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It was a lucky day for our fandom when Lois Balzer, a veteran professional writer and fan writer in several other fandoms, was introduced by a friend to The Sentinel. A person who has been writing since childhood, Lois wrote her first Sentinel fan fiction story in July 1997. This author's specialties are long, case-driven stories and missing scenes infused with the friendship of Jim and Blair. Besides writing stories for publishing on the internet, she has published several fanzines for The Sentinel and other fandoms containing her work and the work of other authors.
Lois has also made significant contributions to our fandom besides writing fan fiction. Many fans who have visited Vancouver, British Columbia where The Sentinel is filmed have had the pleasure of meeting this lady and enjoying her and her house-mate Cathy Mayo's famous tour of sites seen on the show. For those people who haven't been able to visit Vancouver in person, Lois has constructed a virtual tour of sites in Vancouver (located at her Sentinel page) and of the set at Pet Fly studios. In December 1998, she also helped make Henri Brown's Senti-mental Christmas CD a reality, a project which allowed fans to enjoy songs and holiday greetings from the Sentinel cast and crew.
Lois's Cascade Library story listing reflects quite a few long pieces, many of which are organized into trilogies. She is currently posting her 15th TS story, No Center Line, in parts.
Thanks, Lois, for everything!
Lois, tell us about yourself.
I'm 42 years old, work as an Administrative Assistant at a large Vancouver elementary school. I'm divorced (was previously married for 15 years to a musician). I have two cats, no kids, and a red Jeep Cherokee.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
In fanfiction, I have written more Star Trek Original Series and Man from U.N.C.L.E. than I have Sentinel. I love to write! It's a passion I've had since I was in grade three. I've written media fiction since then...
In other writing, I've submitted my first scripts this year, and I have also begun work on a theological textbook on "The Nature of God as Father".
I have taught various subjects for adults, such as creative writing, theology, and computers.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
I first heard about the show when a friend sent me a video of the first six episodes. I didn't watch it until I went to MediaWest and several young girls said I had "Blair hair", then showed me a picture of a rather emancipate young man looking as though he was about to faint. It didn't interest me at all!
A month after I got back from MediaWest, I decided to watch the tape while cleaning up, and ended up watching all the episodes in one sitting. Then watching it again with Cathy. We were hooked.
For Cathy's birthday that year, I arranged a tour of Pet Fly for her, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is your favorite episode and why?
Love and Guns. I love the range of emotions of both actors.
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
After only watching six episodes, I wrote Surveillance when I heard about the smarm challenge.
What was it like to post your first story?
Scary. I was very nervous since I hadn't read much TS fanfic, and I had only seen a few episodes. I was worried that maybe I would get something wrong with the characters.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
I guess the two longer ones -- Some are Silver, The Others Gold and No Center Line.
Which character do you most enjoy writing?
I love Jim and writing from Jim's POV.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
Drama and missing scenes (smarm is a given...)
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
Joanne Godwin is my main beta reader now, although Cathy Mayo and Anonymeek have also betaed my stories. Kitty betaed my early TS stories. Joanne has a wonderful way of pushing me to tell my story, challenging ideas, etc., as well as correcting my grammar and spelling. (I know the rules, but, typically, can never find my own mistakes.)
You live in Vancouver where The Sentinel is filmed. What is that like, and how does it affect your writing?
Obviously the locations are easier to picture! I usually pick a site I've been to.
Most TS fanfic writers don't live in Vancouver — what are some tips you could give them about common faux pas made in writing the city of Cascade?
Weather is a big one. Everyone knows it rains in Vancouver, but it's often strange hearing about blizzards (it rarely snows here at all!), tornadoes (never), and heat waves (!!) We *do* get wind storms and hurricanes, we are in an earthquake zone, and flooding is often a problem.
Many Sentinel fans who have visited Vancouver have had the privilege of taking your and Cathy Mayo's famous Sentinel tour. How many tours have you done so far?
What's your favorite part of the tour, and what places would you especially recommend to the TS fanfic writer?
That's hard to say, as it differs from group to group. I enjoy the university, and also the outside of "the loft" and the area around it. Lately we've taken people to the Russian submarine and Jim's father's house, which are very close to where we live.
As for the fanfic writer... I think the general feel of Vancouver itself is important, as it is clearly felt on the series. Although we are in the northwest, there are beautiful beaches surrounding the city, lots of sailing, and the mountains ... lots of parks. This is a major part of the city, and often "shown off" in TS.
Your story Some Are Silver, the Others Gold deals with a pretty heavy topic. What inspired you to choose the plot?
From 1994 to 1996, I lived in a government Safe House working as a police liaison. These are women who are in hiding for various reasons, some being relocated by the government. Needless to say, it was interesting work, but very sad. Some of the stories I heard would never be believed. Both Silver and Gold and No Center Line touch on some of the dark areas that I dealt with victims, although I haven't taken any one specific person's story.
Tell us about the idea of "15 minutes" and what prompted you to come up with it.
