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Well, it's been quite a year and a bit since Lyn and I first began talking about creating a series of movie-length, monthly, slash romantic case stories -- and what an incredible year it's been! But the season is a wrap and it's time for me to move. I don't know at this point if Lyn will decide to pursue a second season of monthly long stories or not but, if she and others on the list, or new contributers decide to make a go of it, I wish them all success.

For those interested in a 'behind the scenes' look at the wild, sometimes hair-raising, and ultimately extraordinary experience of working on the project, I've posted my recollections under the cut below.


There and Back Again … A Writer’s Tale:
My Journey on ‘The Thin Blue Line’

Riding ‘The Thin Blue Line’ has been an incredible experience, a little like deciding to have a go at the new, monster rollercoaster that arches high overhead, with gravity-defying drops, twists, and upside-down segments, all poised over thin air against the bright blue sky. You look at it, and it’s tempting, but you’re not sure, and a friend says, ‘Hey, c’mon. It’ll be a blast!’

This is my story of that incredible ride – no doubt, LOL, everyone else on that rollercoaster would have their own tale to tell ….

It all began in November, 2004 when, based on a brief exchange of emails about storylines, Lyn asked if I’d help her fulfill a vision she had about creating a slash series of monthly long stories, like TV movies; such a season would be less demanding than trying to get out stories on a weekly basis for a more traditional ‘virtual season’, and longer stories would give us a chance to get into some meaty plotlines. There was a discussion on Senad at the time that while there were case stories and romance stories, there didn’t seem to be a lot of stories that combined the two – so we envisioned a series of finely illustrated stories that would respond to that expressed interest.

I didn’t really have a clue what I was getting into, as I’ve never been involved in helping to orchestrate other similar sorts of on-line endeavours, like e-zines, for example, that coordinate the work of various writers and artists against timelines and production dates, but the idea sounded intriguing and like it would be fun. We were soon flashing messages back and forth, brainstorming the parameters and what might be elements of ongoing subthemes. These subthemes would link each story as a building block to create a larger, longer, internally consistent and coherent story from start to finish, but each, or most, individual stories would have their own sense of completion, like an episode has its own start and finish in an ongoing series. We envisioned something amazing, with challenging plotlines and unexpected twists, enhanced and made more visual by spectacular artwork, all of it presented in a classy, evocative website. We hoped readers would get excited by the stories, be intrigued by the buried clues as they started to emerge, and maybe even start discussing where the stories might be headed, or start guessing at the ‘larger’ story that would be gradually unfolding.

Pretty heady stuff.

So, we climbed into the rollercoaster car, and it lurched forward as it started slowly cranking toward the first steep climb ….

Fired by excitement, and having more time than Lyn did, I dove headfirst into writing the ‘storyboard’, first setting out the context of the series of stories, IE, that they were post TSbyBS, and would be inter-related with a set of subthemes that would gradually emerge into a larger plot and storyline as the season progressed. Then I considered all the ideas we’d brainstormed and wove them into eight story blocks that set out the key messages that had to be conveyed in the story to link to the subthemes, along with brief discussion points around the critical elements to explain the evolving plot, and suggestions for general plot lines or scenarios for each individual movie that writers could use or not, as they chose. The ongoing subthemes generally revolved around the trust issues in the characters’ emerging slash relationship, the tension around whether or not being a cop was going to work for Blair in terms of his role as guide, and the impacts of the slowly escalating symptoms of ‘shaman’s sickness’, something neither the characters nor the readers were to be aware of as the stories progressed until crisis occurred. The potential scenarios for each movie were suggested to give different environments to ‘change the pace’, IE, having them out of Cascade to do some camping, or Blair in a different city for profiler training, to add the strain of separation. For discussion purposes with the team once it was assembled, I also identified questions on the storyboard that we needed to grapple with, like when or whether Jim would come clean at least in the PD about his senses, or how the media would factor in with respect to Blair’s credibility as a cop.

The feeling of writing the storyboard was so amazing! It made the project seem so real and it felt like something professionals might do when blocking out a movie or a year’s production of a series. Like looking out at the world from the vantage point of that climbing rollercoaster car, and seeing so much more, so many possibilities, a fluttering in the stomach, half fear, half sheer exhilaration. I was immensely gratified that Lyn liked the storyboard so well, though she was a bit concerned it might have been too prescriptive – she stressed that individual writers had to have some degree of freedom to choose their own scenarios for their respective ‘movies’. I agreed. The scenario suggestions were just that – something to illustrate how the subthemes could be represented, some potentially exciting, meaty scenarios that would permit long stories around big themes.

We were ready to go to the next step of inviting others to join us, to share our dream of something different, something potentially really exciting. We decided, first of all, to keep our project under wraps until we were just about ready to ‘go live’, partly in case we ran into production glitches and needed to amend our schedule, and partly to be able to spring something neat on the fandom as a sort of surprise we hoped everyone would enjoy. I crafted the invitation letter, and we sent it to those we felt were some of the absolute best writers and artists in the fandom and, as I already had one of the absolute best betas, I asked StarWatcher to join us in that role. I also asked Max, my incomparable webmaster, if he’d be willing to join the project and create our site for us, something different, exciting, unique; something to give the ambiance, impression, of a movie theatre. It was so exciting to get the responses! Everyone found the storyboard appealing, the overall project construct enticing. Not all could agree to participate, but everyone agreed to do what they could to help or at least to keep the secret of what it was all about as it unfolded online in the months ahead.

Lyn set up a group for us on yahoo, made me a moderator, and we were soon deep in discussions about the questions posed in the storyboard; things like the bond (was there one or not, was it a sexual thing or not), the trust issues (from the perspectives of both characters), and so on, until we had a deep and shared understanding of the story we were all going to contribute toward telling. We bounced around different ideas about what to call ourselves, and grappled with the timelines of a production schedule – we collectively decided The Thin Blue Line Productions would begin airing on 1 April, so we could end the series with the year in December.

