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An avid science fiction fan, Shallan started watching The Sentinel during second season after she happened to catch a rerun of Cypher. After watching Sentinel Too Part 1, she wrote her first Sentinel fanfic, Guide's Choice, as a response to the cliffhanger and news of the show's cancellation. Shallan particularly enjoys writing drama stories which focus on Jim and Blair's relationship and their roles as sentinel and shaman, and is a member of Black Panther Productions' virtual season team. Shallan's Cascade Library listing currently includes six of her eight stories. Her stories are located at Wolfpup's Den.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Shallan!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Let's see...just a little bit? Okay, I'll try. I'll admit that I'm still single (much to the chagrin and heartache of my mother) and doing okay with that status, but would consider a change when/if the right man comes along. While human children are not a part of my life, nor do I desire any, I am raising two cats, Sabrina and Remington, that are about as bad as children and tend to be almost as expensive. I should be allowed to use them as tax deductions. <grin>
Professionally, I'm a member of the Air National Guard and will complete 18 years in September. For a full-time job, I've worked for the Air Guard as a Federal employee for over 15 years and still don't know where the time has gone. Up until 31 December 1997, I had spent my whole life living in Springfield, Illinois and was a member of the Guard there. Then, fate stepped in and allowed me to get a full-time job with the Colorado Air Guard, buy a nice house in a small town south of Denver and be able to live near the mountains I fell in love with 17 years ago. The military had sent me to a base in Denver for 14 weeks to get my specialty training. This 'flat-lander' knew she had to find a way to move out here.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
I won't say work, though it does seem to take up a lot of my time and I do enjoy it most of the time. However, I love horseback riding and had been leasing a horse for a while. When I retire, I'll finally own one. Then there is working out, partly to keep in shape for the Guard, but also because it feels good. Then after that is working on my yard, roller blading and reading whatever science fantasy book I can get my hands on.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
Strangely enough, it wasn't until the end of the second season. The cable system back in Springfield wasn't much to brag about. There weren't any UPN channels. However, I was surfing the channels one night and came across a repeat of the Cypher episode on FOX. After that, I scoured the TV Guide for other times the show was aired. Several months later, I bought a satellite dish. It was mainly to get the Sci Fi channel, but I also found UPN and The Sentinel. I've been hooked ever since.
What is your favorite episode and why?
I can't really say that I have "one" favorite episode. As others have said, I like Siege and Cypher. But I also like Blind Man's Bluff, Survival and Flight to name a few. Why? With all except Siege, I've loved the interaction between Jim and Blair. Growing up with three older brothers, and having worked in a field in the Guard where I was the only female around, I understand how they are with themselves, each other, their jobs and their lives. Definitely not fakey like many of those dumb sitcoms.
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction? Specifically, what was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?
Oh, I love telling this story. I've been writing fan fiction every since I was a young girl, only they didn't call it that back then. But as for writing TS, I was at a Hispanic Heritage seminar in San Diego, California. My job at that time was as the Equal Employment Opportunity Manager for the Guard. Anyway, I had left a small reception (cocktails and snack foods) since I knew the finale for the third season was on that night. I had the VCR programmed back home, but I didn't want to wait until I got there to see it. When Blair couldn't be revived and those three horrible words flashed upon the screen, "To Be Continued," I almost freaked. I hoped that there wasn't anyone in the rooms next to me to hear my language or anger. Then, the next day, I already had started in my mind an alternate conclusion. However, when I read in the USA Today that UPN had cancelled TS, I started writing. Guide's Choice was pretty much written, in long hand, in one day. To say the least, I didn't pay too much attention to the speakers at the different seminars. And posting it on the Internet scared the hell out of me. I realized that this story wasn't for a college course, to be seen by one person that I knew, or just something that I was going to lock away with my other notebooks. I was putting something I wrote from my heart out to be viewed by who knows how many people. It wasn't until I started receiving very positive feedback that I finally calmed down. I still get very nervous every time I have a story posted.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
One that *I* would pick is Duty, Honor, Country, mainly because of the military bend to it. Having a chance to display my knowledge of the military kept the plot flowing for me. But then, I also created a little more history of Jim, gave what I thought to be a plausible view of how comfortable Jim and Blair are with living together, and a way that both could show their loyalty and friendship.
However, as to which story would probably be best as a real episode, I would have to choose the one I wrote for Black Panther Productions, To Boldly Go. I wrote it by visualizing how it would look on screen. I can still easily 'hear' the voices and 'see' the action.
Which story are you most proud of?