I didn't see Sandburg as being someone who would willingly let himself be cared for. He was far too independent and self-sufficient for that. It would be difficult for him to ask for help, especially if he was hurting emotionally. I had a friend many years ago who came up with this and used it on me, and it worked, surprisingly. I've used it on others and found that people who have had to take care of themselves all their lives have difficulty in letting down those barriers. The fear of "breaking down" altogether is what keeps them from trusting. The concept of "15 Minutes" was so that you knew you had the freedom to 'disengage' from being dependent at a fixed time. You could let yourself be vulnerable. You know you have succeeded when someone recognizes (as Sandburg does in Double Room) that they need "15 Minutes" and the value of asking for it, knowing it will be freely offered.
What's your take on the Sentinel-Guide connection between Jim and Blair, and how has that been worked into your stories?
In the Bible, there is a wonderful story of David and Jonathan, two men who very passionately loved and cared for one another. "And the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and he loved him as himself..." I see them as "knitted souls", where together they are greater than either would be individually. While both are strong and independent, each meets the needs of the other in a very natural, bonding kind of way.
Tell us about your Feet on the Couch series of missing scenes.
I love the episode Sweet Science because when I saw Ellison curled up on the couch asleep, I figured how far he had come from the first episode. I wanted to give my 'take' of how Blair ended up at the loft, and why he was still there.
What inspired you to write the covenant ceremony in Promises in the Dark: Legacy Concluded?
Again, back to David and Jonathan. They made a very passionate covenant to each other, and I figured Blair especially would feel the need to make a covenant to his sentinel.
Tell us a little about your S2 trilogy. What were your favorite parts, and how would you compare it to the actual conclusion?
When I wrote the trilogy, I already knew what S2P2 was going to be, so my stories were made to fit into it and answer the questions not answered in S2P2. The trilogy takes place before Jim leaves for Mexico and the episode left it very vague as to how much time has gone by. The brief hospital scene in S2P2 fits in Primary Focus -- just watch it thinking that Blair is seeing the jungle...
You're writing a intriguing series called No Center Line right now. What inspired you to do this story? Do you have an idea of how long it's going to be?
No Center Line takes place immediately *after* S2P2, which gave me a chance to do missing scenes from that episode. As for what inspired it, I have always been extremely impressed with the relationships on Nash Bridges. Nash and Joe are close on screen as TS viewers wish Jim and Blair were. Their verbal and nonverbal expressions of love for each other are on almost every episode and they have gone undercover as a gay couple on several occasions. The other two male regulars, Evan and Harvey, have a mirror relationship to Nash and Joe, extremely close, discussing very personal issues and are physically comfortable with each other. The storyline on Nash Bridges has Evan dating Nash's daughter, which has put a level of tension between the two.
I had an idea for a TS story, but soon found myself wondering how Nash would have handled the situation if it had been Evan that was kidnapped and I found I couldn't picture it as clearly as I could see how Jim would handle it. So I decided to write that into No Center Line. Nash learning from Jim and Blair's relationship and how Jim allowed Blair to take comfort when *Blair* needed it, not when *Jim* felt a need to give it.
It should be about ten chapters, plus the prologue and epilog. It'll be in a zine called Knitted Souls #7 - No Center Line, illustrated by Warren Oddsson, and should be available by the beginning of May.
You've written stories for several other fandoms. Tell us about your fan fiction outside The Sentinel.
Man from U.N.C.L.E. has long been a favorite. I've written nine MFU fan-novels so far, and hope to do another one this summer. I also enjoy writing "Classic Trek". I think my Kirk & Chekov storylines are often similar to "Ellison & Sandburg". I have always written "buddy" stuff and h/c. I enjoy reading Starsky and Hutch and Professionals as well.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
A "Classic Trek/Here Comes the Brides" crossover back around 1970 or so.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
Kris Williams' stories.
You've published a number of fanzines. Tell us about that, and any fanzines you have planned in the future.
I've published about 25 fanzines. The ones still available are listed at my Oddbalz & Mayhem site. This year I published Second Chance, a ST:TOS novel I wrote. I plan to publish Knitted Souls #7 - No Center Line (TS), Smarm #1 (TS - compilation of internet stories -various authors), The Changeling (MFU, volume nine of my series), and Knitted Souls #8 (TS).
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Get a good beta reader. Learn punctuation. If your show takes place in a certain country, try to use the lingo of that country.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Finding time to do so.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Finishing that first draft of the complete novel. It's just the beginning of fixing the story, but then you know it *will* be finished one day.
What is it about The Sentinel and Jim/Blair/Simon that inspires you to write?
The friendship between them. The idea of destiny.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses as a series?
Strengths: the characters. Weaknesses: writing for too vast an audience. Trying to please everyone.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
Depends on the day. Usually Jim.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
Wait till next season.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
In TS fanfic? I think I've had the most feedback on River's Edge, mainly because it introduced the idea of 15 minutes. The other story I've had feedback on is Silver and Gold.
What do you think the future of TS fanfic will hold, in both online and 'zine fandom?
I can see it tapering off once the series goes off the air, but like Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Classic Trek, (now off the air over 30 years) there will always be stories out there!
Last updated 7/4/00 clc