But April was only a few short months away! Stories needed to be produced, in some cases particularly at the beginning, in tandem, but later writers needed time to see the themes emerge, and to have other continuity elements clear, like the names of previous bad guys and what had happened, in order to make references back that would lend the impression of time passing, the story building as the season progressed. Artists needed time to consider the complete drafts in order to do their work. StarWatcher needed adequate time to beta. Max would need time to code for uploading. And so on. We asked who wanted which story in the timeline, set up the schedule and we were off and running, our rollercoaster cars all full of exuberant, eager participants on this shared adventure.

It was like reaching the crest of the first peak on the rollercoaster, taking a breath, and plunging over and down.

Lyn volunteered to set the stage with the first movie, and Sylvette and I got started with the second, the two movies being written in tandem and as quickly as possible, to begin to bring shape to the whole enterprise and to give later writers as much time as possible to get their own stories written. We’d decided to have the first movie leave the relationship hanging, to build a bit of momentum with the hope that readers would be anxious for the second movie to be ‘aired’, to see what was going to happen. It was a risk, as we were going to promise pretty much ‘complete’ stories each time, and a lot of people loathe anything that smacks of a ‘WiP’, just in case it’s never finished. But we were we were determined to finish, so we decided to risk the possible wrath and outcries.

Lyn, and Syl and I, wrote during December and January – hectic times in anyone’s calendar! Most of the writing had, for the obvious reason of Christmas and all the attendant preparations and celebrations, to be delayed into January. But we’d targeted April 1 as launch date and were very conscious of the clock ticking, of the flying rollercoaster picking up speed. As muses have their wont, there was some drift from our original agreement of how the two stories would mesh together (agreement that was essential to write different but closely related stories in tandem). It was my first experience in a co-writing effort, and Sylvette was great to work with. She had an intriguing, gripping scenario and did research, and then I got into the research, too, and we bandied drafts back and forth, building forward, discussing the next bits, where the story was going, what we wanted it to say. The first drafts revealed some continuity issues between the two movies, and Lyn agreed to sort that out, while I got started on the third movie, and we were well on track, the drafts of the first two going to the artists and StarWatcher in late January or early February.

In February, I went to Australia to meet Jess, and Lyn and Annie, for the first time in-person. We had great visits, and indulged ourselves in The Sentinel in general and our project in particular. Jess found some great sites on shamanism while I was at her place, and we got really excited about what possibilities were presented in terms of the symptoms of the emerging sickness, and in understanding that both characters were shamans, but not the same kind of shaman. One was born with special traits and capacity for visions, the other was ‘called’, having to cross the threshold of death and return, and having other abilities, more powerful visionary experiences, and so on. Meanwhile, Max was busy creating our theatre and, with the help of Peter, did some amazing work to give the feel of ‘movies’, including creating some animation effects and film strip imagery. He had to search a number of possible ‘hosts’, to find something free, with enough webspace, and not too many popups. More discussion in the group led to the decision that we’d need both graphic and non-graphic sites to accommodate the readers’ technology capabilities. I don’t think Max realized when he agreed to help us how very much work it was all going to be, put he never hesitated, never paused, just good-humouredly met all the needs and expectations with class and style.

That first downward rush of the rollercoaster was filled with laughter and gleeful shouts, and then we were sweeping around a tight curve and swiftly approaching another steep, steep climb. Lorraine agreed to be my ‘principal artist’ – each artist was assigned ‘lead role’ on a given movie, to coordinate artwork with the writer, in that contributing artists were to check-in before getting started in order to avoid duplicative effort. I was in heaven. I am in awe of Lorraine’s work, and the idea that she’d be illustrating stories I’d written or helped write simply blew me away. Other artists also readily volunteered to help on my movies, and PattRose and Peter quickly became mainstays. I only had to list scenes where I’d like illustrations and it seemed only minutes later (probably because it was only minutes later), PattRose was sending piece after piece; and Peter, well, Peter did some awesome work, most especially later when we were all getting tired and harried and deadlines were beginning to crunch … but I’m getting ahead of the timeline.

As we climbed up toward that second peak, and the first of April was fast approaching, we began to bandy around ideas for how we’d ‘market’ our project, announce it, where and by whom; Annie and StarWatcher became our spokespersons on the lists. We wanted something that was evocative of previews and shorts, that would pique interest – and that led us to posting a teaser for the next movie at the end of the one just finished. We used the model of movie or television series’ previews, extracting actual ‘scenes’ from the next ‘movie’ to wet the readers’ appetites for more. We kinda hoped we might even spark speculative discussion on the lists about what would happen in the next movie, or about what was going on with Blair, who would be getting sicker and sicker as time went on with no evident (we hoped ::big grin::) cause. Alas, that never really happened except sporadically by a few discerning and enthusiastic readers.

The site construction was finished, the first banner done, and we could start to see what it was going to be like, start to ‘feel’ it, in terms of atmosphere. Artwork was completed and inserted into the drafts. Promotional ads were brainstormed and finalized. We decided to have a ‘launch party’ to celebrate on 1 April as the first movie ‘premiered’ – not easy to organize, LOL, with a production team that spanned the globe from Australia to France, to the United Kingdom, and across North America (Canada and the US) from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We were madly checking international timetables, figuring out the time differences, to find a common set of hours when everyone might possibly be awake at the same time, and deciding what ‘chat’ option to use, but we finally pulled it together. Another crisis emerged. We were getting close to launch date and still didn’t have a banner for movie 2, which needed to go up with the ‘preview’ following movie 1. Lyn’s daughter, Amy, leaped into the crisis and produced a compelling graphic. Huge sigh of relief and no little gratitude!