I'm proud of all of them. But to choose one, it would have to be The Bond. It was what I wanted to happen to Alex, but the main thing was to get Jim and Blair together and really going with their partnership. It was my way of them being able to voice their feelings (hard thing for Jim) and accept their inevitable place as sentinel and shaman. Then there was the temple from Sentinel, Too, Part 2. It was just some place in the jungle that could have been ransacked and destroyed any time. I wanted the place of Jim and Blair's bonding to be very special and have a reason for Simon to be a part of the mix. I also wanted the area in Peru to be believable as well as the shaman info and ceremonies. It took some deep research and equally deep contemplation on what Jim and Blair were going to end up with.
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Who is your least favorite?
I enjoy writing Jim because he is so easy for me. He's like so many of the guys that I've worked with on a daily basis and still have to interact with now. I understand where he's coming from and why he acts like he does. Other writers think he's an unfeeling jerk who doesn't deserve a friend like Blair. I feel he's a true creation of what his background created. I know that I'm not the same person that I was from high school. The military does change you. As for my least favorite, I'd rather say which is the hardest to write and that is Megan. To me, it is hard to write using female that has a strong character and not have her considered a...I won't use the word, but its another term for female dog. Like Cassie was written. Megan is too multi-dimensional and I don't think I can do her justice.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
Well, looking at what I've written so far, it would have to be drama, but with a twist. I've read and watched enough mystery stories to be able to figure out, most of the time, 'who's done it' or which characters are going to be killed off before the ending. As several readers have told me, they've thought I was going to take my story in one direction, then threw them for a loop. But I have to admit that it's my muse that does that. For example, in Duty, Honor, Country, Jim McLin was going to be a bad guy. However, after the car accident and his confrontation with Jim in the hospital, my muse told me to change him to who he finally became. Glad I listened to 'her', too. I would like to write a crossover some day. My problem is that the only other shows that I really are into as intensely as TS are futuristic or science fiction or old time westerns. I did love Nash Bridges until they killed off Evan Cortez and The Others wasn't on long enough for me to really to get to know their characters. But who knows. My muse might give me a good crossover idea one of these days.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
My first and foremost is Cindy Combs. She's not really a beta to me, but I ask her to read the stories even before I'm finished to see if they are making any sense. We tend to be on the same wavelength. She's the one I first wrote to when I found out that there was such a thing as fan fiction, thoroughly enjoying her TS/MacGyver crossovers. She was also the one who convinced me to post Guide's Choice, helps me bounce around ideas for other stories and encourages me when I get a bad case of the 'I'm not good enough' with writing. As for others, I was using Kelly Meding at first. She taught me a whole lot about punctuation, especially commas. And then there was the bad habit I had with using certain combos of words excessively. I'm so grateful for the education and all of her great help. Now I'm using a wonderful lady by the name of Zerena Rae. She was assigned to me, to be one of my editors for my second story with Cascade Virtual Tales, by Cindy. I didn't think it was right to pick my own. I really enjoy the style that she uses to edit, she is VERY fast and accurate, and she's not a writer herself. Maybe the last is the best part. I know that when I'm being beta for another, I struggle to keep from imposing my style on that other writer.
Guide's Choice was written after Sentinel Too Part 1. What inspired you to take the route that Blair's returning from death was largely his own choice? What role did you see Incacha's character having in Blair's growth as a shaman?
I've always believed that while there is some type of 'plan' for all of us, we each have the final choice as to what we will do and the direction our lives will take. We can accept that a...higher power, if you will, knows what is going on and gives us the opportunity to choose the direction in which to accomplish it. We can make the choice or believe that we aren't given a choice and just accept whatever happens as fate. I felt that Blair could have accepted that he was dead and it was his fault with Alex. But I wanted him to be a stronger person and make a decision about what *he* wanted, or I should say, was supposed to do. Maybe because of some stories that I've read have him *seem* to be weak. I also considered it a way that both Jim and Blair could get their eyes opened completely with how their lives are supposed to be spent together. Incacha was the first step, putting Jim onto the path of being a sentinel. William Ellison had pretty much destroyed that as was pointed out in the series. Then Incacha pointed out to Blair that Jim was now his responsibility. In many cultures, a shaman is a teacher and a guide to the village and its tribe. By making Blair Jim's shaman, passing on to him the 'way of the shaman', solidified Blair's role as Jim's teacher and guide. It was something he'd been preparing for all of his life. It was also a good way to correct what his upbringing with Naomi and her nomadic ways taught him. Nothing changes you more than to be given or to have placed with you the responsibility of another.
