et alia – So you want to write RAcy fan fiction? Potius sero quam numquam: Preach Livy!

It has been nine months since I posted the last completed chapter of my John Porter/Strikeback fan fiction Recovery on AO3, and coming up on TWO YEARS since I originally wrote and posted it on Dreamer Fiction…Livy is so right…

Potius sero quam numquam:  

better late than never!

The story where I left it, could stand as complete, but I had always intended to return to it to add a final epilogue to tie up a few loose ends.  Lately, I’ve wondered if I would be able to return to it after leaving the characters languishing so long.  It’s not as if I haven’t thought about how I wanted to close the story, and what I wanted to say, it’s just that available time and proper inspiRAtion haven’t seemed to coincide in the past 18 months.

porter smiling

What are you smiling about?

I’m happy to report that inspiRAtion and available time seemed to jell last week and I sat down and mapped out the first section of the epilogue.  Seems my worries about finding the characters again were unfounded.  When I started writing, it was something like reconnecting with an old friend – once the initial ice was broken, the “conversation” began to flow easily.  I’m hoping to have that epilogue posted by the end of January!

I haven’t decided if it should be mostly sweet, or more than a little spicy – any votes?

et alia: So you want to write RAcy fan fiction? Don’t be SAD…

I knew it had been a while since I’d posted a chapter update to my AU John Porter fan fiction effort, Recovery.  When I logged into the DreamerFiction today, I was horrified to see just how long it has really been.  My last update, Chapter 23, was posted on March 20…that’s two months ago!  Good grief!  I don’t think I’m alone in having felt the frustration of becoming invested in a multi chapter, complex story, only to find that the author abandoned it for one reason or another.    Fear not lectores, I will finish Recovery, and soon, but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking a little about what the hold up has been.

Just a regular day...

Just a regular day…

No doubt part of the problem is the ordinary average chaos that is my life.  Since mid March, there have been numerous additions to the regular mayhem.  First, my husband started a new job which required the Human Resources Manager (that would be me) to fill out a gogillion forms for various and sundry benefits and submit proof of the valid existence of myself and my children as related to the covered employee…my husband, their father.  (This process necessitated a visit to the courthouse to replace a missing birth certificate – I opted for the multiple copy bargain rate – just in case)  Also new to me was the intensive rehearsal and performance schedule of the in house thespian that occupied the theatrical agent and principle chauffeur (also me) for the first half of April.  Factor in the end of the academic year, grading and most recently a bout with some unspecified pestilence that first transformed Mini Me into a feverish, coughing semi invalid and has since left me with a largely inaudible squeak in place of a voice, and my lack of progress comes into focus.

I can’t credit my schedule for all of it though.  My life isn’t that much busier than it was when I started writing the story.  I found a way to shuffle things around before so that I was updating about every two weeks…what is the problem now?

Drafts...

Drafts…

Another part of the equation lies in my writing method.  Apart from blog posts, which I compose at the computer, my other writing all begins in handwritten form.  I’ve written like this forever.  If I try to sit down and compose from scratch at the computer, I end up drawing a complete blank and staring at the screen in a daze.  It’s a different story with paper and pen.  I usually sit down and start to outline…the bullet points at some stage broaden into paragraphs and dialogue.  Maybe it’s a tactile thing…I love the feel of fine paper and scratch of the pen across it’s surface.  I’ve found that I prefer gel pens since the ink dries quickly and doesn’t blob or smudge, and using a variety of colors allows me to make notes and edit as I go.  I have several notebooks, that I now carry along in my bookbag to keep them away from the curious,  which contain various chapters, chapter outlines and research notes.  I am much more productive when I can disconnect from everything for a couple of hours and just lose myself in the cadence of penning the story to paper.  I make corrections as I go along, but the transcription onto the computer serves as another stage of the editing process.    I’ve been writing like this for so long (since before the dawn of time…or at least the ubiquitous personal computer) that I didn’t realize that it was at all noteworthy until the subject came up in a conversation about gel pens between Servetus and me.  So there you go…my archaic little secret!   Interestingly, my son, a burgeoning writer himself, reports that he writes the same way – the nosy mother in me wonders where he keeps his notebooks stashed!

A rare-ish John Porter smile..Strikeback S1E4 Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com (my crop)

A rare-ish John Porter smile..Strikeback S1E4
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com (my crop)

While the opportunity and means to write certainly play a large part in my foot dragging end to Recovery, the more I think about it, the more I’m certain that there’s another factor in the mix.  I honestly think I’m suffering from a preemptive case of separation anxiety (SAD…not to be confused with SAD – Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Honestly acronym makers!)  I think that a part of me is reluctant to bring this story to a close because I’ve become really attached to the characters and I don’t want to let them go.  Be that as it may, I fully intend to finish Recovery.  My dear pal Guylty has helped me out with my missing SB DVD, so I have plenty of renewed inspiRAtion.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised though,  if there aren’t a few holiday vignettes in the hopper for John Porter and Lindsey Tate.

