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A fan of The Sentinel from its first episode, JET discovered TS fan fiction by chance while surfing the internet in 1998 and posted her first story in May of 1999. Since then she has written many beautiful stories which emphasize Jim and Blair's friendship. JET particularly enjoys writing smarm and drama stories, and as her readers will attest, these stories have many of us coming back for more. JET's Cascade Library listing currently includes 25 stories. Her stories are located at Starfox's Mansion.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, JET!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Let's see...I'm 42 years old and have been married to a wonderful man for the past seven years. I was born and raised in Georgia and have lived here my entire life. I'm wrapping up my twenty-first year in the classroom this spring. I tell you, that is hard to believe! For the past eleven years, I've been working with gifted students in both middle school and elementary school.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
Where to start? I grew up in a family of antique dealers - my grandparents, mother, and aunt. A few years ago, I started my own business, mostly operating booths in antique malls. I've just purchased a scanner, and I hope to start listing some of my items on eBay. So...I spend a lot of time at yard sales, flea markets, and auctions looking for my 'treasures.' It's such a thrill to find a real bargain! Just this month, on my way back from Charleston, SC, I stopped in a little junk shop. There was a Chinese export cup from the early 1800's. I'd just seen the cup and saucer sets in Charleston for $175.00 and up. I got the cup for $3.00! That's a collector's dream!
Besides antiques, I love to travel and read. I've been a musician all my life and love to play my guitar and hammered dulcimer. I'm also active in my church with its music program. I can't forget my 'babies'! We have four cats - Little Orphan Annie, Ashes, Smokey, and Bandit - and one very spoiled Chow Chow named Punkin.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
I loved the show from the premiere episode! I just happened across it that very first evening and was hooked. I've always been a sucker for 'buddy shows', and this one definitely had what it took to make me a loyal viewer.
What is your favorite episode and why?
This is a hard one! I guess it would have to be Blind Man's Bluff, and I know that's probably the most frequently chosen favorite episode. I think it showcased the relationship between Jim and Blair better than any other episode. Jim's reliance on Blair to guide him during his blindness, Blair's concern and willingness to help Jim continue on the case, that wonderful scene in Simon's office when Jim 'bops' Blair with the door, and, of course, the garage scene... All in all, a classic episode, and that's what makes a classic, right? Great character development, a good plot, and something that moves the viewer. BMB had it all.
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
That's a strange story! My husband and I were in a car wreck while on vacation in Florida in June of 1998. As a result, I had two knee surgeries, ACL transplants, and was out of work for nearly four months. I quickly burned out on daytime TV and turned to exploring the internet. As a matter of sheer luck, I found TSFF and was mesmerized! I had made up plots for my favorite shows since I was a child, and here was a whole world of people who loved to do the same thing! I had no idea such a thing existed. Needless to say, the rest of my recuperation was spent glued to the monitor.
Specifically, what was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?
It took me a couple of months to get the courage to post Affirmation. I had actually conceived of the plot during the first season of The Sentinel, but at the time, hadn't yet discovered TSFF. So, I had most of the plot written in my head long before I put fingers to the keyboard. I had no clue how to post, where to post, or anything at all about this wonderful world I was about to step into! Thankfully, an LoC I'd written to MegaRed resulted in a great on-line friendship, and she gave me the encouragement and advice I needed to take the plunge and post Affirmation. I have to admit, even after all my years of graduate school and writing and defending my dissertation, I was extremely nervous! It was so fufilling when that first positive feedback started coming in.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
I think I'd have to select A Matter of Perception, if only because it resolves the whole TSbyBS matter in a new light. (I won't go into detail in case some readers haven't read it yet. <g>) I didn't have a huge problem with Blair-as-cop, but I find it more interesting to write with Sandburg still in anthropology and teamed with Jim part time. It's that contrast which makes for such a fascinating relationship.
Which story are you most proud of?
Although my longer stories have taken more effort in terms of time, I think my best writing has been in the two Soliloquy pieces. I genuinely believe the muses were inspiring those two stories, perhaps with some whispering from Jim and Blair. The words just flowed, and I think they provide some interesting insights into the friendship.
