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My most popular story, Change of Heart, is being translated into French! The lovely Arumbaya has begun work and the first chapter is now posted. You can read it on Fan Fiction or on a French-language forum called Describe your House.

Just for the hell of it, I ran the first chapter through a translator because my only French is ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, and ‘will you sleep with me tonight’. It’s quite hilarious, not the least of which is that ‘Cut-throat Bitch’ becomes ‘Furious Bitch’! Love it! (Oh and it has nothing to do with the quality of the translation, just the randomness of internet-translator bots, as I’m sure anyone who’s played with them before can attest!)

I’ve said before that I don’t quite understand the popularity of Change of Heart, especially given that reading it back now, after two years more writing practice, makes me cringe at all the things that should be better. But it continues to gain new ‘favourites’ each month and in the monthly stats it is always in my top three stories. I wonder if it is like a snowball – because lots of people favourite it, lots more people notice it and therefore favourite it? I don’t know!

Anyway, I know that I do have French-speaking readers and I’ve been lucky enough to chat to a few of them over the years. I hope that you enjoy reading (or re-reading!) in your first language.

I’m feeling very honoured that someone felt my story worthy of the work that must go in to translating.

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I’ve just finished posting the final chapter of my latest fic, Affair to Remember. It’s a story about House, his mother, Blythe, his mother’s neighbor, Emma, and her son, Cameron. As far as plot goes, it’s pretty simple: Blythe’s failing mental health has been having an impact on her neighbor, who’s been forced into a caretaker role. She finally calls House and asks him to come and take care of his mother himself.

From a writing perspective, in this story I was practicing something; I was playing with the idea of “themes”.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing, one of the best writing books I’ve read is Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part instructional guide, it is an amazingly easy-to-read book and would be of interest to anyone (reader or writer) who wants to know more about the craft.

One of the things he talks about is this idea of “themes”.

I’m sure just from high school English class if nothing else, you’re familiar with the idea of themes throughout a book — for example, The Great Gatsby is about a thwarted love story, but the themes in it are rich well beyond that, such as the division between old money and new money, and the destruction of the “American dream”.

Stephen King advises that once you’ve written your book, you examine it for themes and then go back and weave them into the tapestry so they permeate throughout. It’s when authors do this that you have lots to talk about when you discuss a story — there is depth beyond the plot, and meaning behind the actions of the characters. It’s what makes a book good for a book club!

Now I’m not necessarily saying I achieved book club status with this story, but I was practicing with themes and I’d be interested to know if you picked up on any of it. There were two I was deliberately playing with: the nature of an “affair”, and “memory” or “remembering” — just as in the title.

All my characters had an affair — thus the title is deliberately not “AN Affair to Remember”, like the movie . Blythe’s affair was with House’s biological father and, in my mind, was the central “affair” of the title. Emma and House end up having an affair. And Cameron is about to set off on his very first “affair” by having sex with his girlfriend for the first time. Each of these three relationships weave in and out of all their lives, with Blythe’s remembrance of her affair as what sets off House believing that there is something wrong with her mental state.

My take on affairs wasn’t just the sex or the relationship angle though, it was on the “memory” — what does an affair leave you remembering? For Blythe, she remembers a man she loved, who left her with a son and the rest of her life that (to me) never measured up to what she could have had if she’d left John and gone with Tommy. Perhaps this is what is ultimately behind her parting advice to House “not to be afraid” — does she wish she’d had the courage to live her own life differently?

Both House and Emma reflect that they will remember the weekend forever. For Emma it marks a turning point in her life — a decision that she must start to live her life for herself and not just for her son, because he will grow up and leave her soon. Being with House shows her possibilities that she’s not let herself imagine.  This is in contrast to Blythe, who gave her life to her husband and and son. Emma realizes that she needs to change the way she lives or she faces a similar destiny to her neighbor. (And, as a little additional reinforcement of the “affair” theme, in Emma’s back story, we find out that she was badly hurt when her husband cheated on her when Cameron was a baby — that affair, although not hers, left her with memories that kept her from seeking another relationship for many years.)