Before we knew it, the time had arrived and The Right Path was ‘airing’. Over the top of the peak and racing downward, the track twisting to the side, the air rushing past as we held on tight and waited, nearly breathless, for the first ‘reviews’ from the only critics who really matter – our readers. The first notes of commentary on lists hit like a gale that battered against our precarious cars that were already scarily tilted by our raw hopes and fears about just how our project would be received. Scathing complaints that it just looked like a WiP and probably couldn’t be trusted to ever be finished – we hung on, told ourselves we’d more or less expected such reactions. We knew movie 2 was already in the ‘can’ and ready to go. We debated airing it early, rather than the targeted 1 May launch, but decided to ride it out, to stick with the plan. Some reviewers expressed confidence in the members of the production team – that if we said we’d deliver, well, then, we would – and they focused on the tension created in the first story and expressed hope that the relationship elements would soon be resolved. We hugged those reviews close, cherished the references to our integrity, and they restored flagging spirits. We started to climb the next peak, holding our breath, wondering if the reactions would be more generally favourable when the second movie ‘aired’.

Meanwhile, I was finishing up the draft of movie three to get it to the artists, and Jess was into movie 4, her very first slash story. Lyn and Annie were beginning to shape the scenario for movie 5. We realized we needed a continuity guide so, my writing finished for the year (or so I thought at the time), I took on the production of the first draft of our series ‘bible’, detailing elements of the developing relationship between the principal characters and the minor characters as well, listing the significant OC’s and villains, summarizing the plot lines, and reviewing the specifics of where we were with the subtheme developments. Based on the websites Jess had found, I developed a short ‘guide to shaman sickness’ addendum, so subsequent writers would feel comfortable with how that subtheme was evolving and with their own contributions to furthering the underlying mystery of what was really going on in the larger story that the entire season would tell. The authors of movies 6 and 7 were beginning to consider their storylines, too, though they’d not air until after the summer – which, at that point, seemed a long way off.

Like that rollercoaster, time sweeps by at incredible speed!

Holocaust hit the ‘net on 1 May and, again, we held our breath, waiting for the reactions. It was amazing, the whole team was meshed, we were all collectively engaged in our very much shared undertaking, so it wasn’t just the writers or artists of the specific ‘movie’ who hoped for positive feedback, it was all of us. The ‘hits’ on the websites were telling us that more and more people were reading, the numbers swelling quickly – as an indicator of interest, those numbers were encouraging, like ticket sales at the box office on the opening weekend of a new movie premiere in real life.

The reviews started to trickle in, either direct to the writers or posted on various lists or Live Journal sites. Some were encouraging, some were fantastic and we cheered, some were mixed but tended toward the negative – and some were downright ugly. As one of the writers, and the one with the next the movie in the chute, I was a bit shook, to tell you the truth, like our rollercoaster had just dropped suddenly, taking my stomach with it. I’m not a member of any slash TS discussion lists, not a member of many lists at all for that matter, as I tend to focus on writing and reading, so the barbed and truly scathing commentary was all a very new and dislocating experience for me. Others on the team more familiar than I with the slash discussion lists, like Fluterbev, were incredibly supportive and nurturing, explaining that some folks like to cause a stir.

Uh huh. O-o-o-kay.

Truthfully? I really was pretty shook-up. We’d been so excited about the whole project, so earnest in wanting to provide something of high quality, both narrative and art, in a really neat web environment. And, yes, some, a few, people were responding with enthusiasm and really great encouragement. But we really weren’t getting much feedback – I’ve come to look for one note per three hundred readers and be glad if we get that much. But to have a good portion of the handful of respondents take hard, public slams was beyond disconcerting. The net, I know, is a microcosm, a sub-culture, of the world around us, and I know there aren’t only friendly and supportive people in the world, far from it. But I’ve never understood the impulse to be mean or cruel, deliberately malicious and hurtful. I don’t understand the charge or power it must lend to those who present in such harsh ways. It’s possible to express a diverging view without being nasty about it, so one has to think the attacks weren’t simply a lack of innate courtesy or grace in self-expression. This is a volunteer effort, after all, the writing, betaing, the artwork, the presentation on an elegant website, not something anyone has paid for or owns a contract for, stipulating design specifications and content deliverables. It’s kinda like not only feeling the homeless deserve their plight, but stoning the volunteers who, out of a communal sense of brotherhood, spend time trying to house or feed them, to ensure some modicum of human safety.

Whatever.

I bit my tongue, gathered what dignity I could, and responded as best as I was able to hurtful or inflammatory posts in as non-provocative a manner as possible. Some complained about the historical elements as if this was a documentary effort as opposed to fiction for entertainment purposes. Some jeered at the stale plot. Some felt it was all too horribly graphic and distressing. While I was dealing with the content complaints, Max was scrambling to make the site even more user-friendly and accessible in response to complaints that the pages wouldn’t load or the home page was too busy or the graphics got in the way and so on and on. StarWatcher was creating alternative word docs with and without artwork to send to people who couldn’t get into either site. Some readers became cheerleaders of a sort, and a discussion on feedback and the need to encourage volunteer efforts broke out in some venues – and that was very heartening.