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Which character is the easiest for you to write? Who is your least favorite?
Both Jim and Blair are easy for me to write, as is Simon. I 'see' the scenes playing out, as if on television, in my mind as I write, and the dialogue and action between them just seems to come easily. I love to write first person from Jim's point of view. I can write from Blair's POV, but I find it so easy to get inside Jim's head. Perhaps it's because I'm closer to his age or because I'm a fairly private person myself, but I identify well with his character. As far as difficulty, I have the most trouble writing believable villains! I don't do bad guys well, I'm afraid. (But, I'm working on it!)
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
Anyone who has read my stories knows this one! Smarm is definitely tops on my list. But, I love to see a good plot with the emotion. I've done a few 'smarm for the sake of smarm' stories, but I try to weave drama into the mix and have the hugs and h/c flow from the plot. I think my stories have touches of humor, but I haven't written a really humorous piece yet.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
My main reader is Danae. She's beta'd all my stories thus far, except those that I posted without being beta read. Danae is another teacher, and she's great at finding those little sentence structure things and spelling/punctuation errors. Plus, she doesn't mind pointing out when something just doesn't "work." Thanks, girl!
I also let MegaRed read over my stories, just for the input into how they're reading. Her comments are always valuable. Plus, I have two cyber friends, Laurence and Heidi, who usually get a first reading, too. I love to try out a new story and get feedback from them. Sometimes their comments lead to changes, but even more importantly, I get to find out how readers like the story - whether it's 'ringing true.'
In the Celtic Connection Trilogy, Jim and Blair go to Ireland and discover things about friendship. What inspired this series, and how did you discover the term Anam Cara?
My mother and I toured the British Isles during the summer of 1999. I fell in love with Ireland and the Irish people. It is such a gorgeous country and the people were so warm and welcoming! While riding the ferry across the Irish Channel to Ireland from Wales, I began playing around with the idea of bringing Jim and Blair to Britain and having a ferry accident involved.
While in Dublin, I bought a book on Celtic traditions, and it was there that I discovered the concept of Anam Cara. I was sitting by the window in our room late one evening, watching the sun setting over the mountains near Killarney, while I read about this exceptional view of friendship. I knew immediately that I'd found the basis for the first part of the story. If ever something was written to describe Jim and Blair's friendship, it is Anam Cara!
You've written two stories with MegaRed (Breaking Bread and Endureth for the Night). What are the most enjoyable things about co-writing?
Definitely bouncing ideas off each other! Our writing styles are very complimentary, so even when she writes one part and I do another, they seem to flow together well. Mega has great plot ideas and comes up with things I'd never considered. Our views of the relationship are very in synch, so we really think alike on where a story should go. She's a wonderful co-writer!
Readers often mention your smarm stories as favorites. Describe your favorite aspect of Jim and Blair's friendship. Do you find it easy to capture this in your stories?
My favorite aspect of the friendship has to be the trust and the interdependence between two such different men. It's been hard for me to deal with some of the plot twists given to us by the television show where Jim doubts Blair's loyalty. I've tried to take those moments and deal with them in my stories so that the friendship emerges stronger as a result of the conflict. I believe we're put on earth to learn from our mistakes, and if Jim doesn't learn from the errors he's made in his relationship with Blair, the friendship is doomed. Jim is a man raised to be independent and self-sufficient. His life experiences have reinforced that within him. Suddenly, he finds himself no longer able to survive alone. It's that conflict which causes problems in the friendship and makes writing for Jim so much fun! To admit that you need someone is to admit to your vulnerability, and there's nothing more appealing than a vulnerable, yet powerful man.
Do I find it easy to capture the emotion? Too easy, I'm afraid! Sometimes I have to watch myself to keep from going 'over the top' with the smarm. Believe me, it could get much worse if I didn't censor myself! I cut my writing teeth on imaginary plots for shows like Starsky & Hutch, so I've been doing this a long time!
I know that the show never ventured as far into smarm as I like to go, but this is fiction, right? I think most of us longed for more 'garage scene moments' on the series. Smarmy fiction just takes us where we wanted the show to go.
