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Yvonne S. McCool

Yvonne McCool has been writing great Sentinel fan fiction for almost three years now and has become famous for her lengthy futuristic drama series, Upgrade, as well as a number of stand-alone drama and humor pieces. Yvonne has written 29 chapters of Upgrade so far. This is one of the longest-running series in the gen Sentinel fandom, transplanting the descendants of the Sentinel characters into a future universe. Yvonne shares her love of The Sentinel and writing with her husband, Robert McCool, who also writes TS fan fiction. Their most recent collaboration is the Allies series, a crossover between The Sentinel and Stargate SG-1. Yvonne's Cascade Library story listing currently includes 33 stories. Her stories are located at her webpage, Yvonne's General Fan Fiction.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Yvonne!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, let's see. I'm married to another fan fiction writer and Robert McCool, no children, and I'm a computer programmer. Yes, I'm Y2K compliant.

What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?

I have a reading habit so severe I can never have children. All those stacks of books would crush an inspecting child. I also like music, doing graphic work, and going on driving adventures.

How did you become a Sentinel fan?

I was flipping channels and landed on UPN. The episode was Cypher. I was intrigued by the concept and (naturally) thought the guys were studs. I started watching it pretty regularly after that.

What is your favorite episode and why?

Blind Man's Bluff because while you and I would have been whimpering in the hospital after losing our sight, Jim decides to continue the investigation and Blair is right there with him. Either these guys are too brave for words, or they have serious "reality" issues and Simon is an enabler.

How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?

January 1997. I remember it well. I was wearing brown. I was reading fan fiction by then and in the back of my mind I kept telling myself "You could do that."

What was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?

My first TS story was Dancing and it started out as an apology for not snipping enough from a reply to another posting. I wrote the story in a couple of hours, talked the Listmom into looking at it, and I posted it. Since then I written a *few* other things.

Posting that story was so exciting. I work in an arena where things are rarely "finished." As soon as you complete a project, the specifications for the next upgrades are already coming down the pipe. It felt wonderful to finish something and for better or worse, put it out. Then the dreaded "Sequel Bug" hit.

If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?

The entire Upgrade series would make a great CGI series. The original actors could do the voices, and I would market toys. The Doctor Sandburg action figure would have more clothes than Barbie. The Guardians could come as both action figures with battle gear and as plush toys.

A Perfect Crime would be the most like the show itself and would translate well to the screen.

Which story are you most proud of?

That's a hard one because I like a lot of my stories for different reasons. But to choose one, I'd have to pick Mark of Cain as my cinematic foray. It was very different from anything else I'd read then or since. I like doing things differently. It was the nearly perfect soldier versus the nearly perfect guide. I won't spoil it, but the lengths that Jim went through to take down his target and the cleverness of Blair in keeping the hunter off track.

Which character is the easiest for you to write? Who is your least favorite?

It's easier for me to do action with Jim, motivation with Blair, and reasoning with Simon. Except when I'm doing action with Simon, motivation with Jim, and reasoning with Blair. But that doesn't mean I can't reason with Jim, motivate with Simon, and let Blair take care of the action. Different stories present different challenges and the setup decides which part will be the hardest to handle. I don't have a character I don't like to write. Even Rafe and Brown are easy because there is so little canon on them, I can do almost anything I want.

What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?

Dramas, AUs, and humor. Smarm is my least favorite in that it proposes that you set out with the goal of the sicky sweet, but if it comes up naturally that's totally different. I've never written a missing scene story.

Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?

I won't name names, as they are all currently in twelve-step programs to stop the madness of fan fiction. I will generalize them though--I have The Comma Lady, The Medical Knowledge Lady, The Plot Lady, The More Violence Guy, The More Sex Guy, and The Overall Tone Twins. I have yet to have a story where one of them didn't find something *everyone* else missed. Not once. It's eerie.

When they see this un-betaed piece they will throw up their hands and cry "Have we taught her nothing?"

My betas have made me a much better writer. There are a lot of things I can point to in my writing that I can directly attribute to their kind guidance. I've learned more from them than in sixteen college hours of technical writing courses. [Tosses cyber-roses and throws cyber-kisses]

Your Upgrade series is one of the longest-running AU series in the gen TS fandom. What inspired it? What is it like to write a series as long as this one is, and did you find it difficult to create your own universe? Are you planning on continuing the series indefinitely?