We were heading toward the launch of movie 3, for which I still didn’t have a title that felt right, and Jess was deep into the draft of movie 4. Lyn and Annie had begun to craft movie 5. Because of real-life pressures, the writers of movies 6 and 7 had to pull out almost simultaneously, so we did some quick reassignments and congratulated ourselves on having a long enough timeline in the production schedule that the changes on the roster could be absorbed fairly smoothly. It was then, in looking at the production schedule, that something in the real-time calendar and how it meshed with our storyline calendar suddenly hit me. We weren’t just going to end the season with a feel-good Christmas wind-up story – we were ‘in sync’ all the way along. Movie 3, airing in July, suddenly was so clearly ‘Fireworks,’ to jibe with the Fourth of July. The getaway for a break to the mountains to do some fishing, Hunter’s Moon, would air in August. Blair would be heading to profiler school in Ramparts to the Mind in September, and the really scary profiling case, Trick or Treat, would hit in October, in time for Halloween and take us flying into our ‘crisis’ point. The penultimate story, the one that resolved the crisis of movie 6 (our deliberately planned cliffhanger), Desperate Journey, meshed with the American Thanksgiving in November. And movie 8, Full of Good Cheer, would bring it all home to resolution and celebration for Christmas. We’d not deliberately planned all these real-time parallels in the beginning, but sometimes it’s astonishing how art can reflect life as events unfold. We thought it was something that would, however inadvertently, make the ‘movies’ more compelling and resonant for readers because the stories would ‘fit’ with what was going on in the real world. I thought the serendipitous alignment of timelines was a small signal from the Universe that we were, and always had been, on the right track, even more than we’d known at the beginning. As Blair says, ‘nothing happens randomly’, so I was delighted by the positive portent. In retrospect, I’m not sure any of the readers even noticed, LOL.

Our rollercoaster car was gathering speed again to build the momentum and centrifugal force necessary to hold us on track when we got to that high, high point where we’d be twisting all the way over and racing upside-down, our hearts in our throats as the world spun out of control. The ride had had some scary moments so far, but we were all still exhilarated if screaming our heads off, laughing and catching our breath as we mounted toward the midway point in the ride.

I suppose that it’s axiomatic that any creative endeavor will entail a degree of conflict amongst those engaged in a joint enterprise. Conflict, in itself, isn’t inherently either good or bad, and can be stimulating to the creative process. In some instances, it’s different perspectives that clash; in others, it’s simply frustration but one forges on, determined to learn and succeed. The writing challenge became a bit grueling, to say the least. It’s really hard to temper one’s muse into a storyboard framework, especially when we’re all most used to writing independently, let alone insure that each story fits tightly with the one before and after, like a puzzle piece of the whole picture. Not easy to see a deadline looming closer and closer. And then real life kicks in with unexpected twists and hurdles.

One of the best surprises of my life came when Jess and I were debating a point in her story. I’d just finished agreeing with her that it would be so much easier if we could just talk, because I was sure I was missing something in what she was trying to express. I was still thinking about that, had barely sent the message off, when the phone rang. And it was Jess! Calling all the way from the other side of the world! Oh, man, was that great! And, sure enough, as soon as we could talk, it became clear that I was indeed ‘missing something’, LOL. Email is really wondrous, but it just can’t take the place of actually speaking to one another. I’m sure there were moments when Jess was ready to tear her hair out as she worked on the subthemes, giving enough clues but not too many, while still attempting to maintain the incredible suspense and power of her Beneath the Hunter’s Moon. But she managed beautifully, as all the nominations for that story attest!

Still, the process of creation was far from easy. It was, in fact, sometimes exhausting for everyone involved.

As we swung into August, we hit the ‘loop de loop’ and I found myself hanging upside-down and completely disoriented, when some edges began to fray. More real life stuff hit, some of which impacted heavily, and not happily, upon some members of the group. The writing roster was back on the table. Movie 5 wasn’t yet done, and movie 6 wasn’t started. Deadlines were looming larger and larger, those fall dates that had seemed so far away in the spring now coming fast. At one point, one of our sites encountered major problems and Max had to, virtually overnight, find another provider and upload everything again. I volunteered to take on movie 6 and wrote it as quickly as I could to give the artists a half-ways reasonable timeframe to work with. Meanwhile, I had four Moonridge Auction stories I’d promised to write and two commitments to another fandom were also yelling for attention. Behind the scenes, tensions grew, flared, were dampened or sidelined for the good of the project. Aly and I decided to co-write movie 7, to bridge from the cliffhanger and into the relief of Aly’s movie 8, that would change the pace from all the trauma and angst of the season to that point and complete the series on a happy note. Some of the backstage tensions flared openly on the list, tears were wept (I called StarWatcher and sobbed with impotent fury and hurt on her sturdy shoulder). Several still clear-headed group members, who knew nothing about the off-list context and subtext, intervened, thank God, and everything got sorted out, but one team member quit and ultimately pulled her artwork from the project.

The rollercoaster ride was barreling at breakneck speed; some of us were white-knuckled as we held on. Everyone was tired; the ride was way past being exciting and exhilarating and now seemed more of an endurance challenge to be survived. Some members had family and health crises, others had wondrous but time-consuming activities happening in their real lives. The artists were exhausted. Max had started an intensive course and he had to juggle to find the time needed for last minute coding and uploading as we pushed deadlines.

On the up-side, the feedback had settled down, the tone swelling ever more positive, and, as we hit mid-fall, people were openly expressing how much they looked forward to the first of the month and hoped the movies would continue, that there would be another season. We were a HIT! It was all working just as we hoped and envisioned in the beginning!

But we were starting to stagger more than a bit from exhaustion.

At one point, it was looking like there were no artists available for movie 7. What with the pressure and exhaustion, I had forgotten Romanse had volunteered to help weeks before and I came pretty close to panicking. Lupe responded to my plea for help and committed two gorgeous pieces, and Aly wrote Akablonded, who did fantastic work in very little time. Peter returned from hectic travels and personal upheavals and immediately went to work, producing several complex, gorgeous manips. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I was writing auction stories and, for some inconceivable reason, madly agreed to do two more before Christmas for the Katrina auction. There were a couple more incidents of off-list flares. Another group member unsubbed. My commitment of two stories for another fandom by October was completely off the rails in terms of meeting that timeline. (Fortunately, others in that writing group were also sliding, so I got a breather when the overall schedule on that project was slowed by a couple months.) The premiere date of 1 November was literally only days away and we still didn’t have a banner. Jess’s mom, bless her heart, leapt into the void and produced the haunting Desperate Journey banner.