You’re doing THINGS (?!) to my vocabulary Richard Armitage! (or the ancient Greeks had headcanon too!)

I knew I wanted to post a piece about a particular vase painting today, but I was struggling a bit with exactly how to introduce it.  While I was reading a bit of background, I had an epiphany (nope…that is a pre-Armitage word in my arsenal).  The recent addition to my personal lexicon is HEADCANON.  Having never really participated in fandom activities prior to tumbling head first into Armitageworld in 2012, I had never heard the term, which an UrbanDictionary entry defines as,

Used by followers of various media of entertainment, such as television shows, movies, books, etc. to note a particular belief which has not been used in the universe of whatever program or story they follow, but seems to make sense to that particular individual, and as such is adopted as a sort of “personal canon”. Headcanon may be upgraded to canon if it is incorporated into the program or story’s universe.

The realm of fan fiction is heavily populated with this concept as fic writers expand on or reinterpret chaRActers and stories.  But headcanon are not confined to authors.  Whether we define them as such or not, virtually every fan has his or her own personal and chaRActer/story related Richard Armitage headcanon – with so much information in the realm of supposition, it’s almost impossible not to.

I'm a little afraid to contemplate the headcanons this pic inspired!  ;)

I’m a little afraid to contemplate the headcanons this pic inspired! 😉

The concept of headcanons is a relatively recent one, and is largely confined to fan based activities.  In fact, a search of dictionary.com will bring one to exactly zero definitions of the term in mainstream lexicons.  Imagine my surprise when it jumped out as perfectly applicable to a piece of ancient Greek pottery!

"Vatican 344" by Exekias Source

“Vatican 344” by Exekias
Source

The vase above is considered by many to be the masterpiece work of the potter/vase painter Exekias.  It was made in Athens around 530BC in a style known as Black Figure, which refers to a method of decorating and firing the vessel so that areas painted with slip appear black while the unslipped portions retain the characteristic orange-red color of the local clay.

Detail of Vatican 344

Detail of Vatican 344

While the style of the period and the limitations of the Black Figure technique result in typically “Archaic” looking figures, evident in the heavily stylized indications of musculature and the characteristically rendered eyes, there is no question that Exekias was an artist at the pinnacle of his craft here.  I have always marvelled at the incredible intricacy of the garments the figures wear.  In this technique, each and every bit of detail is added by incising lines into the black areas after firing.  Looking carefully at the cloaks, you can see just how skilled the artist was.

This vase is certainly exceptional in terms of artistry, but the subject of the scene is also very interesting.  On the surface, we have two male figures, dressed in military garb, their armor and weapons close by.  We don’t have to guess at who they are since Exekias was in the habit of labeling his figures.  On the left, still wearing his helmet, is Achilles.  Across the table from him is Ajax.  Achilles and Ajax were the greatest of the Greek heroes who fought in the legendary Trojan War.  Interestingly though, Exekias didn’t show them in the midst of what they did best – fighting.   Instead, he chose to depict these two outstanding Greek warriors…playing a board game?!  There is no question as to what they are doing…again, the artist has captioned the “action” for us as each player calls out the number he’s thrown – Achilles rolled a four, Ajax a three.

Scenes associated with the Trojan War are extremely common in Greek art, and although Homer’s Iliad is the most well known source of Trojan War lore, it actually only covers a very small portion of the whole story arc.  There are a whole slew of other bits and pieces of the Trojan Cycle that survive in fragments from a variety of different sources.  Here’s the catch though – this particular episode is not to be found in any of the extant stories that discuss the Trojan War, yet it became extremely popular as an art motif in the wake of Exekias (there are over 150 known vases decorated with this scene in the 50 years following Exekias’ career).  John Boardman, a heavy hitter in the world of Greek vase painting, suggested that perhaps Exekias was pulling a vignette from local “bardic traditions”  that had never become part of the mainstream story.   In the absence of any strong evidence pointing in another direction, I’d argue that it’s equally possible that an artist like Exekias was tapping into his own imagination…developing a headcanon for what might have gone on in the considerable downtime that the Greek heroes would have had during the ten year siege of Troy.  What was I saying about things changing and staying the same?

I was looking around for an Armitage related image to weave in here, and it turns out that there are not very many filmed scenes of chaRActers playing games, but look at this great piece of original fan art by Natascha illustrating another fan’s prompt:

Thorin and Dwalin arm wrestling....FANtastic headcanon!! Source:

Thorin and Dwalin arm wrestling….FANtastic headcanon!!
Source

et alia – So you want to write RAcy fan fiction? Get thee a writing space!