The first episode of Upgrade was improvised, start to finish, in the chat room for another writer who was ill with the flu and wanted a bedtime story. The room was gen, so I decided to do a gen story. I thought a moment and the idea to take the story way ahead in time and change *how* Jim was unique. I plan to continue the series until I'm sick of it, or I'm hunted down.

Okay, there are other sentinels. In fact, to be in this special group you have to be a sentinel, but these are techno-sentinels, not natural sentinels. Jim is a *natural* sentinel who started out as a techno-sentinel. Now he needs a guide. Okay, Blair is the guide. Now, take the concept of Blair and change it. What if Blair needed nothing from Jim--no subject for his degree, no instant family, no stability, etc, would Blair still be Jim's guide? And the answer was yes. I gave Blair money, position, social status, a large loving family, and other things that fanon states Jim gives to him, and he still put himself at Jim's side. I felt that didn't take away from the pair, it added to it.

What are the similarities and differences between Jim and Blair's characters in the show and in your AU series?

I started out slow on the technical things, so the reader had a sense of the characters. Their loyalty, dedication, and sense of honor are all the same. In Upgrade, I changed Blair's eye color from blue to green. Believe it or not, this was essential in making him a descendant of the original. The Ellison baby blues remained untouched.

Even though I've changed essential elements in their background, I'd like to think that given the same set of circumstances, the original pair would have also developed this way.

You've recently started an intriguing crossover series between The Sentinel and Stargate SG-1 with Robert McCool. What prompted you to choose Stargate?

Stargate is my latest addiction, which I happily share with the hubby. We were watching an episode when the Husband declared "What if they found a planet of sentinels? They could use Blair's help." And the story grew from that observation.

Do you find it difficult to write stories set in the future? What are the challenges of doing so?

No, doing future stuff is easy for me because I grew up reading science fiction. The challenge of doing future based fiction is keeping things different enough to be futuristic but familiar enough to make sense to us now.

Therefore given future items current names and explain how they've changed. Lots of phrases would still be the same. We use phrases from the Middle Ages long after the things they originally described no longer exist.

Of your "could be an episode" group of stories, do you have a favorite?

A Perfect Crime because I wrote it with my husband.

The hilarious story Roommates explains why Blair is still rooming with Jim. What inspired this piece?

I was reading the classifieds and this thought just popped in my head "What kind of place could Blair afford, and what if he found a place too good to be true?"

Where did the idea for Centerfold come from? <g>

"Studmuffins of Science" calendar ad. Who better than our own brainy beefcake to be displayed with a staple in his navel?

How do you deal with writer's block?

I'm still waiting for that to happen. I don't have writer's block, I have writer's glut. I have nineteen story ideas sitting on my hard drive right this very minute waiting for me to do something with them.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?

Finding time to write. If I could finally win that $10 million they've been promising me, I might have enough time.

What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?

Being able to translate that scene I have in mind into actual words and knowing the readers now see the same thing. It's magic.

What are your feelings on story feedback?

Feedback is essential. Getting a LOC where someone finds the "thing" I was saying in a story is one of the greatest things. Sitting back and saying "hey, they liked that" or "someone noticed that" or "I moved them" or "I hope they never track me down".

I try to give it as much as I can. Even though I am notorious for sentence fragment comments. I once came up with a scale of feedback for another writer to explain that getting any comment at all from me was good. Especially as writing an LOC on a story means I'm NOT writing one of my own. I did tell you that I have very little time to write these days?

1. Any feedback at all.
I've read your story and thought enough of it to let you know I read it.

2. A sentence fragment.
Story had a plot or dialogue that got my attention.

3. A full sentence.
Story had a plot or dialogue or development which got my attention enough that I want you to continue it or write another story.

4. Two sentences.
Writer must continue to write.

5. Three sentences.
Writer must write more stories or spend all their time counting their relatives.

6. A paragraph.
Feedback ecstacy. I leave it to your imagination as to the punishment of not continuing to write would bring.

