I have to say, the April Fool's front page for SugarQuill is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. Of course, it's ten times funnier if you're familiar with the standard FictionAlley front page, not to mention the differing attitudes of the two sites as to a) who Hermione ought to end up with romantically, Harry or Ron and b) whether Draco would look good in leather pants.

Fortunately, since I express no opinions on either issue in my fics, I'm free to archive my stories on both sites. But I have to confess my sympathies lean heavily toward the SugarQuill side on both counts. It's not so much that I care particularly about the romantic lives of Harry, Ron and Hermione; I figure JKR has her own ideas on that score and I'm perfectly content to wait and see what she has to say about it. And it's not that I have some personal investment in the idea that Draco is irredeemable and/or permanently consigned to unattractiveness. But although I've seen some very well-written H/H and Redeemed!Draco fics, with a fluid style and intriguing plot developments and considerable wit and inventiveness, there always seems to be something else about those stories that makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction.

I think it's the characterization -- for some reason, every time I read a Harry/Hermione fic, whether it's set during Hogwarts or afterward, I just don't recognize the characters (especially Hermione, it seems) as being the same ones I know from canon. They're too sophisticated, too beautiful, too gifted with unusual powers and talents far beyond the common lot of wizards. And many times the whole atmosphere of the H/H stories isn't the same as JKR's, or even close to it. It just doesn't read like a Harry Potter story: instead, it's a soap opera, or a spy thriller, or a lost episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer... or some combination of all three. Not to mention that Ron is continually cast as the evil betrayer, or else an insensitive jerk who isn't worthy of Harry's friendship and gets pushed into the background to make room for Draco. (This latter plot development I just cannot foresee, myself. Draco will become Harry's best friend on the day that Millicent Bulstrode becomes Hermione's.)

By contrast, the best R/H stories I've read have seldom been quite as exciting or ambitious as the most famous H/H ones, and yet to me they ring far more true. They make me feel as though I'm really at the canonical Hogwarts, or at the Weasleys' house, or somewhere else in the wizarding world I recognize from JKR's books. The characters are lovingly and accurately portrayed in dialogue and narrative, with all their faults and foibles intact. I get the impression that the writers really enjoy JKR's work the way it is, and don't feel the need to improve it by bringing in elements from other fandoms, or by rearranging the dynamics of the characters in some radical way. I can read these stories and easily suspend my disbelief; I can actually imagine that the events described in them really happened to the Trio I know from the books, or might happen to them in the future. And that, to me, is more important than any number of bizarre plot twists and shocking character revelations.
Wow, I've been totally spoiled by my friends and family today. Which is a good thing, because I'm feeling really awful with this cold and now it's turning into a nasty sore throat, and if it weren't for all the cheering-up I'd probably be curled up somewhere whining.

First thing in the morning, I got a lovely poem in my mailbox from my dear friend and faithful beta-reader Teri Krenek: "An Ode to Rebecca, On Her Birthday". Later on, her habitual co-author (and yet another of my collect-a-betas) Alec Dossetor helped her revise it, but I like the original version just as much as the revision, personally. Anyway, they were both very sweet and very flattering. Thanks, guys.

Then, later in the day, I came home from visiting my parents to find another literary surprise: Erica Smith, another wonderful beta and friend, had written yet another of her Snape-POV "outtakes" to my story If We Survive. In this case, it's a look into Snape's thoughts and feelings in the final chapter -- yes, that final chapter. But like everything Erica writes, it's witty and literate and very tastefully done.

Anyway, here it is: An Expansion: So Let Us Melt. And if you like it, please do tell Erica so -- she's scandalously under-reviewed, if you ask me.
Wah, now I'm going to get all sucky. My husband, who's been on the road since early Wednesday morning, just called and said he's been delayed and won't get home until Saturday night. Which means I'll be all alone, and stranded at home without a personal vehicle*, on my birthday. Boo hoo. Poor me.

OK, that's over now. :) On a more positive note, I've already had some nice reviews for Ties That Bind, and Hillary (the webmistress at Credit Dauphine) is promising to put it in the Reviewed Stories section of the site, which means she really likes it. Yay!
--
*If you are a crazed net.stalker, don't let this give you any bright ideas. We still have a 6'2", 280-pound bachelor friend living in the basement.
For the sake of those (kindly and flatteringly) pestering me about various stories and works in progress, I thought I'd post a complete update on the status of all my projects:

1. Harry Potter fics

My half of Lessons has a good chance of getting finished some time in the next, oh, maybe six weeks or so. After that, you'll have to pester Erica instead.