In contrast to the other characters, Cameron is all about making memories rather than remembering them. House’s final advice to Cameron, to take his time “because he’ll remember it forever”, is opposite to when House first protests that he can’t remember how old he was himself when he first had sex. Cameron doesn’t call him on that, and we can only imagine what the teenager does or doesn’t do with his girlfriend Tori. (Although, I rather hope they have a very special time and end up going out with each other throughout high school until they part to go to different colleges. I liked Cameron. A lot. 🙂 )

House’s journey throughout the story is the one that is most about memories. I’ve mentioned to one reader that I was very much playing with the “Broken” version of House in this story. His relationship with Lydia in that episode was very informative to some of the inner workings of his mind, and in this story, it is Lydia who House remembers, not Stacy: his affair, rather than his relationship. The affair with Emma is more “domestic” than the affair with Lydia, and it shows House how much he misses the day-to-day aspects of being with someone — something he wanted with Lydia but couldn’t have.

House also has to face memories — his mother’s life and her decisions and how they’ve affected him. He also has to face the shadow of his father at every turn — the helpful marines and his father’s reputation preceding him. Although I could have, I didn’t delve too much into this, because this story wasn’t about John House or House’s relationship with his father, it was about mothers and sons. I felt getting into that would have “muddied” my themes by adding in a new one. (Besides, I think the House/John relationship has been pretty fully explored in fan fic, and I wanted to do something different.)

For House, the mother/son relationship dynamic couldn’t happen without some kind of “coming of age” journey for him. His reflections about the parent/child relationship shifting were part of this. I think this is also why he felt drawn to Cameron and found himself liking the teenager. Both of them were going through turning points in their lives: for Cameron it was puberty and losing his virginity; for House it was accepting his role and responsibilities as an adult and becoming a care-taker. House plays this role with each person at different points in the story — he rescues his mother after the accident and applies first aid; he comforts Emma in the hospital and realizes it is a fulfilling feeling; he advises and coaches Cameron on a number of occasions. I don’t know about you, but I liked House as the responsible one rather than the victim, I think he often likes to play “helpless” — with Wilson, especially.

I really enjoyed writing this story, and I feel it is something a little different to anything I have done before. It has echoes of “Rebirth” I think, in that it takes a kind of slow and gentle approach to the story-telling. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

And as a little treat for all of us:

Movie image, An Affair to Remember

*sigh* Cary Grant. Mmm.

In my current story, Affair to Remember, House and my character Cameron, a teenage boy, have a conversation about music. House is impressed by the Foo Fighters poster in the kid’s bedroom. To come up with this detail, I went and looked up guitarists who own a Flying V guitar like House, to give him something to brag about. From that list I chose Foo Fighters, figuring it was a band that a thirteen year old boy might like.

Then Cameron tells House he plays saxophone and House asks him to play Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. Just because it is one of those standards, and has that very famous sax riff.

Today I’ve just discovered that Foo Fighters have done a cover of Baker Street! I was a little blown away by that. Also it means that if Cameron was a REAL fan he would have certainly recognised the song. Oh well.

Just inserting this link to prove it’s true. Honestly? Go listen to the original.

Hi all, just a note to let you know I’ve just started posting a new story, called Affair to Remember. (Note it’s not “AN” Affair to Remember, for reasons that will become evident.)

It’s a story about House and his mother, Blythe. His mother’s neighbor plays a role too, a quirky woman called Emma who I really like. She’s the kind of person I’d like to have as a friend. Rounding out the cast is Emma’s teenage son, Cameron. (Yes, I called a character, a boy, Cameron. Believe it or not, I didn’t even realize what I’d done until about half way through. Let me know if it’s confusing!)