Hilltop Hour deals with Blair recovering with Jim's help after a serious injury and is a well-liked drama story by many. Did you find this story rewarding to write?
I hope this doesn't sound too self-serving, but I actually shed some tears myself writing that story, and I knew it would all be okay in the end! I'd played around with that plot in my head for years with various characters from different shows. It just seemed to fit Jim and Blair perfectly. I struggled with the title for weeks, then I found the Helen Keller quote. She is one of my personal heros, so I was delighted to be able to use her words for a title. After writing the final scene, I really felt pleased with the results. I think it is a strong story.
What inspired the story Restoration of Trust where Alex returns?
It was a challenge on Jen and Suzie's page. Like a lot of fans, I was disappointed that Jim never made a clear choice of Blair over Alex. I'd been mulling that challenge over for awhile, then I hit a dry spell with my original plots. I wanted the choice to be totally Jim's; that's why I wrote Blair as totally helpless.
How do you deal with writer's block?
Oh, I hate to even think this, much less write it down in black and white! It might jinx me! I'll whisper it...so far, I've never suffered writer's block with TSFF...
There. I admitted it. I've got so many plots whirling around in my head that I'll never have time for them all. I just got an idea for a song lyric story today driving home from school, so I'll have to add it to the list. I know the day will come, and I'll probably deal with it as I did in graduate school - take a long walk in the woods or sit by the creek for awhile and just let my mind wander. I find it's kind of like free association. If I just let my mind go where it will, the ideas will come. Also, it helps just to write. It doesn't really matter if the writing is good or bad, just get something down. Somehow that frees up my thoughts. Later, I might discard the whole mess, but it's served its purpose of getting the words flowing again.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Finding the time! Between work and my other interests, sometimes it's difficult just to find some uninterrupted free time. I don't like to write in short spurts. When I am ready to write, I want a long period to devote to my story. Fortunately, summer's on the way, and for a teacher, those are welcome words! I plan to get some quality writing time in during those weeks.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Definitely when I read back over something I've written and feel that it has really captured the characters or touched my emotions in some way. I love to write, and if a story 'feels' right to me, if it touches me, then that is a source of great satisfaction. If I don't like what I've written, I certainly can't expect others to enjoy it!
I'm also one of those rare writers who enjoys editing. (Maybe it's the English teacher coming out in me.) I usually print several hard copies of a story during the process of writing, then edit by hand numerous times before posting the final version. It's very time consuming, but it definitely improves a story. I get a lot of satisfaction in playing with words and phrases to find exactly the right way to express my characters' thoughts and emotions.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
I love getting feedback! I've been very fortunate not to have received many flames, and I am so pleased that readers seem to be moved by what I've written. Writing is hard work, and in fanfiction, feedback is the only 'payment' we receive. While I know I'd still be writing even without a lot of LoC's, they certainly do make the job more rewarding and enjoyable!
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Don't be afraid to try! I think that's the hardest part of writing - working up the courage to put what you've written out there for others to read. On the whole, TSFF readers are extremely encouraging, especially for new writers.
Find good beta readers, especially if grammar and sentence structure aren't your strong points. Don't let those little mistakes add up and ruin an otherwise good story.
Read a lot of fiction and take notice of how writers you enjoy develop their plots and characters. Don't hurry your story too much. Take the time to describe what's happening, to set up a scene, and to let the reader know what a character is feeling. I think the best stories paint a visual picture in the reader's mind, almost like watching the story is being acted out in the mind's eye.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
I'm not sure exactly which story was the first I read, but I know that Mega's stories were the first I found on the web. I think I started with her missing scenes, and it wasn't long before I was addicted!
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
Well, I didn't know it was called 'fanfiction' at the time, and there probably wasn't a name for it back then. That was in the Dark Ages, BC (Before Computers)! ~grin~ I was in junior high school in the early 1970's, and I kept a little notebook where I wrote scenes and scripts for my favorite TV shows. I think the first one was for The Streets of San Fransisco, a show with some pretty good emotional scenes, by the way. I also wrote some for Starsky & Hutch and Simon and Simon. Those were never read by outside eyes, and that's probably a very good thing! I really didn't do any fiction writing after high school until discovering TSFF last year, but I never quit writing in my head!