Tell us about the special bond Jim and Blair have in your stories and how it changes their relationship.
I have always wanted to have that one person I could trust above all else and depend on when others are against me. To find the soulmate that so many authors tell us are out there for us. I saw that type of partnership with Jim and Blair from the very beginning with Switchman and the stories afterwards. From the start, Blair was willing to risk his life for Jim and Jim, in turn, would do all possible to protect Blair. So, I 'created' an invisible bond between the two men to help them realize and accept that they are supposed to be together. Soulmates, even those that are not of a sexual nature, are supposed to be able to recognize that there is a connection between them. I just made mine a little more solid, though only on the spirit plane. Then there is the fact that Jim keeps an unconscious tab on his friend and partner. I consider this a positive display of his sentinel nature and acceptance of their bond.
What did you think of The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg? Would you have done anything differently to end the series?
Cindy Combs and I've discussed this many times, especially when we get emails from people saying they can never read our stories again because we made Blair a cop. I thought it was VERY inevitable and necessary. Jim has already made his choice to be a sentinel...twice, even. Blair was being a cop and Jim's partner for quite some time, but he was trying to live in two worlds and he needed to make the choice as to which path he was going to take. What's so hard with believing that he would choose Jim? While I can understand the desire to complete a college degree and get that piece of paper that sometimes helps you get a job (I finally completed my Master Degree after eight years of a class here and there and two years for the thesis), I truly believe that Blair wanted to be with Jim. He didn't go with Dr. Stoddard to Borneo because he realized that their friendship was more important than his education. He was also willing to destroy his dissertation in Night Shift because their friendship was more important than some paper. However, I would like for Blair to find a reason to take Chancellor Edwards down a peg or two. I remember reading a story, and I apologize for not remembering which is was or who wrote it, where Jim helped Blair clean out his office at Rainier. Edwards entered the office and, not knowing Jim was there, implied that she expected Blair to actually steal some of the artifacts he had in his care. Then Jim made his presence known, looking like death incarnate and making Edwards feel like a slug. I would have liked to have some type of scene like that at the end of the episodes. While I don't think it would have helped change the minds of those who refuse to accept the episode, it would sure give me some pleasure.
The piece Choice Reflection helps transition your post-TSbyBS stories into those in which Blair joins the police force. What prompted you to choose to have Blair become a cop?
As I said earlier, I believe it was inevitable. In Switchman, when Jim told Taggart that Blair as his partner, Blair asked if he was going to get a badge. In Finkleman's Folly, Blair is right there with Jim on a stake-out despite being removed as an observer, and Taggert is apologizing left and right about not wanting to take Blair's place as Jim's partner. But my having Blair becoming a cop does not mean that Blair will turn into a Jim Ellison or any other cop in the precinct. I'll not have him killing anyone unless it is to save Jim, like I almost had him do in The Prize, or some situation that makes it absolutely, without a doubt, something he had to do. Blair doesn't need to use a gun when he has that great mouth of his and a line of bull that can almost get him out of anything. He has the compassion and naivety that is just right to offset Jim's hardness and that is how I intend to keep going with my stories.
You wrote several BPP episodes for its virtual fifth season, including the premiere episode, It's Not Just Academic. What was it like to work on a virtual season team of writers? How was that different than writing your own solo stories, and what did you enjoy most about it?
The writers of BPP for the fifth season are very talented and were really fantastic to work with. Many of them have decided to continue with us for the sixth season...Lord help us for deciding to try it again. My job, on BPP and with the help of Cindy Combs, is to match up writers with editors and be a go-between with them in case there was some friction. Of course, we also worked on ensuring the stories got in on time to be edited and posted. That was the nerve-racking part of the job. But the best part was getting to read the stories before any one else did. We had a truly talented group of writers.
In To Boldly Go, one of your BPP virtual episodes, Jim and Blair accompany the police commissioner's niece to a sci-fi convention. Do you have other favorite sci-fi shows, and what do you think makes The Sentinel unique among sci-fi shows?