I’ve been wanting to sit down and write on Richard Armitage related topics several times over the past few days, but every time I find some time, something or someone seems to interrupt the process.

That's not me, but it could be!

That’s not me, but it could be!

This seems to be a limb with two branches.   The first branch  is “brain space.”    I don’t mean to come across as condescending or overly dramatic, and I’m not sure how this works for other people, but in order for me to concentrate, to write, I need to have some peace and quiet. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that writing begins in the head, and if the head is being constantly bombarded with outside stimuli, it is impossible to think.

Case in point:  This morning, I was laying in bed thinking tons of productive thoughts about the blog and about how I’m going to wrap up Recovery.  The resident eight year old space invader had crept in at some point and was blissfully asleep next on the far side of the bed.  Thought continued along several promising avenues until some minutes later when my son entered for the morning check-in.  Contrary to his usual pattern of peeking in to see if I’m up, today he came all the way in and actually spoke to me.  This woke Mini-me and initiated a concentration shattering chain reaction that started with her whining that her eyes itch (allergies), proceeded to them wrestling for space on the bed and culminated in him asking me, “Do you like Gouda?”

gouda

When I remarked that such random non-sequiturs had totally driven all productive thought from my mind he replied in his best Poindexter voice, “It’s a scientific fact that early morning dreams and thoughts are fleeting…you should really write them down.”  Well thank you Prof. Obvious!  *sigh*  I would like to point out that this is not an entirely isolated incident lately, and that school starts in 20 days and 12 hours.

When I am finally able to find some “brain space” the second branch of the issues is a physical space that is conducive.  For me, writing at home is a challenge, even when I’m alone (which seems like virtually never lately).  There are so many distractions.  *Buzz* the dryer stopped…better get those shirts out before they wrinkle.  *Ding-dong*…neighbor asks me to water her plants while she’s away, etc.   There are also a million things that I “should” be doing around the house on any given day.   Thus, focus is elusive.

I’ve struggled with this for a while with professional writing.   I’m not an hourly employee, and a lot of the time I spend in my office is my own, so it might serve as an appropriate writing space away from household distractions, but in my office, I’m really a teacher.  When I’m there during the school year, things like lecture prep, grading, student meetings, syllabi, book selection, ad infinitum make it a space that is often too “cluttered” for me to concentrate on a writing project.   In addition to this, I work in a shared office space, so distractions abound.  This problem is a compounded when I’m writing on RAcy topics.   Although my office mates have a general idea what I am writing, I’d rather not have someone walk behind me to get a book from the shelf while I’m busily writing a RAcy scene – talk about coitus interruptus!

I know from experience that places like the public library and Starbucks won’t work for me either – I am much too avid a people watcher!  I recently found out via the local news that there is a growing trend of places offering workspace rentals for the self employed who prefer not to work from home.  Even better, there is one such place local to me – Shazam!  I am looking into it!

John Porter here I come...look how please he is to hear the news! Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

John Porter here I come…look how pleased he is to hear the news!
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

et alia – So you want to write RAcy fan fiction? Caveat scriptor: Just say NO to SPANX!

I have found that writing sex scenes is rather akin to what I suppose writing choreography to be like.  I really have to keep track fo whose parts are where, or the whole thing can fly off the rails leaving the reader wondering, “How did he get there?” or “wasn’t her leg just over here?”  Part of this “choreography” is the process of getting characters undressed, or at least partially undressed.

0910-couple-undressing

This can be a tricky procedure depending on how you choose to clothe your characters.  For instance, skirts only need need to be pushed up – jeans?  Much more labor intensive.  Even in historical fics, the torturous corset can be easily discarded by simply cutting the laces.  Bras, thongs, panties?  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  So far, I have handily dealt with a variety of clothing and undergarment combinations.  I have yet to read a fic where the heroine manages to make a sexy, sultry egress from the Lycra and Spandex confines of SPANX, although it might make a great comic scene…

According to several Hollywood insiders, SPANX are the greatest thing to hit the market since sliced bread.  For any who don’t know, SPANX is a line of women’s (and apparently men’s…”SPANX, Dad”) undergarments and especially shapewear foundation garments.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against foundation garments in general, and SPANX are far from grandma’s girdle, but getting your character out of them will turn a hot little sex scene into something akin to slapstick comedy.  Let me put it this way…

There are e-how and YouTube videos on how to successfully wrangle yourself into your SPANX.  Now imagine your heroine trying to fight her way out of them in the heat of passion…egads!

So, if you want to save your heroine a lot of hopping around and potential asphixiation as she tries to get out of her underwear, Caveat Scriptor:

Spanks?  Go for it!

spanx logo  No Thanks!