I’m posting on FF.net as usual. The Fox Forum has changed and, in an interesting move on Fox’s behalf, appears to be deliberately designed to prevent any kind of community being forged. It certainly is unfriendly for fic posting. A shame that they’ve gone and killed what used to be quite a vibrant and interesting community.

I think this is the most self-indulgent element of this blog: my desire to share with the world not just my stories, but the process that goes on behind the scenes when I’m writing them. Clearly I have some insane belief that people will be interested, but even if they’re not, I want to write this. (Which is perhaps the philosophy behind the whole of fan fic, really, but I’ll leave that to explore another time…)

NB: *Here be spoilers* if you haven’t read the story yet, you might not want to read this, because it gives away the really cool twist.

“If you really loved me you’d let me kill you” was mostly a very fun story to write. It flowed fast, especially the first part, and the title came to me about half-way through the first chapter. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant at the time, but I thought it was cool, so I typed it at the top. Later, it came to really define the emotional journey for the two characters.

My heroine, Alex — or, more precisely, Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra Maria Feliciana Di Giorgio — is a princess, mowed down by House on his motorbike after she accidentally stepped out into traffic. At first, I was totally enamoured by the princess idea. My brain was rushing through all the wonderful fun I could have with such an impolite and unconventional character as House entering the stiff, ordered world of royalty.

But.

Then it didn’t feel right. About chapter 3 or 4, I started to feel like the princess thing was too twee, too silly. And that was when Alex whispered her little secret in my ear: “I’m not really a princess, I only think I am”. Wow! THAT made sense! Then came a heap of research into delusions and dissociative mental disorders to find out if such a thing was possible. Not only was it possible, but it bought in a whole heap of wonderful plot possibilities, like paranoia, and the extrapolation of external events into the delusion.

(For example: When Alex and House go for a walk and House goes into the OTB, Alex sees a TV program about herself and believes it is a story about her family trying to track her down. In fact — and House sees the same program on YouTube later – it was a news item about the real-life tragedy that happened to her family. The whole scene came about because of the research I did that told me that while someone like Alex would not suffer from hallucinations, she would interpret real events to suit her delusion.)

Once I realised that Alex was NOT a princess, I went back over the first few chapters I’d written and made sure the story made sense. Surprisingly there wasn’t a lot that had to change — funny how that happens. Alex clearly knew that about herself from the start! This brings up another good fan fic question, which is: when is the right time to post? Clearly if I’d posted the story after I’d written chapter one, I would have been trapped and not able to start laying in the clues that Alex might not be all that she seemed to be. Again, another topic for another time.

Interestingly although this was a romance there wasn’t much in the way of sex scenes. For some reason, these two, while passionate, weren’t quite as hyped up for bedroom action as previous stories I’ve written. I did include one scene towards the end (under the Christmas tree, for extra romance factor), but that was actually a plot point – it was part of Alex learning that she could trust herself to ‘let go’ and really feel her emotions without worrying she might break down again.

House’s journey was my real challenge. In this story his journey wasn’t as extreme as Alex’s — in contrast to his character on the show, here he was the stable influence, the rock, while Alex veered from one reality to the other. In the end, I decided for him it was simply about exploring this very aspect: he took care of his daughter and continued to care for Alex even though she rejected him and refused to speak to him. He ended up at Mayfield, but as a support person, not a patient. House found his salvation through saving someone else, rather than descending into the pit of despair he ended up at by the end of season five. Plus he had to become a father — and a single father at that — which was another opportunity for his emotional growth.

I like writing Daddy House, but I hate the cliches — tears at the ultrasound? Puh-lease. I tried to keep his relationship with Matilda real without being ridiculous – the tiredness, the occasional disgusting-ness, the overwhelming infatuation. I hope I managed that ok.