I am a BIG sci-fi buff, both with TV and movies and I'd rather watch them than any other type. I absolutely fell in love with Stargate: SG-1 from the first episode and watch it religiously. Of the Star Trek shows, I'm okay with the original series, but really don't make a habit of watching it anymore. Next Generation was pretty good but I wasn't too thrilled with Deep Space Nine. Too dark and sometimes too intense. I thought, toward the end, they kept the storyline about the war with the Dominion hanging too long. The final show was a bit of a let down. Now I really like Voyager and enjoy how the characters have evolved. While I wasn't all that thrilled about them bringing in the Borg Bim...er, I mean, Seven of Nine, her character has filled out pretty good. No pun intended. I'm a little worried about how they intend to take this final year of the show. As for other shows I really like, or liked as they are now no longer, SeaQuest DSV (and its hybrid 2047), Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Others, man there are so many. The big three, NBC, ABC and CBS really have no idea when it comes to SF shows. FOX is somewhat better, but I don't even want to talk about UPN. The Sentinel was sort of a sci-fi show, but then it wasn't. The idea of hypersenses is not all that far beyond belief. Blair had it right when he said there were hundreds of documented cases of people with one, two, maybe even three hyperactive senses. Yeah, someone having all five does stretch the imagination, but it is more believable than something happening like the new Invisible Man show on the Sci Fi channel. But the most unique part of TS was the relationship between Jim and Blair. Two men could work and live together, NOT be homosexual and the subject wasn't ever, at least I don't remember that it was, raised. What a concept!!
How do you deal with writer's block?
Talk to Cindy Combs, and now Toni Rae, over our monthly lunch get togethers. Cindy lives north of Denver, Toni Rae lives east of it and I live south. We make it a practice to meet at a restaurant about midway between us once a month and spend a couple of hours talking and eating. The first time Toni joined us, we were there almost 4 hours. It feels so good to be able to talk to someone about my writing face to face and not have them look at me like I'm crazy or give me that 'you poor girl, you must be so lonely' look. We help each other over the dead times.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Conversations. I love writing action scenes. Always have loved the car chases, kidnappings and other owie-causing scenes. But when it comes to doing the conversation scenes to fill in between the fun stuff, I stumble. I try to hear the guy's voices in my head to make sure that is the way they sound. Blair with his pseudo-sixties lingo, Jim's hard talk and even Simon's biting remarks take a bit of doing. I don't even want to discuss Megan. Thank goodness a friend pointed out a web site that can help me with her stuff. I almost chuckle thinking that I *need* to hear voices in my head to tell me what to do.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Having others like my stuff enough to ask for assistance from me. I think the greatest honor has been for other writers to ask me to beta their work. I'm still learning and absorbing as much as I can so that I will be able to write the books I can feel sitting inside me. They're just waiting until I have enough knowledge to put them on paper. I've always been taught that once you have learned, make sure you pass the knowledge onto others. You will be repaid ten-fold.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
More, more, more! We have a lot of really great writers out there and they don't get the good feedback that they deserved. BPP is a great example. As the season went along, the LoCs got fewer and fewer. Was it because the audience just expected a story to come out each week and didn't think it was necessary to write? As man does not live by bread alone, fan fiction writers need to know how you feel about their stories. However, remember the adage about if you're not able to say something nice. A college professor always called her critiques "positive criticism". If you have an issue with something someone wrote, and you can't be polite, then don't write. I have a problem with slash stories, never feeling comfortable about the subject matter. However, I don't go writing to the author and ripping them up for even thinking such things. During the course of answering these questions, I took a small timeout and read a couple of new stories archived at the Cascade Library. I immediately wrote to one of the writers, since she was new to the Library, and told her how I liked her stories. Her reply back let me know that she really appreciated hearing from me.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Your style is your own and don't think that you have to write like anyone else. I know I'm not a Kris Williams or Tapu, nor am I as creative as Cindy with her crossovers or as prolific as TAE who now has over 100 stories posted. But through the encouragement of my friends and fellow workers at BPP and from the emails I get in feedback, I am more comfortable with who I am and how I write. Please, just write, write, write. Keep the creative juices going so that I have more to read.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
What else? A TS story on Kris Williams's old site. I'd just moved into my tiny, lonely apartment in Littleton, Colorado 2 1/2 years go, new to the city and state, and started to surf to pass the time. I don't remember what I was searching for at the time, but her web page came up and I thought I was in heaven. More recently, thanks to Cindy, I've also been reading The Magnificent Seven stuff, as well as the AU making the guys ATF agents. Man, is there some talent out there!!