The untitled Snapelets fic is on indefinite hold. I am still thinking about it, quite often in fact; but the more I think about it the more it looks like turning into an angst-ridden epic. I can't see getting anything that ambitious finished in the next two and a half months, and as soon as the new baby is born, I am going to be on indefinite hold myself, so...

2. Other Fanfics

Sincere apologies to my fellow X-Philes, but I don't see myself even working on, let alone finishing, Incarnations (the overly ambitious sequel to Possessions) now. It seems to have become a story in search of a plot, or at least a crisis -- and my enthusiasm for XF really waned after David Duchovny left the show. *cringes* Sorry. Maybe if you just sort of imagine what happened next...?

Treading onto the more fertile ground of ALIAS fic, I am still desperately fending off a plot bunny about what happened to Vaughn's tie (and the consequences thereof) after the events of "The Box, Part II". Maybe if I can write it up as a really fluffy bunny, instead of turning it into a full-blown action-adventure story, it'll be short enough that I won't feel guilty playing with it. Yeah. Right.

On the Doctor Who front, I've never really lost interest in the Eleventh Doctor and Thea, but the last project I was writing them into seems to have stalled (see Incarnations, above). Urk.

3. Original Works

Okay, so maybe The Case of the Winning Woman (I really need to change that title) doesn't exactly count as "original" since it's a Sherlock Holmes novel. But unlike my fanfic it actually stands a chance of getting published for profit. Anyway, I definitely haven't given up on this one, but continuing it past Chapter Six (sorry, only the first three chapters are available on the web) will require research, and that's something I haven't time to do right now. Try me again in another five years. :)

My epic fantasy Sevenstone is also worth continuing, I think, but again, it requires more mental energy (if not research in the same sense) than I have to give right now. See note at end of last entry.

And finally, my completed fantasy novel Knife (not available online) was revised recently with the help of the admirable and ever-encouraging Alec Dossetor. As such it ought to be making the rounds of publishers and/or agents, and it would be, if I weren't so dratted lazy. Plus I hate having editors or agents sit on the manuscript for 6-12 months at a time before telling me that gee, they really like it, but they just can't snap it up right now... Sigh.

Of course, those are just the projects people reading this blog might conceivably know about and/or have read bits of. I'm not even going to start talking about the status of my modern mystery novel, or my 12th-century historical / Robin Hood with a twist novel, or...

Obviously, I am not short of ideas.
I am once more indebted to Erica Smith for finding another amusing URL -- in this case a Markov Chain text randomizer -- running a few paragraphs of my Snapefic "The Potions Master's Apprentice" through it, and sending me this gem of a result:

"Miss Moody is a scone, Severus," said Dumbledore, calmly pouring the other Hogwarts houses.

Of course, I knew it all along.

You can try it yourself, with any bit of prose or poetry you like, at Doctor Nerve's Markov Page.
OK, here's a short list of my very favorite HP fics -- the ones that have really captured my interest, fired my imagination, and on the whole made me believe that I was in JKR's world, reading a new story about the characters I've come to know and love through her books. They also have a personal appeal to me on a philosophical level, in that many of them invite the reader to seriously consider moral issues in the course of reading the story (which is not to say that any of them are tedious moralizing lectures; far from it).

Having said all that, I know I'm going to leave out at least one really brilliant fic and kick myself over it later, so this list is prone to updates without notice. Here we go, again in no particular order:

Anything and everything by Erica H. Smith. Denizen of the Deep is a thoroughly delightful fairy tale centring around one of my favorite minor HP characters. Paraphrase: Sublunary is an addendum to Chapter 6 of my own fic If We Survive and a superb character study of Snape. Postscript: Like Gold, which takes place a few months after the end of If We Survive, made me cry with happiness the first three times I read it. And then there's Erica's wonderful trilogy crossing the HP universe with the works of SF author Lois McMaster Bujold, which even non-Bujoldians can understand, but which fans of LMB will most enjoy and appreciate: Marks and Scars, Without Enchantment and No Great Magic. Erica's work is lyrical, witty, and at times deeply moving. And I'd better shut up about it or I won't have time to list the rest of my favorites before bedtime.

