Saturday, December 26, 2009

Misc: Fanfiction Favourites, Part 1

Fanfiction is an often-overlooked source of reading material easily obtained on-line. A lot of it is pure trash, but some of it is excellent, and can fill in the missing pieces and offer some interesting interpretations of what's gone on in a favorite show. I have saved about two dozen favourites into HTML files to read on the go on my Sony; Calibre converts them easily. Over the next two posts, I'll share my favourites with you. In this post, I'll list the best of the stuff I myself have written. In a subsequent post, I will list favourite stories from others. I welcome comments, once you've seen my style and preferences, for other stories you think I might enjoy...

THE BEST OF 'MASKED-SPANGLER' AT FANFICTION.NET

Since I Found Serenity. BtVS/Firefly cross-over. Buffy and Giles do a little dimension-hopping in search of a missing relic.

Little Ladybug. BtVS. A short one, but one I found very fun. A future Giles tells his daughter the story of how he met her mother.

Littlest Voyagers. Farscape/ST Voyager cross-over. An injured Aeryn and her son get stranded by a wormhole accident, and it's Voyager to the rescue...

All That We Let In. Grey's Anatomy. The epic friendship of Bailey, Addison and Callie is put to the test when a difficult case affects a post-divorce Addison...

Love Wins Every Time. Grey's Anatomy. A vulnerable post-Alex Addison forges a surprising friendship with Preston Burke...

Terminator: The Savannah Chronicles. TSCC. Follows Sarah, Savannah and Ellison post-series. There is an in-progress sequel underway due to popular demand when this one ended :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Review: U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton


U is for Undertow is my second library e-book, and is the latest installment in a long-running series (beginning with 'Al is for Alibi' and proceeding through the alphabet). I started reading these books around the same time I started reading the adventures of Cornewell's Kay Scarpetta and Kellerman's Alex Delaware, and of the three I think Grafton is the only who has maintained my interest and whose books have not declined in quality. Cornwell tried to go 'literary' to somewhat disastrous results, and Delaware's protagonist became too middle-class and complacent.

Grafton, in contrast, chose to age her character slowly---Kinsey Millhone had steadily been adventuring through the late 1980's as the series has progressed. Part of the charm in these stories is watching Kinsey, from our technological age, do some good old-fashioned gumshoe-ing. I began another novel yesterday also involving a female PI, whose office consisted of a desk, with a computer, and several electronic database subscriptions. So watching Kinsey drive to the library and cross-reference a phone number through three different indexes bound by year in physical books was surprisingly refreshing. A subplot involving the glacial, but steady pace of Kinsey's relationship with her newly found relatives added further human interest to the story.

The plot involves a client who comes to her with a long-repressed memory of a time he witnessed two men digging a large hole in the woods, at around the time a young girl disappeared. As she plugs away at what clues his story offers her, she becomes enmeshed in the long-ago disappearance of the girl, and becomes involved in the stories of several others from that period.

Grafton uses the inter-woven stories of several characters to keep the suspense going. More than once, I raced through three or so chapters waiting to hear the rest of a yet-complete story I hoped we would come back to. The eventual fitting of everything together was neatly done, as from the perspective of decades later, one character would casually mention another and tie up a key loose end. Kellerman attempted a cold case in one of his previous books and never to make it work for me. Grafton handles this material with much, much greater finesse and skill.

My one complaint was the ending---sudden, not especially suspenseful or satisfying, and leaving one character's fate in the hands of their own monumental stupidity. And, I feel, as I did in my recent review of another book from a long-running by an author I generally enjoy, that the book could have been another hundred pages shorter and not suffered for it.

Overall though, high marks. Grafton changed the genre with 'A is for Alibi' and has kept up steam all the way to the near-end here. When she gets to Z, she'll leave us an excellent series to look back on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review: Black Silk by Jan Gordon


Black Silk by Jan Gordon is one of the top free downloads at Feedbooks right now and has been downloaded about 15,000 times. So, does it prove the theory that internet self-publishing is a wonderful innovation and we don't need publishing industry gatekeepers to give us quality reading?

With apologies to Ms. Gordon, who posts at Mobile Read and seems very nice, not entirely. I do think it shows potential, and Ms. Gordon may have it in her to be a hit novelist someday. But it reads very much like a first novel to me, and a draft one at that.

The problem: it's too short, and there is no real connection among the main characters. The male lead just shows up at the beginning of the story and immediately falls in love with the female lead. Were the novel a little bit longer, there might have been time for some lead-up.

If you look at some of the romance best-sellers, the male lead very seldom just happens to instantly fall in love with the total stranger. Let's take another recent read of mine, Black Hills by Nora Roberts as an example. Granted, Ms. Roberts has written a zillion novels already, so perhaps it's unfair to compare her to a total novice. But structure is structure, and Black Hills is a fairly straightforward story. Boy meets girl (roughly a third of a novel's worth of past---talk about lead-up!) Boy and Girl are Separated by Fate. Boy comes back, still loves girl. Girl requires convincing. There is a past connection between the characters which explains their growing bond. Here's another one, from the more novice Elizabeth Dearl. Girl is new in town. Boy is not. Boy shows her the ropes. Peril brings boy and girl together.

My point is, there is a progression, a reason for them to get together beyond 'boy shows up at opportune moment, sees girl and falls instantly in love with her.' This, I felt, was missing in Black Silk.

Deepen the characters a little, stretch things, relax into the story and do another draft? Maybe we'd have something commercial-quality here. Maybe in the next book :) But for now, it;s right that this book is a free release.