7. Two paragraphs.
I will be leaving my husband for you. Prepare a room.

8. More than two paragraphs.
I'm offering to bear your children.

Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?

Get it betaed. Spellcheckers are our friends, but they don't always tell us the truth. Don't be afraid to do something different. Read the dialogue out loud. Being clever and being good are two distinct and separate things. Blair is not weak. Jim is not stupid. Simon is not a cardboard cutout. Rafe is beautiful. Henry is smart. Megan is a good cop. Cassie must die. Carolyn was a good woman and smart. William did his best and it wasn't good enough. Essentially, all fan fiction is an AU because if it isn't, it's plagiarism.

Fat free + sugar free = taste free. You are your own worst critic. Floss. Since writing can't have massive explosions, you are stuck with things like plot and character development. No one ever died from a bad LOC. If everyone likes it, you're doing something wrong. If you're out on a limb, you also have the best view.

Watch the show. See, you *can* do better. Canon is only a starting place. Save your "why didn't they" thoughts, they make good stories. Fear not the original character. Let the guns run out of ammo. Force yourself to think them out of a situation.

What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?

I can't think of the title or the author, but it was a gen ST:TNG story about Worf and Riker stranded after a shuttle crash.

What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?

A Firm Hand which was a Voyager story. It was written about a month before Dancing.

What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?

Lynna Bright's Sanctuary.

Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?

I'm bi-fictional with a strong affection for series.

What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?

I really like the setup of the series and the way the actors take very sparsely written characters and make them real.

What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?

The strength of TS is actors and the premise. Its weakness is the giant plot holes, sometimes tragic writing, and lack of continuity.

Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?

I identify more with Jim, aspire to be more like Blair, and present myself more like Simon. Thus my confused emotional state.

If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?

If I have to pick it up after TSbyBS, then I'd like to do a Redemption of Honor story centered around Blair getting his life back because he was thoroughly screwed by the end of that episode.

Or, I'd like to do a "I'm your father, Blair" story which would have this Dad trying to come between Jim and Blair, have Blair choose between Jim and this Dad, and have Simon beat the snot out of the guy and send him packing because he's all the father Blair needs. :)

"I humbly apologize for my exercise induced mania." {Just say no to Step Aerobics}

What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?

That's a hard one. I'd like the following questions answered.

(1) Does anyone in the government *know* about Jim besides Lee Brackett?

(2) Is there a psychic connection between Sentinel and Guide?

(3) Can anyone from Jim's past show up and live?

Fantasies?

Jim must go shirtless for at least one scene every two episodes. A man who works that hard to look that good should be admired. I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

I'd like to see the freaky underbelly of Simon's personality that must be a part of someone that tightly wound. I can see him clubbing, taking on a sword wielding maniac, or sweeping some leggy babe off her feet.

I'd like for Blair to get to tell Simon and Jim that "You're not a grad student" when they show up on his territory. Actually, I would like to see more stories where the cops are the outsiders and the Blair is on his turf.

Changes?

I'd give Sandburg his well-earned degree, If not for the sentinel studies, then surely he has enough material on the police to complete a dissertation. After that, I would make him a paid consultant to the police.

I'd get Jim out of the hayseed truck and into something more substantial.

Sandburg needs a sporty vehicle of some type.

Simon needs a soulmate to commiserate with over the hell Ellison and Sandburg put him through.

What one story do you think people will always remember you for?

There's a scary thought. Probably, it would be the Cheyenne series. It was step no one else had taken.

Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?

Not in Order of Expected Completion: Upgrade #30 Predators, Allies #2 Guide, Heroes #15 Drug Lord, Cheyenne #25 Scenes from a Marriage, Dancing #32 Mirror, Mirror, and Mage #4 Extremes.

I also have this other idea. I've had several people write stories in my universes. I never mind that they want to do that, I just never put their stories in my storyline. Anyway, I had this idea where I would set up an AU specifically for this purpose, then invite other people to write stories in this universe. The rules are that the stories *must* be betaed (not necessarily by me, but I want them edited), and they have to give permission for me to post them on my website. They can post them anywhere else they like or archived where ever they like. There will be gen and slash universes to play in.

Thanks Yvonne!


Last updated 11/29/99 clc