Which brings me to my favourite part of the whole story — and it’s Wilson. Sometimes my writing moves me — tears, pain, hunger, schmexy stuff, and laughter. Hopefully that’s a good sign. This time it was laughter. Here’s the moment I’m talking about, just after Matilda has thrown up all over Wilson:

“Argh!” Wilson barely stifled a gag, holding the baby out to her father as he struggled to overcome the revulsion of being showered with baby barf.

House couldn’t help the laugh that shook him. He reached over and took Tilly from Wilson, laughing even harder as he watched his friend frantically try to wipe the baby vomit before it reached his eyes and then look around in horror, trying to find something to clean the rest away.

House couldn’t even manage to point to the bathroom, his laughter was so encompassing. “Oh. My. God,” he managed to gasp. House looked down at Tilly who was frowning at Wilson in an entirely displeased manner. Through his laughter, House held Tilly up to face Wilson like a puppet. “We are not amused,” House mugged, still laughing as Wilson disappeared down the corridor.

“It’s in my hair!” came the distressed call from the bathroom.

I laughed. And I laughed some more. I could just picture Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson, eyes wide, horrified, as he looked in the mirror, a trail of baby barf running down his temple, ruining his perfect quaff. I laughed again.

I have to admit, most of my favourite scenes in this story revolved around Matilda. I love it when House takes her from Wilson (because she’s spit up yet again), props her up on the sofa and she falls over — because she’s basically a newborn. He says:

“It’s not my fault,” he protested to Matilda as he picked up the unhappy little girl and hoisted her to his shoulder. “If you can’t hold your drink and then you go playing around with strange men, you’re going to end up face down one way or the other.”

Actually that might actually tie for my favourite moment. I love the idea of saying something so awful and rude to a baby. Does that make me weird?

All my stories have songs that go with them (some of them even have soundtracks). I don’t usually tell people that when I post, because I do think that this information is not all that interesting. Especially if you’ve never heard of the band or the song. Then you’re like, ‘so what?’. Anyway, for those of you who know it, this story’s song was ‘China’ by Tori Amos — mostly because I went to see her in concert and while I was there I wrote (in my head) through a block I was up against. That song seemed to help in some way. After that, every time the story stopped flowing, I would listen to that song and see what happened. Sometimes it worked. The lyrics aren’t especially relevant, although they are about distance and closeness and I think that resonates.

Anyway, for those of you that liked the story, I hope that that was vaguely interesting. If not, then it doesn’t really matter I guess — you’re probably not reading anyway! Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, giving the story more than 300 reviews in total — I’m really thrilled with that. It means such a lot to have lovely readers who ‘pay’ for their reading by leaving a review. It’s a fantastic reward. (Although, be prepared, if/when I do eventually land a publishing deal, I will be looking for actual DOLLARS not just praise…:-))

I wanted to write a little more constructively about the process of writing “If you really loved me”, the House fan fic story that I’ve just recently published the last chapter of, but I’m finding that I can’t. (But I will, in a future post.)

I’ve talked to other writers about the strange emotions that happen when you write and publish fan fic and I think that many of us go through the same kind of process.

At first, when I’m writing a story, I’m filled with enthusiasm and excitement for it. I can’t wait to find out what happens and I’m practically obsessed by writing – I simply don’t want to do anything else (eat, sleep, work, go outside . . .). It’s like an addiction, and occasionally just as unhealthy!

Usually, I start to post (publish) a story when I’m about two-thirds of the way through writing it. It’s when I’m still quite excited by the story and I’m bursting to get some feedback from someone and share my words with the world.

Then, a strange thing happens. I work out what’s going to happen in the story. I know how it’s going to end – all that has to happen is for me to sit down and type it out. And that’s usually right when I fall out of love with my story. Sitting down to do that typing feels more like a chore than a labour of love. I also no longer think it’s very good, despite any lovely reviews I might be getting (thank you) and I have a massive crisis of confidence, wondering what the hell I was thinking putting it out there anyway. I no longer have the drive to write that I did at the start.