More great feedback rolled in, along with even more clearly expressed hopes that the series would continue into the next year. It felt great, really, really great, to know our collective vision was such a success.

But, personally, by the time Desperate Journey aired, I felt dazed. So many good things had happened over the year, unexpected things, like discovering such great friends in Peter and Suzi, and not only getting to know Lorraine so much better but actually getting an art lesson from her in Big Bear, so that I could have my name with hers on a piece of art in movie 7. Now, that remains a real thrill. I also got to know Aly a lot better during our co-writing of movie 7, and I’m tremendously grateful for that, too. There are others in the group I got to know better, who I tremendously appreciate and very much enjoyed working with.

But not only good things happened. I made friends, but I lost some, too. People I’d valued, had gotten to know in-person as well as on-line, people I’d thought were good friends now want nothing to do with me. There were and still are lots of feelings around all that, like hurt and anger, betrayal and shock. In some cases, I know what the conflict was about; in others, I have no frigging idea. Very dislocating and upsetting, but I’ve had to accept that some things in life will remain a mystery.

The rollercoaster swept over the last peak and around the final, nail-biting curve, and the end was very much in sight. Would we sign up for another run over those peaks and valleys or call it a day? The readers were hooked, just as we’d so hoped they would be, the site getting thousands of hits. When we encountered technical problems with the loading of movie 7, readers were keeping one another informed on the lists and sending out alerts when the site was up. The last movie was amazing – novel-length and everything we’d hoped it would be in terms of intriguing case story and happy ending.

Lyn was tired, but sorely tempted to try a mount a second season of movie-length, monthly stories with gorgeous artwork.

I have to say, I found it tempting, too.

It’s hard to walk away from a success story and, for all its ups and downs, that’s how I see this incredible adventure. I learned a huge amount and made such great friends, and thoroughly enjoyed working closely with those I already knew well, like StarWatcher, Jess, Syl and Max. It was exciting and challenging to work on something so inherently complex – far more complex than I ever imagined it would be in the beginning. When I look at what we created together, I’m inordinately proud. Not everyone will agree, of course, far from it, but I feel we’ve given the fandom a great gift of stories within a long, evolving, larger story; a kind of legacy or tribute to the characters, and the actors who played them, who so inspire us all.

When Lyn posed the question to the group last week, of whether we wanted to continue and, if so, where could we go next, I suggested some ideas for a less strenuous but still knitted-together storyline that could build on the shamanism as a subtheme within the continuing context of case stories and romance. But I also signaled my intention to withdraw from the group as this season ends. So, I don’t know if there will be a decision to continue or not, or if there is another season, what the context of the stories will be.

I can’t say I feel no draw to continue, but I’m tired. And those stories for that other fandom still aren’t written and that deadline is looming large indeed! I have managed to finish all my auction commitments, so those deadlines have all been met. I’ve also, thanks to Janet, been given a lead on a vanity publisher that actually doesn’t require the author to put in any cash and so, in January, I want to get my two non-fiction books on leadership in shape for submission. Won’t get rich, LOL, but I’d like to see them listed on Amazon.com. My muses are also getting irritable about the fact that I put the Bitterwood Creek series and the My Sentinel series on hold for the whole of the past year. And Jess and I have been thinking about expanding my Brothers in Time AU gen series of stories into quite few new stories along the timeline from the ancient past to the future – could be a lot of fun to write about Jim and Blair as pirates, or members of the French Foreign Legion, or revolutionaries, or soldiers struggling to survive a world war. (Hmm. The image of Jim as a caveman, draped in a lion skin with a spear gripped determinedly in his fists, facing a snarling leopard, just sprang to mind. Now that’s an image to ponder on!) So many stories to write!

So, today, I took a deep breath and resigned from The Thin Blue Line Productions team. (The actual act of terminating my group membership is pending Yahoo removing me from the list as, apparently, a moderator doesn’t have the usual member prerogative of unsubbing personally. Who knew? Must say, I found it disconcerting to post my good-bye note and then discover I couldn’t get out the door, LOL. However, I daresay the administrators will delete my name from the list in the next few hours.)

As you can see, it’s been an incredible ride with drops into the depths but also breathtaking highs. Some of my fellow team members are also tired, or have other interests to pursue, so have also signaled their intent to withdraw after this first season. If Lyn and those remaining on the team as I write this, along with possible newcomers, or even returning former members, do decide to forge onward with a second season of stories, I wish them all luck and success. We can never have too many long, romantic case stories or too much delectable art in this fandom! I’m grateful to everyone who contributed with such incredible talent and energy toward making our season such a resounding success, and I’ll always be glad to have been a part of bringing this extraordinary, shared vision into reality.

Sooo, here we are … the last ‘movie’ has been 'airing' for nearly three weeks. Just over a year after it all began, the season is done, and the time has come for me to stagger off the rollercoaster. In closing, I’d like to express my profound gratitude for those special readers who took the time to send feedback and encouragement to all of us throughout the year. People like Ande, who even called a few times to share her boundless enthusiasm about the series. I’m one of those who thrive on feedback, and there were times when that positive commentary fueled a weary, discouraged soul, giving me the energy to keep running against the deadlines and to keep giving the best I had inside to the stories. And now I’m in the midst of meeting that other fandom’s deadlines, LOL, and hopefully will finish those two stories before Christmas, so I can breeze into the New Year as a completely free spirit!

But, looking back over my shoulder at that monster rollercoaster rising stark against the sky, I have to say, I’ll always be glad I took that ride.

