.

On an intellectual level, I like “When Xena Was Callisto.” It explores a concept that has always intrigued me – justice – which I also dealt with in my first story “Under Other Circumstances.” In the show, Xena was formally tried for crimes she didn’t commit. “When Xena” examined what “justice” might mean from a lot of different viewpoints. It’s ripe with the irony indicative of XWP.

I like “Fifty Winters Ago” as the true launch of what one fan fondly labeled the “geezer” series. It became the framework for portraying X&G in their later stages and giving them unique opportunities to re-experience what made them or what they did in the past. I don’t think anyone else has written as much about that.

In terms of pure writing, “My Dance With the Devil” uses a sort of poetic format to review highlights of XWP through the 6th Season HEART OF DARKNESS. It was very different for me – a pretty analytical person. I feel good about the way I could use the sensuality of that ep to convey – in one reader’s words – “many layers of meaning.”

“What Stories Are For,” my sentimental favorite, is actually one of the few I set out to do for someone other than myself.  Though I was okay with A FRIEND IN NEED, I came to empathize with fans who had a deeply negative reaction. I particularly understood those who felt it was unfair to Gabrielle, who had to endure a terribly painful “goodbye” to the physical Xena. I wanted to leave those fans with a possible picture of how Gabrielle might’ve imagined Xena’s death in AFIN. It’s poignant, but ended up allowing me another chance to grieve the finality of the show, at the same time reminding myself and others our girls could always live on through our imaginations.

22. Do you have to do a lot of rewrites?  
Not usually. Again, I try to go with the flow dictated by the characters. I do tweak quite a bit, often based on feedback from a long-time beta reader.  I especially focus on fiddling with dialogue or gestures. I prefer the characters communicate for themselves, rather than using a lot of exposition.

23. Is there ever a point in your writing where you get stuck each and every time? How do you get out of it?
When I’m dealing with a particular philosophical issue, I sometimes get bogged down in making things too complicated and “heavy.” That usually means I haven’t paid enough attention to the “heart” of it. I ask the characters why or whether what I’ve written is important to them, or simply an excuse for me to go off on my own tangent. They may have little chat about it in the story, or another character/situation may pop up to keep the flow going in a way that takes me out of my quandary. If I’m actually trying to impose on them something that just doesn’t “fit,” I cut it and move on by getting back to what’s “true” for the characters.

24. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most and why?
The beginning can be somewhat stressful. I have a question I’d like to explore, but not necessarily a clue about how it could play out.  Somewhere in the middle, I start to see the end. I feel comfortable/confident enough about the foundation I laid for the characters’ journey. I get excited because I’m curious about what will happen. I may write a section (about 5 pages) and stop where I can imagine a commercial break. I may or may not have an idea what comes next. I go to bed anticipating what will be revealed in the next section. What I enjoy is feeling less and less like it’s about what I already know, more about discovering something new, as the characters take more control.

25. When you’re working on a story are you obsessed with it until it’s done?
Frequently. I’ve started a few that I had to put aside for some reason. When I finally get back to one, I begin where I left off and keep going.

26. Who are your top five writers?  Online or published.
XWP bards DJWP, Friction, Joanna, Missy Good, and Wishes. I don’t read much uber, but I do love Jules Mills’ Nano Series.

27. The song says “Who rules the world? Girls.”  If that were true would the world be a better place?
I believe so, assuming we would do a better job of including the boys in decisions and operations.

28. Do you write a story straight through, or do you write in pieces, then put it all together?
I generally write in sections that flow into the next one. That could span a couple of days or weeks.

29. Do you read books for pleasure while you are writing?
Sadly, I don’t read many books at all anymore. I used to do so avidly. I think that may be one of the unfortunate fallouts of my XWP obsession. Even today, it takes up a lot of my “free” sitting time.

30. Do you have a favorite Greek God?
Oooo, Ares. I absolutely loved Kevin Smith’s “look” and portrayal. He was absolutely perfect as Xena’s foil and attraction.

31. Do you have a pet peeve?
I’m really turned off by bards who project stuff on X&G I don’t believe is true to the characters. Making Gabs a victim of abuse (sometimes at the hands of Xena) is one I see often. Yes, stories are a way to work through internal demons. It may be cathartic for the writer. I’m glad they have an outlet. I might not even mind if they used other characters. I just can’t read work that transforms characters I “know.”

32.  What do you see yourself doing in the future?
As relates to Xenadom? Continuing to watch eps every now and then, check the internet for related developments, maybe write a little more fanfic, and keep following Lucy’s career. (I got hooked on Battlestar and Spartacus because of her.)  

33. What is your favorite word?

34. What is your least favorite word?  

35. What turns you on?
Good deeds – smiles at strangers, simple courtesies, teaching, defending, standing up for a cause.

36. What turns you off?

37. What sound or noise do you love?
The ball coming off my tennis racquet when I hit it just right. Music to my ears.

38. What is your favorite curse word?
What, me? Curse? Fuck.

39. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Fitness/ motivational coach.

40. If Heaven exists what would you like to hear God way when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“Well done, IQ.  Not perfect, but not too bad.”

Here is one of Iseqween's favorite stories. The Geezer series:
Fifty Winters Ago
A middle-aged Xena and Gabrielle find themselves reprising roles from their past, after receiving a mysterious invitation from Cleades, the baby-to-man monarch of season four's KEY TO THE KINGDOM.

Two-Thousand Winters Ahead
A detour on the journey home from their 25th anniversary adventure in IseQween's Fifty Winters Ago offers Gabrielle and Xena an extraordinary chance to rediscover themselves.

Not Yet
Still headed home after an unscheduled 25th anniversary trip they embarked on in Fifty Winters Ago and continued in Two-Thousand Winters Ahead, our Golden Girls get the most out of their maturity when they run into trouble that underestimates the Grandma Brigade.

Something New, Something Old
Shortly after events in IseQween's story Not Yet, Gabrielle questions Xenas perturbing response to perceptions the legendary duo are too dead or too old to aid a village in distress.

Done There, Been That
In this follow-up to Two-Thousand Winters Ahead and set after Something New, Something Old, a middle-aged Gabrielle finds herself threatened by the immature Xena destined to become Destroyer of Nations. Based heavily on events in the ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE eps.

Various generations offer clues to Gabrielle's concerns about the long-term impact of her scrolls.

A Scroll in Time
As Season Two's THE XENA SCROLLS concludes, Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find themselves continuing a different saga, begun in the stories Two Thousand Winters Ahead and Done There, Been That.

Extra Credit
After Something New, Something Old, Gabrielle and Xena reconsider their notion of semi-retirement, given the succession of adventures that began interrupting their attempts to celebrate 25 years together in Fifty Winters Ago.