Generally speaking it takes me two- to three-times longer to write the final two chapters as it did to write the whole rest of the story. Silly, hey?

So they’re the first two “emotional” phases of the process of fan fic writing – well for me, anyway. But there’s a third.

Once I’ve finished writing, I’ve typed the words “The End”, and then I’ve posted my final chapter, a weird kind of melancholy descends. It’s like Christmas Day when you’re a kid and all the presents have been opened and you didn’t get exactly what you’d hoped for. That sad, kind of restless sense of anti-climax. I think it’s because I used to have this ongoing sense of purpose, I’d wake up and know I needed to post. People were out there waiting for it! Not only that, I would get regular emails (review alerts) filled with praise from people – often complete strangers! – about how well I was doing with something. And then, all of a sudden, it stops.

I guess it’s a little like being an addict and having your “culottes” taken away. (That’s a House reference 🙂 ) The “high” that you once had is over. No more nagging to post from keen readers, no lovely reviews – no personal satisfaction simply from seeing thousands of words from your own imagination right there on the screen.

I don’t want to overstate this. It’s not like I’m sitting curled up in a ball in the corner of the room, rocking back and forward. I still have a life to lead, bills to pay, work to do, family and friends to annoy. But there’s this little weird, nagging sense of loss, of something missing, of a gap where something used to be.

That is, of course, until the next story begins . . .

I’m very pleased to have been nominated in the second annual Whiteboard Awards. These awards are run on the Fox Forum (although they are unofficial) and they recognise excellence in House fan fiction across all ships, genres and characterisations. Check out the cool promo video:

Being nominated is very exciting and I honestly don’t care too much what happens next. There are so many wonderful writers nominated (including many dear friends) so the competition is very tough. I will be excited if I win, I will be excited if my friends win. Either way, I can’t lose!

Hope 2010 has started off well for you, whatever you are up to!

Mine has been a great one so far. My story “If you really loved me, you’d let me kill you” is still getting lovely reviews and currently has 247 in total! It’s not quite a record, but it’s closing in fast. An old story of mine, “Change of Heart” has a total of 258 — I’m having my own private and self-indulgent little race to see if “If you really” can beat it!

I’m still not sure why “Change of Heart” is so popular. It still regularly gets hundreds of hits each month. I think it is because it is the story in my list with the highest number of reviews. (Which goes back to my previous post about reviewing.) Other than that I’m at a loss, because I can’t say I think the story is any better than any of my other, more recent ones. It does have a lot of sex, though. Hot, House smut. Maybe that’s it.  😉

I finished writing “If you really” just before Christmas. I’m very pleased with how the ending turned out and how all the threads twisted together. There’s also a very “out there” scene towards the end that just popped in of its own accord, but I really like it and I think it is quite unusual and moving. Not giving anything more away — it will be posted within the next week or so!

We’re closing in fast on the end of the story. And I don’t have another one planned right now. I really want to try to spend some time on my non-House writing this month. My work is quieter at this time (being summer in the Southern Hemisphere) and it’s a good opportunity for me to concentrate. But you never know, something might pop up.

Oh, and before I go, thanks to all the lovely people who nominated me for the “Whiteboard Awards” over on the Fox Forum. It really is such an honour to be nominated along with some other wonderful authors. My only regret is that one of my stories from last year, “Rebirth”, isn’t eligible because I posted it on ff.net, not the forum. It is one of the stories from last year that I’m most proud of. But the rules is the rules!

Sorry, this isn’t a particularly fascinating post, but I just thought I’d pop in, let you know I was still alive, still intending to keep up this blog, and…. well, that’s about it. Promise I’ll be back soon with more of my (hopefully) scintillating stuff. Once “If you really” is complete, I’m planning to publish a post about how I felt about writing it and some DVD extras, “behind the scenes” stuff. Hopefully that might be interesting!

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The great and wise Gertrude Stein