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
ekwins2004
Dec. 18th, 2005 06:09 am (UTC)
I'm utterly amazed when people are able to work together to accomplish something -- especially when there's (presumably) no heirarchy of authority.

That's something I know I can't do -- work in a group. It takes a real skill and a lot of positive human attributes.
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 05:33 am (UTC)
I've found that the key element in successful groups is the passionate sharing of a common commitment -- without that, sooner or later, you're dead in the water. But if people want to bring something bigger into existance than they can on their own, then you can manage fairly well. Mostly, people have different roles to fulfill, different expertise to bring, and they can do their own thing, so long as they cooperate around certain ground rules, like timeframes and respecting of lead versus contributor roles. One of our two conflicts occurred when those role relationships weren't respected. It also helps if people don't have individual ego issues ie, they're more committed to the project than their own agenda. Max and StarWatcher, for example, had their speciality roles to fulfill. The artists decided on certain scenes they'd illustrate in conjunction with the author, and then they'd do their thing. The toughest 'cooperative' task was shared by the writers, in having to respect the storyboard and continuity guide, and dovetail with stories before and after. As I indicated, Jess was a model team player in being willing to modify her story vision to fit the need; Annie was also very good at that. Aly also was very focused on the good of the project in her approach. Lyn modified The Right Path to come back into line with the beginning of Holocaust, etc.

The power of groups is awesome when the commitment is shared. The outcomes can verge on being magical, certainly miraculous. In real life, my job was to lead big organizations and teams, to clarify and 'make real' the vision of what we were trying to do, to ensure people saw and understood and 'owned' their part of whatever needed to be done, to give people the tools, training, information, encouragement, etc, and then mostly to get out of their way. Oh, and then to thank them for the extraordinary results they typically achieved.

Unfortunately, most of our organizational group models are based on hierarchy, authority and coercion which will, without commitment, give only mediocre results. There is a place for the hierarchical model certainly, in military strategy and crisis, but we over use and over rely upon it in our society.

I guess, bottom line, the individual's commitment to the shared vision and outcomes has to be greater than the power of individual antipathy or personal ego needs. That has to be sorted out at the beginning and a check done from time to time to ensure everyone is still okay and engaged. But, if you've got that, regardless of personality and a host of other issues that would say what the group is trying to achieve is impossible, a group can move mountains. One person with a burning vision, who is able to engage others in sharing that vision to create something better than exists now, can create a dynamic that is truly awe-inspiring.
kungfunurse
Dec. 18th, 2005 07:15 am (UTC)
Wow. What an incredible story of passion and determination. I, personally, am very greatful for the addition to our fandom that the Thin Blue Line represents - it was everything you hoped for. Classy, well thought out, complex storylines offering something for everyone. I couldn't believe the quality of the artwork, and the whole project seemed to be a finger in the eye for those who insist that our fandom is "dying".

If I may, I'd also like to extend my sympathies for friendships lost. I've lost a few RL friends in a similar fashion, and for things that really had nothing to do with me. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, people insist on putting your face on the demons in their heads.

Thank you for the enthusiasm and dedication for our fandom, and I'm really looking forward to seeing your new TS stories!
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:00 am (UTC)
Thank you for your wonderful comments about what our Thin Blue Line project accomplished this past year! Your enthusiasm is ... really touching. And very, very much appreciated.

Thank you as well for your kind reflections on friendships lost. Clearly, the others involved have their own reasons, their own perspectives for what they determine is legitimate actions in the context of their own enlightened self-interests. Given I'm no saint, I can accept that I may have done something that triggered the fallouts. The difficulty is usually I'd be aware of whatever it was given the magnitude of the reactions I got -- but the individuals involved won't share whatever it was that upset them so deeply. From that perspective, your compelling imagery of people putting someone's face on their demons holds a lot of comfort. We all tend to see what we expect to see, hear what we expect to hear and our relationships often have more to do with the people we are and our view of the world than with the other individual. For example, those we label as jerks don't make it their life mission every day when they awake to go out into the world and be the biggest jerk they can possibly be. In their heads, their behaviours make sense, are legitimate and rational -- and often very well intentioned. So, they aren't 'jerks' -- we make them so in the way we see them and interpret their behaviours. (It's a nice philosophy, lol, but some folks do seem to be harder to take than others ::grin::)

I've moved on; not all friendships work out. The ultimate outcome is that I value the good friends I have even more as a result.

As for new stories, well, On Ice just went up on Starfox's Mansion (100 pages!); it's the fourth entry in the Shattered Dreams series, and has some Jim h/c before it's over, and it's also a Christmas story. Two more are in the Katrina winners' hands and will be up in a month or so; one in the Aerie, and the other in the Mansion. The slash one is a long story that encompasses the whole series and is a Jim POV, essentally the story of how he felt in love with Blair and how that affected what we saw in the show. The gen one is an epilogue to Out of the Past. I hope you'll enjoy them.

cindershadow
Dec. 18th, 2005 07:56 am (UTC)
Wow! Thanks for providing some of the background of this fantastic series! I am truly impressed when I see something like this attempted--working in groups is hard enough face-to-face, so this is a tremendous accomplishment. You all should be feeling so very, very proud of yourselves.

(And, however belatedly, let me apologize for not sending my enthusiastic feedback along the way as I read each monthly episode. I can be very dumb about how to do that, unless there's a big flashing arrow saying "Feedback HERE!" I went back to see how I'd missed my opportunity . . . only to feel quite foolish when I realized that clicking on the name of the author of the episode--and presumably also the artists?--would have opened up a handy email window. If it's any belated comfort, perhaps I'm not the only confused soul who really, really enjoyed the ride but was too slow to figure out how to let you all know!)