Harry Potter and the Heir of Slytherin by DrummerGirl. DrummerGirl writes the most authentically JKR-ish style I've ever seen, and this novel-length fic really has the feel of a genuine Year 5 story -- and yet it's full of fascinating original ideas and introduces us to at least one truly likeable and plausible new character. If it runs afoul of the occasional fanfic cliche, at least it's honestly done -- the author hadn't read any other HP fanfics when she wrote the outline for hers.

Imperius Quidditch by Alec Dossetor and Teri Krenek. A superb character study of the young Tom Riddle, and of the challenges and temptations of power. Plus, the whole idea of Imperius Quidditch is the most brilliantly original concept I've seen in a long, long time. Don't be misled by the leisurely, rather old-fashioned tone of the opening paragraphs: this is a fast-paced, gripping story.

Down from the Tree: Actions by Melissa A. A marvellous story, particularly when read in tandem with Arabella's sequel Down from the Tree: Consequences: it provides a very plausible scenario for what happened on the night Sirius pulled the infamous stunt that almost got Snape killed. Smooth storytelling, wonderful characterization, and a very balanced portrayal of a situation that has previously tended to polarize fans.

The More Is My Unrest by Jedi Boadicea and Arabella. This is the one and only truly plausible, canon-consistent Draco/Ginny fic I have ever read. Although it isn't really D/G. Just go read it, you'll see what I mean. The characterization of Draco is wonderful -- not in the least glamorized or white-washed, and yet at the same time it's hard not to feel for him.

Acts of Necessity by Jedi Boadicea. This is the funniest humorous fic I've ever read, and contains absolutely brilliant, bang-on portrayals of both Severus Snape and Gilderoy Lockhart, in a socially awkward situation that results in Lockhart getting a delicious and well-deserved comeuppance. I found it both hilarious and enormously satisfying.

And now I have to go to bed, so any more recommendations will have to wait for another time!
One of my readers, Ana, asked in her comments on a recent post:

"Do you have favorite HP fanfiction?"

Why, yes indeed, I do. And actually, I've been meaning to post a list of my HP fanfic faves, as well as to talk a little about what I look for in fanfic generally and HP fanfic in particular, so I might as well do it now... thanks for asking, Ana.

I realize that tastes and priorities vary with the individual reader (and all the more when that reader is also an author), and that just because I think a story is exceptionally well-written and worthy of reading doesn't mean that everybody else is going to feel the same way. On the other hand, I do think there are some legitimate standards for a well-written story of any kind, which my favorite HP fanfics meet and others (regardless of how popular they might be among fans generally) do not. Here they are, in no particular order:

Originality of thought. By this I mean that the author has striven to avoid cliches (especially the cliches endemic to the particular genre or sub-genre) or else put a new twist on the old ideas that makes them seem fresh again. But even more importantly, I also mean that the author has not succumbed to the temptation to recycle other people's material. When a large part of the plot or characterization or humour in the fic derives from other sources, I lose my respect for a story, and I also lose respect for the author.

Canonicity of spirit. This does not mean that the author sticks slavishly to JKR's writing style and type of content, but it does mean that the author shows knowledge of and respect for what JKR has written and strives to make the story consistent with the world and characters JKR has created. By all means, let's have Year 7 fics, beyond-Hogwarts fics, even alternate-universe fics; but my suspension of disbelief does depend heavily upon being able to find something I recognize in the story as being akin to JKR. If a fanfic is populated with OC's named Alyssa and Brendan, or the canonical characters are all living the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (complete with high-powered careers, glamorous fashions, perfect hair and unlikely romantic entanglements), and/or the story is riddled with references to Muggle pop culture, I find it extremely hard to suspend disbelief or enjoy the story. All those things are so antithetical to the spirit of what JKR has written, it makes me wonder why the author didn't just write some other kind of story entirely.