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
I used to write as a young girl, penning stories in notebooks that were hidden in my dresser when not in use. I think I still have them. I remember writing Adam 12 stories, Alias Smith and Jones and The Magician. Of course, they were mainly Mary Sue type stories, but I didn't know what that type was then. I just wanted to dream about a different life than what I had and the stories helped me escape. I don't need to escape now...a short vacation with Jim and Blair does me just fine.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
As I said, a Kris Williams story. I'm so sad that she has moved into another realm, but what she is writing now is still great. However, after reading Cindy's MacGyver crossovers, and pestering her with emails, I started to get involved. Haven't regretted it for a minute.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
Oooh, that's a hard one. I do love reading those that give me a good laugh. As I've said, we have some really talented writers out there. But mostly, I love good action-filled, believable (even if they are AU), intense but not too-many-owies-type stories. Poor Blair always seems to be such a victim and I'm trying so hard not to do that to him in my stories. If the number of times he's been hurt were all added together, the guy would probably look like Frankenstein.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
Because I can believe that these guys could exist in the real world. Simon is a boss that I could easily work for; he would believe in me and what I'm doing, but would still keep me check if I tried to push beyond the boundary. As for Jim and Blair, I think I've rambled on quite a bit about them. The three together are a great team. They are friends, but still maintain that professional attitude when needed. It is a joy to create stories that display what the three have together. I hope my stories are showing that. I also want to bring Rafe and Henri more into the picture: making them permanent partners, giving Rafe a believable first name and creating a world for them that would fit into the place I've created for Jim, Blair and Simon.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses as a series?
The greatest strength was the definite display of camaraderie and friendship. I've seen such atmospheres developed between people that work in intense professions. Of course, there are the typical jokes played against each other, though outsiders are not allowed to be involved. TS also didn't just focus on Jim with his sentinel abilities, although they were the basis of the show. His abilities, along with Blair's knowledge and guidance, adding in Simon's strength and support made the show for me. The weakness was what was thought to be the need for bringing in a female character. Why? Isn't the teamwork with the guys enough? At least they didn't bring in children. Cassie was a total loss and the worse thing the Danny and Paul could have done. Megan is much better, but why try to mess up the mix? If it ain't broke, which it wasn't, why try to put a whole new engine into it?
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
Mainly Jim. Maybe it is my military background and the fact that my father is former Army, a brother is former Air Force and a younger sister is also in the Air Guard. With all the discipline I've had surrounding me, I can understand who he is and what he is coping with. I'm from a family of six children, three boys and three girls. I am number 5 and the brother ahead of me was very ill as a child. Therefore, as he required a lot of attention, I had to be quiet and entertain myself most of the time. I wasn't ridiculed or hammered on like Jim was by his dad, but I can understand why he acts in certain ways. Frankly, I don't know if I could put up with someone like Blair Sandburg moving into my life and my home.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
There was never any attempt to find out who was/is Blair's father. I think it could be a really intense, angst-filled story, with a touch of excitement. What if a case came up that involved someone who tried to pass himself off as Blair's dad, he's a conman that gets involved in something that threatens his life, then he actually turned out to be the lucky guy.
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
Well, one of those is easy. Have the guys be able to date a gal that a) isn't trying to kill them, b) not on the run from the law, or c) gets killed or arrested in the end. For crying out loud. No one has as bad a love life as they seem to have. Second would be an issue of Blair's youth and something that happened with Naomi that comes back to haunt him. We've seen a lot of Jim's issues, but only have an idea with Blair. Several fan fiction writers have done such a great job of handling this. The third would involve Simon. We only had the one episode (Reunion) that gave us a smidgen of info concerning the illustrious captain. I'd love to see more, especially if it cemented his friendship with Jim and Blair.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
Ouch. Really tough one. I guess out of all of them, I'd probably choose Choice Reflection. Looking back at what you've done right or wrong is not a bad thing. It's when you dwell on them that the problems start. So many people were so negative about TS by BS and how writers jumped on the bandwagon with the direction the show implied. I guess I wanted people to look back at what brought Blair to that point in his life, how he accepted the good with the bad, processed it all as Naomi would say, then let it go. Then the fact that Jim was there for him, with him in more ways than one, sort of tied the whole issue up. It was also my way of getting a smooth transfer from the path my stories had been going to the direction they now are heading. I hope that others will understand what and why I did it even if they decide that they can't or won't read any future ones. You can't please all of the people all of the time, so I'm going to concentrate on pleasing myself.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Although I can't tell you much about it, I have signed up to do an episode for BPP's sixth season. It is supposed to air before Christmas, if that gives you any hints to the possible plot, and I've a good idea where I want to go with it. As for my other series, my muse has been hitting me with an idea that brings back two characters from When the Student is Ready. I've had several requests to bring back Roni and Doug. It is going to involve their relationship to each other, the way they are helping Jim and Blair and some not very nice people. <laughing> I know, it's not much, but I've only been running a few of the action scenes through my head. I really have to focus on the BPP episode first, since it has a set due date, but that doesn't mean I can't allow my dreams to guide me.
Last updated 7/24/00 clc