Anyway--many thanks to all of you, and thanks for this insider's view.
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:06 am (UTC)
I am truly impressed when I see something like this attempted--working in groups is hard enough face-to-face, so this is a tremendous accomplishment. You all should be feeling so very, very proud of yourselves.

Thank you. I think we all do feel pretty good about how well this year's series turned out. I know I'm tremendously proud of the whole thing, lol. (Not very humble, I suppose, but I really do feel very good about what we've given the fandom.) It was so extraordinary to see all the incredible artwork, especially, and I love the site Max created for us.
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 08:41 am (UTC)
Hey, I forgot to mention, don't feel badly about not realizing how to make the connection by clicking on the names. I remember it took me the longest time when I first starting reading fic to figure that out! I'll let Max know, and maybe we can put a line on the title page re: how to leave feedback by clicking. Thanks!
fluterbev
Dec. 18th, 2005 08:20 am (UTC)
::hugs to you:: You did an amazing job - and I'm using you as in 'you' personally, as well as applying it to the team. Well done! What a remarkable achievement :-)

Take a break, pat yourselves on the back, and consider it a job well done. You brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people :-)
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:14 am (UTC)
Ah, thanks, sweetie. ::hugs right back:: You were of tremendous support to me personally on more than one occasion over the past year and I do truly appreciate you a great deal. I never thought I'd burn out as a writer as it's such a continuing joy, but I had two months this fall where I virtually couldn't write a thing. I was just SO tired! Good thing I write fast so I could still meet my deadlines, especially for the auction stories, lol. But, so far, the first story of my other fandom commitment is finally flowing well, so I think I'm past the wipe-out.

And thanks for saying we brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. From the hits on the site, I'd like to believe that's true -- and that more will enjoy the series in the future. It's a good feeling to know it's out there and that it's good work.
rhianne
Dec. 18th, 2005 09:14 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that some of the behind-the-scenes details of Thin Blue Line Productions were difficult, honey, but as a simple reader who had nothing to do with the production itself, I've got to add my thanks to everyone involved. Each of the stories were terrific - well written, emotional and a rollercoaster in their own right, and the continuity between them almost made it read like different chapters of the same story - beautifully seamless :) I'm glad that you thought it was worth it in the end.
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:19 am (UTC)
Thanks, Rhianne. Conflicts happen -- that's life. But the really important thing is that, for the readers, it was all 'seamless'. The stories came out on schedule as promised. The artwork was awesome. The whole experience was, I hope, something a bit unique in the fandom. So, it's really wonderful to know that's how you found it, and that you really enjoyed all the stories and the intrinsic, embedded, 'longer' story that we collectively produced. And, yeah, definitely, for me, it was very much worth some angst to have had the opportunity to be part of creating something like this. Having said that, though, thank God for the friends who lent support all along the way!
jessriley
Dec. 18th, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC)
Well you were right about one thing - it certainly was a roller-coaster of a ride. Sometimes exhilarating and exciting, sometimes downright exhausting and totally draining. I do have to say one thing however, you do need to be congratulated. Even through the really tough times you never wavered in your support of other writers and artists and you were always there cheering us on from the sidelines. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who appreciated everything you did.

I think that those of us who have decided not to continue with the project have walked away feeling perhaps a little older, a whole lot wiser, but also very proud of what was achieved.

caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:28 am (UTC)
Thanks, mate. But it wasn't hard to be supportive or to cheer when you and others were doing such great work! From my perspective, we were there for each other, and you and others sure gave me and others tremendous support and encouragement all through the year. There was a spirit in the group, of being so glad for one another when great feedback rolled in, or fiercely supportive and comforting in the tougher times. There was a huge amount of generosity of spirit in this group and an awesome degree of commitment to what we were trying to do together for the fandom. And I truly will never forget the moment I realized it was you on the other end of the phone line. Blew me away, you did! Such a joy to have you in my life.
sallye
Dec. 18th, 2005 11:15 pm (UTC)
I hate to see you go. I've enjoyed all the stories immensely. I hope Lyn and a few someones can keep it going. Thanks for all your hard work!
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:33 am (UTC)
Thanks, Sallye. I'm so glad you enjoyed all the stories so much. And I'm sure we'll hear from Lyn sometime soon as to whether there will be another season. If I was betting, I'd bet there will be. It'll depend on enough writers being willing to work on stories, as I think the artists are pretty much up for another year.

And as for me, I haven't really gone anywhere, lol. I won't be on the project next year, but I'll still be churning out stories! I love writing, and I love Jim, Blair and Simon too much not to be still fully engaged in telling their tales.
sallye
Dec. 19th, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC)
I read your indepth journal, and know it takes a l ot of love to try and put out a virtual season. I'm sorry some friendships couldn't stand the stress. Maybe they'll come around again after a bit.

I am glad you'll still be writing the guys. I really loved your western series, Bitter Creek and Oak Creek Canyon. I know I've mangled the names, but the memory ain't what it used to be. They were great stories! I printed them out, so I could read them whenever the urge struck me. I was very happy to see you wanted to write more in that AU. As a reader, I want them right now! But I know you have to write them first, and that's not an instantaneous thing. But know I'll be waiting for them. Churn baby, churn!
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 10:23 pm (UTC)
Ah, thanks, Sallye, but the biggest problems that occurred had little to do with the project and emerged after having gotten together at events and it just happened we were all on the project, too. It's a long story. These things happen and in these cases, it's done and past.

I'm so glad to know you are enjoying the Bitterwood Creek series. The next story will be called Under the Indigo Sky and will, hopefully, be written in the spring. Your encouragement is VERY much appreciated!!
sallye
Dec. 20th, 2005 01:25 am (UTC)
I fell into the Dark Secrets series today. I remember reading the first 2 stories, but don't remember the last 2. So I'll be busy for the next couple of days. I don't really need to wrap presents, do I?