Consistency of characterization. Not only is it important that the characters should think and behave consistently within the fic itself, but I believe they ought to be consistent with the characters as JKR wrote them. This is certainly not to say that a canonical character, viewed from a perspective other than Harry's, might not turn out to have hidden depths and qualities that JKR hasn't (yet) revealed to us -- in fact, that idea is fundamental to my own Snapefics. But if you're going to write Snape, you need to take into account the character as JKR's already written him, and you need to be prepared to address his unpleasant qualities and attitudes, not just gloss over them. And if you're going to write Hermione five years after Hogwarts, yes, it is true that people do change and grow and mature with the years -- but they don't alter into complete unrecognizability, and even an older Hermione should have some "grace notes" of speech and habit that make her recognizable as the girl we know from canon. Otherwise, how am I going to believe that these are the same people I know and love from JKR's stories? Just assigning the name "Snape" or "Hermione" to a character, or throwing in one stereotypically recognizable trait (Snape is sarcastic, Hermione is intellectual) isn't enough.

Solidity of plot. This is not to confuse "plot" with "action". As Aristotle observed, "Character is plot," and it is possible to write an excellent fic which consists of nothing more than one character sitting around and thinking, or two characters talking. But even so, the story should be about something, and a fic which wanders around all over the place while the author writes scenes that she (or the fans) are begging for but which do nothing to provide significant information to the reader or otherwise advance the action, is a badly written fic. Unfortunately, there are a lot of otherwise promising stories which do exactly this, stretching a five or ten-chapter concept into twenty or thirty chapters, and making it very difficult for the reader to follow the main plot, or even determine what the plot actually is. (I seem to be reading several of these at the moment.)

I have a lot more thoughts on this subject, but I've already gone on at ridiculous length, so I'll have to leave them for another blog. Anyway, next up I'll make a post listing some of what I think are the very best HP fanfics, and providing links to same.
Nicholas has gone to bed, so I finally can write something that might conceivably interest my readers, if I have any (peers sceptically into distance).

Now that I'm finished War Wounds, I have a couple of other HP fics in mind, at least one of which I hope to have written before the new baby arrives in early June. (BTW, if anybody is wondering why I keep putting in the Sugar Quill links for my stories instead of the FictionAlley links, it's because the SQ one is the only one I can remember off the top of my head, and I'm just too lazy to go and look the other up.)

The first fic, which I've already written quite a bit on, is tentatively called Lessons and is a collaboration with Erica H. Smith, a dear friend and an absolutely magnificent author (if you have not read her fics, go now!). It concerns Snape and Maud, and takes place nearly a year after the events of If We Survive, but that's about all I'll say just now.

The other fic... well, that involves a spoiler for "Lessons" that I don't feel like giving out just yet. I am hoping it won't turn into a trilogy on me or anything unworkable like that, but it will also involve Snape and Maud, though in a more peripheral role (neither one will be the narrator, in any case). And it'll take place quite some time after anything else I've written. More I cannot say. Well, I can, but I won't. Not even if you put me in the Comfy Chair and poke me with soft cushions until I confess.
Oh, how I love Sugar Quill... I only sent them the final version of this story an hour ago and it's already up.

I'm pleased to announce the posting of my latest fic set in the Harry Potter universe, called "War Wounds". It's a relatively short, single-chapter piece concerning Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Imogen Crump after the events of "If We Survive". Since it features my most flagrant May-December romance pairing to date, probably most of the reviews I'll get will consist of the words "Ewwy!" or "How squicky!" but oh, well.
Hubby just came home with a remote-controlled Porsche for Nicholas. (Or at least it's supposed to be for Nicholas. I have my doubts.) Anyway, he's now rushed off to Giant Tiger to buy batteries so he -- I mean Nicholas -- can play with his new toy.

I just went ego-surfing on Google and found a bunch of reviews for my Snapefics that I hadn't seen before. I must say, there's something especially gratifying about writing Harry Potter fanfic; I never had half so many comments on my Doctor Who, Star Trek or even X-Files stories.

Tonight's Dinner: Spaghetti (with my patented chunky meat sauce) and garlic bread.
Ahh, that was a nice nap. And Nicholas is still sleeping...

For those who don't already know, I finished my latest story last night and am ever so happy to have it done. It's a post-Darkness and Light story about Mad-Eye Moody and Imogen Crump, called "War Wounds". Once it's been approved by my intrepid team of stunt betas and edited accordingly, I'll put it up for all to see.

Currently Munching: Three squares of bittersweet TRADER JOE's chocolate, gift of a grateful D&L fan. Thank you, Jo Pitesky. Yum.

Nicholas just woke up. More later.

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