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
Anything with a good plot, well developed characters, that shows the friendship between Jim and Blair, and is well written. I enjoy everything from snippets and drabbles to missing scenes to long dramas. I know I'll leave out some of my favorite writers if I name them, so I won't try that here. I like stories that show that the author has spent time trying to make her/his story the very best it can possibly be, not just throw it together in order to post.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
I'm sure my regular readers can answer this one for me. It's the relationship, above all, which inspires my writing. Even the rocky spots in the road serve a purpose in that they remind us that no relationship ever goes smoothly all the time. Real life just isn't perfect, and neither are Jim and Blair.
I've also been delving more into the mystical side of the sentinel/guide relationship. I touched on this in Vision Quest and the Celtic Connection Trilogy, and I definitely see myself developing these ideas more in future stories.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses as a series?
The greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. What hooked all of us, I think, was the connection and chemistry between Jim and Blair. However, the show really never developed that relationship to its fullest potential. Looking at the older episodes, it was so refreshing to see that early magic between the guys which seemed to be missing in later shows. I think if the writers had followed through on the rich source material there, the show would have really developed into something very unique.
I wish that more had been done with the mystical aspects on television, as well. Personally, I loved those shows that gave us a glimpse of the spirit guides or the spiritual side of Jim's sentinel gifts. After all, this wasn't an ordinary character, and I think that those aspects of his abilities needed to be developed more completely.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
Definitely Jim. Don't get me wrong, I love Blair's character! But, to me, Jim is a character with many hidden aspects, many twists and turns. With him, you have to dig to get at what's really going on deep inside. That makes for a really interesting character. Maybe I identify more with Jim because I'm closer to his age and I'm more like him in personality.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
Wow! What an opportunity that would be! I think I'm writing something now which comes pretty close. It emphasizes the spiritual realm, delves deeply into the sentinel/guide connection, and has lots of action besides. I don't want to give too much away, though.
I'd also like to have an 'Alex returns' story, something longer than I did with Restoration of Trust. I think we need something more than just 'Barnes in the mental hospital' to close all the doors left open there. The same goes for TS by BS. I'd love to get my hands on the follow up to that one!
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
First, I'd like to see a return to the earlier closeness between the characters. I miss that old good natured teasing and gentle rough housing. Second, as I said earlier, more development of the mystical aspects of the show. Third, I think it would be good to get into the backgrounds of the characters; for instance, the mystery of Blair's father, where on earth Naomi gets the funds for her travels, and Jim's mother. I think it's through understanding characters that we grow to care for them. (As if we don't already!)
As far as general changes go, I'd like to see the secondary characters developed more. I'm not wild about Megan's character, but then I've never really liked bringing in a female character just for the sake of adding a woman to the cast of a male oriented, 'buddy' show. I loved Cagney and Lacey, so don't flame me here! I don't have anything against female leads! But I would like to see more of Brown, Rafe, and Taggert. Simon, too, of course.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
I think it will be Hilltop Hour. I've had more reaction to that one story than any of the others. Something about it seems to have touched people, and that's the greatest compliment any writer, especially this one, can be given.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
I hinted a little earlier about one. It's called Second Strike, and it's probably going to be my longest one yet. Kinda like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps growing and growing...
It's more AU than anything I've done so far, and right now, it's really taken on a life of its own in that it's leading me where it seems to want to go, rather than my having been able to follow any preconceived story line. It's not nearly completed yet, and with my penchant for rewriting and more rewriting, it will be some time before it's done. Here are a few teasers, though...the jungles of Peru, a Chopec shaman, a new sentinel, the U.S. military and an evil general, and plenty of h/c, angst, and smarm. Sound interesting? It follows the plot line I established in A Matter of Perspective, so it's already AU in the way it deals with the aftermath of TSbyBS.
Mega and I have been working more together, and I hope we'll have something ready for posting soon. It's her story line; I'm just adding some finishing touches.
I have some other fragments underway that I think will work out well, but nothing else anywhere close to being finished.
Last updated 5/1/00 clc