I'll be waiting for spring and Indigo Sky!
annieb1955
Dec. 19th, 2005 02:38 am (UTC)
Just wanted to say I was hugely thrilled to work with you on this. You described the rollercoaster ride perfectly. All in all, I have to say it was an exhilerating experience and an honor for me to be able to be involved with so many talented people.
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:35 am (UTC)
Annie, it was a joy to work with you, too. And I thought, as a relatively new writer, you more than held your own just fine with everyone else. It was a real pleasure to get to know you better, both in person in Australia last February, and over the course of the project.
annieb1955
Dec. 19th, 2005 11:02 am (UTC)
Thank you : )
annieb1955
Dec. 19th, 2005 02:39 am (UTC)
Also just wanted to add that the cast and crew of The Sentinel probably felt like they were on somewhat of a rollercoaster ride during the making of the show, so perhaps we can count ourselves in good company.
caarianna
Dec. 19th, 2005 06:36 am (UTC)
LOL! I suspect you're right about that. Good company, indeed!
garettgal
Dec. 19th, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)
While I know you mentioned in a previous post the likelihood that you would not continue as a writer for the stories/films in The Thin Blue Line Productions I am saddened to see the team lose such a wonderful writer - and judging by the tone of Jess's reply as well, more than one good writer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and would be sorry to see nothing further written but having read your behind the scenes post about the concept and creation of these wonderful stories I would not be surprised if everybody left.

As an avid reader I appreciate the fact that each month we were privileged to read another chapter in this wonderful season of stories, each building on the story that had gone before, without ever considering the sheer hard work that went in to making this project possible. I am not talking about the writing, because I certainly appreciate the skill and dedication of all the writers and artists responsible for this excellent series, rather I am thinking that I never gave a thought to the toll such a schedule would place upon the authors and artists in terms of their own real life commitments and I certainly never even considered those behind the scenes who downloaded the stories for our enjoyment or contributed in a variety of different ways to aid our enjoyment, which now makes me realise just how much we, the reader, take for granted the stories provided for our entertainment with nothing more than a short message, if that, at times, to say we enjoyed it. I am probably not expressing myself too clearly here but hope you understand what I am trying to say, albeit poorly.

I did recommend the series a couple of times on my LJ and was glad to see that the feedback was generally favourable after people got over the idea of the first story having a cliff hanger, but even I was neglectful in sending feedback to the various authors and regret that I did not send more.

All I can say is thank you for being part of a wonderful, wonderful series of stories that kept me coming back for more and provided a wonderful legacy for the TS fandom.

On a personal note I am looking forward to seeing more TS stories from you as, until I realised you were active within the TBLP, I had grown increasingly concerned when no new Arianna stories were showing up at Starfox's Mansion with their usual regularity and begun to wonder if you had moved on to another fandom. I was delighted to discover that was not the case and I am especially looking forward to reading more AU's in your Brothers in Time series.

Would it be impolite to ask what other fandom you are referring to so that, should it prove necessary, we can go along and fight them off with sticks?:-) Seriously I enjoy reading in a variety of fandoms but TS is my fave, and although I know there is the likelihood you will move on eventually they cannot have you yet:-0
caarianna
Dec. 20th, 2005 01:35 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Garettgal, What a lovely, lovely note. And you express yourself very well, indeed! I'm glad you enjoyed the series, and very much appreciated your notes on it, recommending it in your LJ -- believe me, they were cheered on our list!! One of the reasons I wanted to write this kind of documentary style 'on the making of ...' retrospective was to highlight the extraordinary work that Max and StarWatcher did, in particular, because their contributions tend to be somewhat transparent, even invisible. And, man, it was a wild ride, lol; all-consuming for months, at least for me. So, yeah, other story-telling did fall by the wayside. Before I left the list, Max and Sylvette had also indicated their intention to withdraw at the end of this season, as had Jess. However, er, I noted your interest in a Jim POV story the other day. Send me your email ... ;) And there's a 100 page new story, On Ice, up on Starfox's Mansion. I've got another epilogue story, Unexpected, for the Out of the Past ep written for the Mansion as well, and it's in beta at the moment. So the action on my regular sites is beginning to pick up again.

As for the other fandoms, the one I was referring to is Hercules, The Legendary Journeys. I'm a listmom on the GoldApple list, which is dedicated to our shared love of Iolaus and the buddy relationship between the two guys, and I've got about 100 stories in that fandom. We are currently engaged in a complete rewrite of the entire series. We're up to season four and I have two eps to do before the end of this calendar year to meet the deadline. Then, I just have two completely orginal eps for season five (as that was a disasterous season in the original series and we're doing a massive rewrite to 'fix' everything that was wrong with it), and my contributions to that project will be finished. (Apologies to the original writers, lol). I started writing fanfic in the Herc/Iolaus fandom back in 2001, so that's home for me. Two other fandoms I've done some writing for, Starsky and Hutch and Hardcastle and McCormick, have been actively entreating me to write more fic for them, and I may try to do so next year, if time and the muses permit. But I have to admit, my focus is still very much on Jim and Blair (Iolaus and Hercules are getting quite huffy about it, actually, as they are feeling decidedly neglected! ::grin::) Thanks for your encouragement, sweetie! 'Tis much appreciated!
garettgal
Dec. 21st, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks so much!
As for the other fandoms, the one I was referring to is Hercules, The Legendary Journeys.


I know you mentioned before about being a long time writer in that fandom but thank you for the nice response and reassurance:-) I am delighted to know that we are soon going to be enjoying more of your lovely stories.

However, er, I noted your interest in a Jim POV story the other day. Send me your email ... ;)

Oooh sound mysterious and exciting. My e-mail is garettgal@yahoo.com and I
look forward to hearing from you:-)

Thank you for thinking off me.
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